By Dan W. Peery
The Darlington Indian Agency and Fort Reno were only about one and half miles apart and so closely connected have they been in the history of the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes that when we think of one, we always associate it with the other.
Fort Reno was named in honor of Major General Jesse L. Reno, killed at Fox's Gap September 14, 1862, in the battle which was called the battle of South Mountain by the Federal army, and the battle of Sharpsburg by the Confederate army.
Fort Reno is no longer a military post, but it is yet under the charge of the War Department and is used as a "Remount Station," where horses are kept and trained for the use of the army, while that part of the original Darlington Indian Agency reservation including the old buildings, is oned by the State and has been assigned to the Fish and Game Department to be used in the propagation of quail and other game birds. The business of the Indian Agency is now conducted at the Concho Indian School about two miles north of the old agency buildings and on land that was a part of the old agency reservation.
I have found but few students of Oklahoma history who could tell why and when Fort Reno was established and what officers selected the site for this military post. Even the writers of our Oklahoma school histories have failed to give any history of Fort Reno. Much space has been given by all writers telling of the founding of Fort Gibson, the first fort within the boundaries of Oklahoma. They also tell of the establishment of Fort Towson, Fort Washita, and in fact, all the early military posts; and most any student of history in the public schools can tell the date and some of the circumstances connected with the establishment of Fort Sill, yet few can give you the data concerning Fort Reno, although it was one of the last military posts established
in Oklahoma. It is for this reason that I include in this article the following letter written by John D. Miles to the Kansas City Star twenty five years ago.
rounded up the leaders of the plot and put them in chains. His advise to me, and also to Col. J. K. Mizner who was there in command at Fort Reno to be on our guard at "all times as they could not be trusted." —Later developments showed That he was right. But Lawton was not stationed at Fort Reno; but it affords me very great pleasure to say that there were stationed at Fort Reno during my connection with that Agency, Army Officers, whose records are as great, and honorable as any of our American Generals, and in this connection I am glad to mention General Theo. J. Wint and General George M. Randall, who are personal friends of mine.
Very Truly Yours,
THE NORTHERN CHEYENNES
It will be noted in the above letter that Miles refers to the bringing of the Northern Cheyennes to the Darlington Agency in 1877. This event is an important epoch in history of the west and marks about the last serious Indian troubles that occurred upon the frontier. After the so-called Custer Massacre a vigorous war of extermination was waged by the government troops, against the Indian tribes that had been on the war path in Dakota and Montana. When the Indians had surrendered, the Indian Department and the Department of War, decided to remove the Northern Cheyennes to the Indian Territory and place them under the supervision of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency. These Indians had been living in the best hunting region in the United States, where there were yet plenty of fat buffalo and also, antelope, deer and elk. The government authorities were bringing them to a country where the buffalo had all been killed off by the white hunters who had slaughtered them just for their hides, and where their kindred, if indeed they were of the same tribe, were living on beef issued to them by the agency officials. Instead of fat buffalo meat, they would share with the Southern Cheyennes and Arapahos the poor beef issued to those tribes. Of course, these northern Indians were dissatisfied. They were not a tractable tribe in the first place, but were unconquerable spirits, who felt that they had had wrongs and were only waiting
for the opportunity to avenge these wrongs upon the white man. Their side of the story has been told by George Bird Grinnell, in his book "The Fighting Cheyennes."1 Grinnell says, that almost as soon as they arrived, when they had been in camp, but a few days, they began to be stricken with fever and ague and out of nine hundred and ninety there in camp, nearly two hundred were sickened within two months after their arrival and many had died.
He further states that there was only one agency physician at the Darlington Agency, although there were some five thousand Indians scattered over the country. He also said, that this one physician had been furnished no medicine, and that medical supplies, which had been shipped for the summer, were not received until the following January.
There was not enough beef, as poor as it was, and they were all placed on three quarter rations. Little Wolf, who, with Dull Knife, were the recognized leaders of these Northern Cheyennes, said, before a congressional committee: "A great many have been sick and some have died. I have been sick a great deal of the time since I have been down here, home-sick and heart-sick. I have been thinking of my native country and the good home I had up there where I was never hungry, and when I wanted anything to eat could go out and kill a buffalo. It makes me feel sick when I think about that." These people made complaint to the agency and begged to go back to their northern hunting grounds. They wanted to go to Washington and tell the President about their trouble, but could not get permission. The agent wanted them to wait a year, but they would not consent. Who could blame them for wanting to go home?
These Northern Cheyennes did break away taking with them their women and children, defying the Indian Agency and the whole army, and were successful in reaching their old hunting grounds in the North. This exploit is always referred to in the annals of the west, as the "Dull Knife Raid".2 In this raid the most horrible atrocities were committed by these Indians upon unprotected white people who happened to be along their trail
2Not more than half of these Northern Cheyennes followed Dull Knife and Little Wolf on their return trip north. Grinnell says: (p-384) "Of the fugitive Indians sixty or seventy were fighting men. The rest were, old men, children, women and boys".
as they went north. The savage instinct again dominated their whole beings and every crime known to Indian barbarity was committed by them upon the settlers and stock men. Even Grinnell does not attempt to shield them from these charges. When they left the agency the officers sent an Arapaho Scout to persuade them to come back.
Grinnell quotes Little Wolf, as having told the Arapaho messenger,3 "Tell them that we do not want to fight; that we will not go back; we are leaving the country. I had no quarrel with any one. I hold up my right hand that I do not wish to fight with the whites; but we are going to our old home to stay there."
While this raid, or exodus, north is usually referred to as the "Dull Knife Raid," yet not only did Grinnell consider Little Wolf the real leader, but Mr. John H. Seger, who, perhaps knew more of the events connected with this migration of the Cheyennes, than anyone else, considered Little Wolf the real general, who, as a strategist, out-generaled the whole United States array. Seger had met many of these Indians in after years, and knew something of the strategy they employed to evade the army. Seger told the writer that as the soldiers were following them and were only a day behind, the Indians started across a long stretch of country, where there was no water for one hundred miles or more. As they were familiar with this country, they filled every vessel with water and everything that would hold water, enough to last them across this stretch of desert country. When the soldiers came on a day late, seeing the Indian trail, they followed it without stopping to fill their barrels and canteens, as they naturally supposed there was water ahead on the Indian trail. The soldiers followed as far as they could; but finding no water they were oblidged to turn back. The Indians had led them into a trap, so that Little Wolf and Dull Knife got several days in the lead of the soldiers.
Another story that Mr. Seger told me was about the Indians, superstitious fear of the telegraph wires. They knew that these wires were used by the white man to convey messages, but had
not the slightest idea how it was done. In their journey to the north it was necessary for them to cross over three or four lines of railroad and over these roads were strung the telegraph wires. In passing over the first line of railroad in Kansas the Indians all came to a halt before crossing the road, and under the telegraph wires. They were all afraid that these mysterious wires would spy on them and let the soldiers know just where and when they had crossed.
A council was held and it was decided to send a man up the pole and see if he could hear the soldiers talking about them. When the athlete, who climbed the telegraph pole, got up to the wires, a sudden buzzing sound, hum or roar, came over the wires and the man became so frightened that he fell to the ground, with some injury to himself. It is my memory that the Indian, who fell from the telegraph pole, came back to Oklahoma in after years, and was out at the Seger Colony.
According to Grinnell,4 Little Wolf tried to disclaim the responsibility for killing any of the citizens on their raid north. He tried to place the responsibility for their crimes, on the young men, whom, he said, he could not control. He is quoted as saying, "We tried to avoid the settlements as much as possible. We did not want to be seen or known of. I often have harrangued my young men, telling them not to kill citizens, but to let them alone. I told them that they should kill all the soldiers they could, for they were trying to kill us, but not to trouble the citizens. I know they killed some citizens, but I think not many. They did not tell us much of what they did, because they knew I would not like it."
It would be hard to convince the cattle men and the early settlers in western Kansas that Dull Knife and Little Wolf were not responsible for the many murders committed by that marauding band of Cheyennes.
THE SUN DANCE
One of the most interesting and instructive stories concerning the mythology of the Indians of the plains was written by John H. Seger, some twenty-six years ago and published in the Arapaho
Bee, of September 6, 1907. In this story he not only gives a graphic description of the ceremonies attendant upon the Sun Dance, but also gives us their symbolic significance. The following is Mr. Seger's Story of the Sun Dance:
THE GREAT SPIRIT AND EVIL ONE
"THE SUN DANCE is one that has attracted a great deal of attention in the Southwest for years. A great deal has been written about it by those who have visited the Sun Dance for the purpose of writing it up in order to let the public know just what an Indian Sun Dance is, and to give full information in regard to it. And yet I venture to say that all that has been written, either by newspaper reporters or scientists, have failed to give the reader an accurate and intelligent idea of the purpose and use of the Sun Dance.
"Those who have told about it are like the three blind men that examined the elephant to find out what he was like, and as they could not see him, they depended on their sense of feeling. Now these three blind men could give about as good a description of the elephant as the reporter who visits a Sun Dance for a day or two, can give of that Indian pastime. And just here I will say that I will not attempt in a newspaper article to give a full account of the Sun Dance, but will try and touch upon some points that have not been dealt upon in the past.
"First, is the Sun Dance useful? I answer, yes. In the past it filled a very important part of the tribal government. It was used to keep the genealogy of the tribe. It strengthened and kept up the organization of the clans, which was very useful in preventing the intermarriage of blood relations, as no member of a clan was allowed to marry in his own clan. At a Sun Dance the tribes camped in the shape of a horse shoe; each clan had its place in order; each clan had a shield having painted on it a picture of the emblem of the clan, whereby it was known; each clan had an organization similar in some respects to a fraternal society, like the Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias, Woodmen, etc.
"At the Sun Dance the dog soldiers figure quite conspiciously in the ceremonies. Some may think the dog soldier among the Indians is an inferior soldier. The dog guards the home and fireside; he is a friend when all others may forsake you. Who would not be proud to have it said that he was as faithful as a dog, or as grateful as a dog? After a council of the Chiefs of the tribe had decided on a course of action, it was the duty of the dog soldier to enforce the rulings of the Chiefs. A Chief was powerless without some means of suppressing his or their policies, where a whole tribe is in camp of from two to three thousand. There must be law and order. The Indian laws are unwritten, yet they had system; they had societies that were well organized, with laws and codes which were handed down by trained narrators and kept secret except to those who belonged to that special clan or society.
"Some have written that the Cheyennes and Arapahos have an annual Sun Dance, which would lead us to believe it came off annually, like the Fourth of July, Christmas or New Year. Not so, a Sun Dance is generally held to carry out a vow to the Great Spirit, and as the sun is to the Indian the greatest perceptible power, how natural the dance, which is of a religious as well as political meeting, should be called a Sun Dance.
"The Indian, like some civil people, believe that trouble and misfortune is visited upon people for their sins. They also believe that there is an evil as well as a good spirit, and all the good visited upon them comes from the Good Spirit and all the evil from the Evil Spirit. The Good Spirit delights in doing them good, while the Evil Spirit delights in misery and suffering.
"At a Sun Dance male members of the tribe volunteer to submit to suffering and torture to satisfy the Evil Spirit. I can't better illustrate the way the Indian looks at this matter than to repeat from memory the substance of a prayer made by Little Raven, a celebrated Arapaho Chief and Medicine Man, at a Sun Dance held
at the Red Hills, near where the town of Geary is now located. This dance was held thirty years ago, at a time when the buffalo was becoming scarce, and the Arapahos were living mainly on rations issued by the government. Although these rations were given them, yet they considered it very unfortunate that they were compelled to live on charity instead of living the free and independent life of a hunter and having plenty of fat and juicy buffalo meat, which I can testify to that it would satisfy the appetite of an epicure.
"But now we will quote from Raven's prayer. The sun was up to high noon; six warriors stood nude except a breech clout and gee string; in their bleeding breasts was fastened a rawride lariat rope fastened to sticks thrust under the skin or to some tied to the skin, which had been raised up for the purpose. One warrior was dragging a buffalo head, with the horns on, by a buffalo lariat rope, which was fastened to the skin which was raised up from his shoulder blade, and several passed under it while he dragged it around the grounds. The blood was streaming down his back, and as the horns on the head would catch in the ground, the skin on the Indian's back would be peeled out several inches.
"In the midst of this torture old Ravan stepped out, and raising his hands toward the sun in an appealing attitude, he addressed the Great Spirit, asking him to look down upon the suffering and misery that the Arapahos at that time were undergoing. He said: 'Many are sick and suffering from disease; the buffalo are leaving us; the white people are surrounding us like a party of hunters would surround a herd of tired buffalo; there seems no help for us except from the Great Spirit. We know this brave, and punishment is visited upon us for our disobedience is the wish of the Great Spirit, and there is none other left for the Arapahos but to suffer and in this way atone for our misdoings. The Arapahos are willing to suffer the worst punishment that is visited upon them. We realize that we will not be delivered from the invasion
of the white man. We realize that the buffalo will disappear with the coming of the white man. What we now ask is that the Great Spirit will pity us and let the soldiers and young men bear the sufferings for their people, which they are willing to do, as the Great Spirit can now look down and see these young men that are now suffering and bleeding voluntarily to appease the wrath of the Great Spirit. We ask the Great Spirit to be satisfied with this voluntary suffering of these young men who are now suffering torture, and ask that the women and children, who are weak and timid, be spared from sickness and suffering. We ask that as there is no hope for the Arapaho except to get their food from the earth, as does the white man, that the Great Spirit will so influence the young men and children that they may be willing to learn to cultivate the earth and to raise food to, keep their people alive.'
"This prayer expressed the sentiment of the Arapahos thirty years ago, and they have been slowly and steadily advancing toward the fulfillment of the spirit of this prayer of Ravan's. The Sun Dance has long been considered an obstacle in the way of civilization, and it has been forbidden by the Indian office. There is no doubt that as long as the Sun Dance is kept up the Indian cannot engage successfully in farming and settle down in families, each family in a home of their own. The requirement of the Sun Dance is such that it requires every member of the tribe to be present, every clan must be present and in their place. It is now impossible to fill these requirements.
"The Sun Dance is fast becoming a thing of the past, and probably would have been discontinued some time ago, were it not that when a chief is installed as such, he takes an obligation or pledge to do his best to help every member of the tribe to carry out every vow they may make to the Great Spirit. When a member of the tribe makes a vow to make a Sun Dance to appease the wrath of the Great Spirit, the Chief is obliged to do all in his power to call the tribe together and organize a Sun Dance. The faithfulness of the Chief in carry-
ing out or fulfilling these promises is from a certain standpoint commendable, yet the Sun Dance is destined to go, and the sooner it goes the better it will be for the Indians; yet while they were living under tribal government, it filled a very important place in their affairs, and had many useful and commendable features."
D. B. Dyer was appointed agent of the Cheyenne and Arapahos, having been transferred from the Quapaw Agency in 1884, succeeding John D. Miles. From his reports made to the Commission of Indian Affairs it was quite evident that he was not the man for this place. He had no knowledge of the characteristics of the Indians under his supervision and made no effort to reason with them or to placate them, but was domineering and arbitrary. He always wanted to make the Indians do his will but never tried to explain to them the advantages of his plans.
In his report to the Commission of Indian Affairs August 9, 1884, he said, "The Indians should have been told that they must work and the power of the army should have been used to see that they did work. I imagine that the thousands of hard working mechanics, artisans, farmers and merchants who pay a large tag and have the best interests of the country at heart, would be surprised if they could pause from their work and take a fair view of the six thousand lazy Indians, who today, draw their pound of flesh and the blood with it, hides and horns thrown in."
A man of this type would soon overthrow all the progress that had been made under Darlington and Miles. He did not seem to realize that if these Indians were mendicants and beggars it was for the reason that the white man had killed their buffalo and all other game and had indeed, taken possession of their country. Dyer did not think it best for the Indians to keep cattle on the reservation, but always seemed to favor the cattle men, who were grazing the Indian lands. He appealed to the War Department for more soldiers for the protection of the agency and to make the Indians obey his orders.
Dyer brought with him men and women who had no knowledge of the Indian, and in fact, lived in mortal fear of them. They were
a poor outfit to continue the work of such men as Miles and Seger. But Dyer did not hold this place long; he was succeeded by an army officer, Capt. Lee.
Just why and how John H. Seger got the assignment to establish the colony and Indian training school on Cobb Creek is quite an interesting story in itself. In the University of Oklahoma Bulletin 1923, occurs the story entitled, "Early Days Among the Cheyenne and Arapaho, Indians", by John H. Seger. I have had occasion to copy from this University Bulletin in previous number of this series of articles and I find it necessary now to purloin a few more extracts from Mr. Seger's articles, in order to keep the true history of the establishment, not only of this Indian colony, but the Industrial Training School that did so much toward making these Indians peaceful, self-supporting citizens. I am sorry that for the reason we have not space in the Chronicles, that I can publish only excerpts from the article written by Mr. Seger.
Mr. Seger's story follows:
"For two years I was continually fencing for cattle men, during which time I built 300 miles of fence.
"The terms of lease of the cattle men were that they should hire Indians to help them with their cattle. The excuse the cattle men had for not doing this at first was that the Indian did not know how to hold cattle on open range, and it would be alright after they got the pastures fenced—then the Indians could ride the fenced land and tend the round-ups and help in branding.
"As the fence was not done for two years, there was very little Indian help used in handling cattle. I used them all the time in my fence work and found them the best help I could get. I insisted on the cattle men hiring them, especially to ride the fence lines and keep the fence in repair. They always had some excuse for not doing so.
"I took the contract of keeping the fence on a string of about 50 miles. I hired two Indians to do the work. They did this work satisfactorily until the
cattle men left the country. When they did the Indians hired out to help drive cattle on the trail. The boss who had charge of them said they were among his best hands. This shows what might have been done had the cattle men complied strictly with this part of the contract. Had they done so it is very likely the lease would not have been cancelled within two years from the time it was made, as was done.
"Most of the men who held cattle in the Cheyenne and Arapaho country were Texas men who were prejudiced against the Indians. They did not understand the Indians and fox this reason it was not very easy for the Indians to understand them.
"Agent Dyer, who succeeded John D. Miles as agent, was a new man among the Indians. He did not understand them overly well. He no doubt was appointed through the influence of the cattle men, thinking he would probably cater to their wishes. Through his action he furnished the opportune time for those who were opposing the lease to succeed in their efforts in getting it cancelled.
"As was before stated some of the Indians were complaining of their treatment by the cattle men and would not always come into Darlington when the agent ordered them to do so. Agent Dyer wishing to be obeyed promptly by the Indians advised that there should be a larger number of soldiers sent to Ft. Reno, as at the time there was a very small garrison. He thought that if the government would send quite a number of troops it would awe the Indians into humble obedience.
"In order to make a sufficient reason for the government to send these troops, he sent in a very alarming report of the unsettled condition of the Indians and the possibility of their going on the war path unless they were checked. At this time I visited Darlington from my home at Pond Creek. As I passed through Ft. Reno,
the commanding officer met me. He asked me what I thought of the probability of the Indians going on the war path. I told him I did not think there was any probability of their doing so.
"He said the people at Darlington were very much alarmed and the agent had reported that there was danger of an out-break, and recommended increasing the garrison at Ft. Reno. I told him I had left my family 50 miles away without any precaution and I had come into Darlington without any weapons of any kind with me. I felt no uneasiness whatever, that I was going to Darlington, where I would meet Indians whom I knew well.
"I would find out from them, their feelings towards the agency and white people. I would know whether there was any danger of an out-break.
"I went to Darlington and found that the employees had been changed, with the exception of two or three, owing to the change of agents, and those I knew were entirely unacquainted with the Indians and did not understand their movements and their actions in the least. As I was standing in front of the trader's store I saw a body of about thirty young Indians riding into the agency on horse back. As they entered the agency they fired a volley into the air. I saw the agency employees looked very much frightened. The agency physician, who was standing near me, fairly trembled, and said, "See those blood-thirsty villians! I believe they are going to attack the agency."
"I told him he need not be alarmed. They were evidently getting up a Sun Dance and those were the Dog Soldiers who were riding around giving notice to the Indians to move together to the dance. He said, 'Why do they carry their guns then, and fire them while coming into the agency?' I told him that was the signal. A party of Indians who come into another camp of Indians fire all their guns to let the camp know they are coming with empty guns, which was a sign of
friendship. They did so at the agency in compliance with this custom.
"As the Dog Soldiers came closer the doctor saw that their faces were painted. They were dressed in full Indian costume, and he was satisfied they were preparing for an outbreak. Wolf Robe being in the crowd saw me, rode out of the crowd and motioned for me to come out to where he was. I went out and shook hands with him, I asked him what was going on. They were getting up a Sun Dance. I told him then the agency employees were very much alarmed, thinking the Indians were going on the war path.
"Wolf Robe commenced to laugh very heartily to think they were afraid, and it amused him very much. I spoke in a low voice to Wolf Robe, and asked him to tell me the truth, whether the Indians were liable to go on the war path. 'You know my family is unprotected and a long way from here.' Wolf Robe broke out in a laugh and asked me if I had gone crazy. He said he believed I was about to become a big fool.
"I insisted that he tell me the truth about it, and he saw I was earnest in my inquiry, and so he became sober himself and said, 'No.' He said there was no danger whatever. After the war of 1874 the Indians fully decided that they could not fight with the white people, he said, so they decided to live in peace with them ever afterwards. He said, 'This you can see from the fact that we have at this time about 250 of the Cheyenne and Arapaho chilldren in eastern schools. We have put them in the hands of white men. Do you think we would put them in the hands of our enemies? We believe the white men are our friends. We are going to live in peace with them; therefore, as a pledge of the friendship, we have put our children in their hands. They are just the same as prisoners, should we commit any depredation or massacre. We do not know but what the white people would like to take revenge on our children. It would be like murdering our own children.
" 'The white people here do not understand us. They are frightened at what we do and we enjoy seeing their uneasiness.'
"I was thoroughly convinced in my own mind, although I had no fears previous to this, yet I took this course with Wolf Robe in order to satisfy the commanding officer. Wolf Robe's version of the case I thought sufficient to convince any reasonable person there was no danger.
"Those who wished to have the lease cancelled took the opportunity of this state of affairs to work against the lease. General Sheridan was sent to Darlington to look over the situation and to take the matter in hand and to see if there was any danger of an up-rising, and if so, to take steps to prevent it.
"When General Sheridan got to Darlington he saw that the whole matter had been brought about by the cattle men out of the country, and he put military men in charge of the agency. Ever since the military had occupied Ft. Reno there had been some dissatisfaction; on the part of the military in being called upon to carry out plans and enforce the orders of a civilian agent, as a colonel or captain or soldiers did not like to take orders from a citizen. They felt the military should have charge of the Indians as long as they had to be on the ground and maintain order and look after the safety of the people in the country. This furnished an opportunity and General Sheridan made use of it. President Cleveland notified Agent Dyer that his resignation would be accepted. This was not done, however, until an inspector was sent out and looked into affairs generally.
"Agent Dyer was allowed to send in his resignation and Capt. Jesse Lee was requested by President Cleveland to act as agent to the Cheyennes and Arapahos.
"This change of affairs took the cattle men by surprise and put them in a very bad condition, as the order for the lease to be cancelled was promulgated at
once and they were only given forty days to move the cattle out of the country. They had brought large herds of cattle frown Texas, driven them through and put them on this ranch. They had just fairly got their branding pens and corrals completed and had comfortable buildings put up for their men. In some instances had erected frame houses and had subdivided their range into pastures suitable for their business as they expected the lease to last ten years. To be obliged to move out in forty days was a great calamity.
"They sent a delegation to Washington to enter protest. The Board of Trade of Kansas City sent a delegation and President Cleveland gave them hearing. After they had made their plea before him for an extension of time they offered to pay their lease six months in advance if they were allowed to remain until the spring. They told him they would go in strict accordance to his orders—but that it would annihilate $6,000,000.00, which would leave many of the cattle companies, if not all of them, bankrupt. President Cleveland replied, 'Gentlemen, you are wasting much time in coming here to protest against the carrying out of this order. You had better be at home getting your cattle off the reservation.'
"The work commenced at once of moving the cattle out. The range was very scarce and they were put to a great deal of trouble to find any place where they could graze their cattle, the majority of them—having been driven from Texas—were too poor to put on the market.
"The best information I could get, nearly every cattle company went bankrupt. The hundreds of miles of fence that had been built had to be taken down and the wire rolled up and disposed of.
"I being located in the leased ground came under the order of the cattle men, as I had a horse ranch, and I prepared to leave. I had spent a great deal of money in fitting it up, and found to leave so abruptly would
affect me about the same as it did the cattle men. Horses as well as cattle were a drug on the market.
"I determined to leave the Indian country, where I had spent about twenty years of the best of my life, and go where I could have the advantage of civilization and put my children in school. Kansas being the nearest point where I could stop outside of the Indian country, I made arrangements to move to that state.
"When Capt. Lee came to Darlington and looked around over the situation he found the government rations had been cut down somewhat owing to the fact that the Indians were getting so much money paid them for the lease of their lands. Now, as this lease money would be cut off, he saw the Indians would be left really destitute.
"The War Department came to the rescue by hiring one hundred Indian scouts at $25.00 per month and clothing, who were to be made use of in helping to get the cattle men out of the country and to protect old Oklahoma from the boomer element trying to settle in the country contrary to law. These scouts were taken from different families so that nearly every family was represented in the scout service, therefore receiving more revenue in this way.
"Capt. Lee found there was a large camp of Indians settled in the immediate vicinity of the agency. When he talked with them they did not seem to have any aim in life, beyond gambling, dancing and spending their time in idleness. When the grass payment was made these Indiaans had been accustomed to gambling and had become experts, and no doubt got more than their legitimate share of lease money. After this money was spent and the Indians had no more money to gamble with, then they would run in debt towards the next payment. In this way they were eeking out an existence.
"Capt. Lee went about energetically to induce the Indians to commence farming and do work. He found when he talked to these Indians they had no interest
whatever for anything like work. There was another class among the Cheyennes and Arapahos who were willing to farm or do anything to earn a living. They said owing to this large camp at Darlington they did not have much ambition. When they earned a dollar these lazy, gambling Indians would be ready to help them eat it up. They said when they hauled a load of freight from Caldwell, Kansas these Indians were always sitting around the traders' stores and knew when they would get this money, and would follow them and help them eat the provisions they bought with their money. They said if they raised a crop of corn these Indians would help them eat it up.
"This feature of the agency bothered the captain a great deal and while talking over the matter in the trading store one day, he said, 'If I could take these Indians that are camped around the agency here, what I call coffee-coolers, or Indians who do nothing, if I could move them fifty miles from the agency and order them there I could take the rest of the Indians and get them to farming and industry and make a rapid advancement.'
"After saying this he returned to the crowd and said, 'Do you suppose such a thing could be done as moving these Indians so far from the agency and keeping them there?'
"John Murphy,5 who was present, and a man who had been at Darlington ever since the agency first
5John Murphy was the author of an article entitled, "Reminiscences of the Washita Campaign." This article was published in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume One, page 258 (June 1923).
Upon this subject there have been books written and many newspaper and magazine articles printed. Some of these stories were written by military men and some by professional writers, but this article, written by John Murphy, freighter, teamster and driver of General Sheridan's mess wagon, is one of the most human, truthful and reliable stories of these military exploits in the Indian campaigns of General Custer, and General Sheridan, ever told. John Murphy was born in New York City, May 2, 1849. His father moved to Richmond, Virginia about the commencement of the Civil War. He was a boy when the war began, but he enlisted in the 23rd Virginia Cavalry Connfederate army and served with the Confederate forces under General Breckenridge in 1863. (While John Murphy was serving in the Confederate army, his father was in the Union army, having enlisted early in the war in the 18th Missouri Volunteer Infantry at Weston, Mo. His regiment not only participated in all the western campaigns, but was transferred east of the Mississippi and was with Sherman in his march to the sea).
While in the Confederate army the boy, John Murphy, did much special duty as a dispatch rider, and special messenger, being light, young, intelligent and a splendid horseman. When the war was over Murphy came wast with his father and located in western Missouri. Here he served a while, as a blacksmith apprentice, but this sort of work was too tame for him and he soon entered in military service, not as a soldier but as a civilian teamster. He spent his entire life on the frontier and was personally acquainted with almost every army officer and scout; and knew all the historic characters about which so much has been written. Personally he was a genial gentleman, and had a personality tha everyone liked. He had none of the boastful spirit or braggadocio of the professional "Wild West" man.
John Murphy started a hotel at Darlington soon after the establishment of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Agency. This was the first hotel in Oklahoma, excepting in the territory of the Five Civilized Tribes. John Murphy continued to run this hotel for some time after the opening of Oklahoma to settlement in 1889. It was a favorite place for the young people of El Reno to stop for supper while out driving Sunday afternoon or attending the regimental band concert at Ft. Reno. John Murphy died at Jenks, Oklahoma in the fall of 1919, where he and Dr. Sandercook, an old time army physician, were making their home at that time.
started said, 'Captain, if there is anybody that could do, this it is John H. Seger.' He told of some of the things I had accomplished with the Indians in the way of carrying mail, having them cut cord wood and make brick; also such industries as they had been engaged in under my direction.
"Capt. Lee said, 'Where is this Seger?'
"Murphy said, 'He will be coming to the agency in a few days on his way to Kansas.'
"Lee said, 'Bring him to my office when he comes through. I want to talk with him.'
"When I came to Darlington on my way to Kansas I met John Murphy, and he said, Seger, Capt. Lee wants to see you up in his office.'
"I went with Murphy to the agent's office and Murphy introduced me to the captain. The captain began at once stating the case to me in regard to these non-progressive Indians. He said, 'Do you think they could be moved out fifty miles from the agency and kept there?' I said, 'Captain, I could take them In-
dians and move about fifty miles from the agency and keep them there, but I don't intend to do it. I am leaving the Indian country for good. I have spent the best part of my life here in trying to help these Indians and I have not accomplished much for the Indians, as far as I can see. I have been under many privations on account of being among them and now I am going to a white man's country where I can educate my children and take a little of the comforts of life as I go along.'
"Capt. Lee then said I ought not to do this; my experience among these people was invaluable in the line of civilizing them, as it would take any other person a long time to get the experience I had and be in a position to do what I could accomplish with them. I told him as far as the position was concerned or the salary connected with it, I would not give the matter a moment's thought. If I could take up some work among these Indians and carry it through to a successful ending and feel that I had accomplished some good work that. I might consider as a life work, something I could look back to in my old age, I might be induced to undertake it. I told him I had learned this; no one, no matter how experienced, could civilize these Indians in three or four years. The matter would be a life work for anyone.
"He said, of course, as agent he could not insure any position to me for any length of time. He believed as long as he was agent he could keep me in a position which he recommended, but further than that he could make no promises. I told him as far as that was concerned I had never asked to be appointed in the Indian service. I had never had any influence to keep me there, and I was willing to take the chance of holding my position if I was once put into it. I did not speak of the matter of being retained on account of wanting to hold my job, but simply wished to explain that a person could not get satisfactory results in a very short period of Indian service.
"After talking awhile I finally told him if I succeeded in locating my family comfortably in some town in Kansas, where my children would have school advantages, I would return without my family and would undertake to move those Indians away from Darlington, provided he got authority from the Indian office to have them moved away.
"Finally the authority came for the Indians to be moved and an appropriation for doing some breaking and fencing; also other work necessary to establish Colony. About the time this authority came the agent was notified that the position he had been saving for me was filled by an opponent.
"The person came on to take the place. He was an old gentleman about seventy-six years old who had epileptic fits. He had been Indian agent sometime in the past, and when he was agent he had done favor to some person who was now holding a high position at Washington. Through him he got this appointment. Capt. Lee was almost frantic when he saw this man could not do the work he had planned to have done. He came to me and said, 'Seger, I do not know what to do.' After he related the condition he said, 'If I just had a little time to lay the matter before the department I believe I could get this matter changed and could get the position for you alright.' He said, 'I would not send this man five miles from Darlington, as it would be cruel to send an old gentleman in his condition so far away.' He said, 'It is already time the Indians were moving out to get ready for farming, and should I delay the matter longer it will be too late to accomplish much this year in farming.' He said, 'I got the authority for doing this fencing and the work ought to be going on at once.'
"I asked the Captain what terms the appropriation was made in. He said it was made in view of his letting the contract to some one to do the work. I told
him I would take the contract of doing that work. At the same time I would move the Indians fifty miles from Darlington. I would pay my own expenses, wages, and do all the work with the Indians while filling the contract. He said if I could do this he thought in a short time he would get matters shaped so he could put me on a salary as he first intended to do.
"I went to work at once to get up a party to move to Cobb Creek and Washita, a point where I had been living while running my horse ranch and building a fence for the cattle company. I spent some time in looking up a location when I settled there. I was satisfied this place was the best one to move the Indians to.
"I went to camp and invited some of the head men to meet me at Capt. Lee's office at night, where we would talk over the plan in regard to their welfare.
"The Indians were on hand. We began to explain the project to them. They at first did not think favorably of it, as they saw so many objections. I knew their rations did not furnish them enough for them to live on—when they were out far from the agency they might starve before they could get their rations, they said. They said they were drawing rations once a week and they had enough to live on about four days and three days they could fast and drink water, but if they went so far from the agency they would have to draw their rations fox a longer period of time and they would probably eat them up in nearly half the time in which they were to last, and there would be no other Indians near, whom they might visit and eat with. They could see no way how they could bridge over that time.
"I told them I would go with them—would live with them and fare as they fared. If they starved I would starve with them. The first ones who gave their names as being willing to join the party and move to Washita, were sixteen of my old school children who had been to school when I was superintendent in 1875. They had now grown up and were married and had
families. Then came the immediate relations and friends of these children and some of the old Indians who had been the first ones to put their children in my school when I was superintendent and had given me loyal support all through my school work. I soon had a party of one hundred twenty Arapahos on the road."
COLONIZING THE INDIANS
Speaking of the migration of these Indians in carrying out the plans of Capt. Lee, the Cheyenne Transporter—March 4, 1886, says,
"The Agent, Capt. Lee, at his own suggestion, has been granted authority from the Indian office to found a colony of Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians on the Washita river, about fifty miles west of this agency. Mr. J. H. Seger with about twenty young men of both tribes started for there on last Saturday to take preparatory steps. A large body will follow shortly. It can be clearly seen that this move by Capt. Lee, is one in the right direction toward civilizing and making the Indians self-supporting, for which their agent deserves great credit. Mr. Seger, who is in charge of the colony as instructor is an old friend of these Indians, he having been twelve years among them. He thoroughly understands how to make a success of such an undertaking. The work will all be done by the Indians themselves under Mr. Seger's direction, and farming will be carried on in all its branches. Each Indian is to have a small piece of land to work and will be allowed all he can raise. The Transporter will have more to say from time to time on this subject."
In the same number, March 4, 1886, of the Cheyenne Transporter appears the following letter from John H. Seger
FROM THE INDIAN COLONY
"As you wished to hear from me and my 'band of pilgrims,' I will give you an account of our trip to our 'promised land' and some of our doings since
here: I overtook the party at the Canadian river. They were in camp waiting for me. I could see only three lodges, and as there were four belonging to the party, I enquired for the missing tent. I was told that it was Bear Robe's and that he was coming, his ponies being so poor they could not keep up with the main body of the colonists. The evening was spent in talking over the prospects of the colony. In conversation, I found I had six young men who had attended the Arapahoe school when I was superintendent, and this was the first time we had all met together since they left the school. Naturally, the Arapahoe school of that day was discussed, and each man had some experiences to relate. Left Hand said he and four other boys had been 'warmed' by a corn-stalk in the hands of 'Johnny Smoker' (my Indian name) so that they did not get cold all day, because when sent out to husk corn they were found sitting around a fire in the field, instead of being at work. On the way out, after crossing the North Fork bridge, those who wore blankets took them off, and have not had them on since. It took us all day Monday to cross the Canadian. One woman waded and carried her child on her back, being afraid to cross in the wagons. We camped that night a short distance south the river. As Bear Robe had not yet arrived, I sent two young men out to look for him; but they returned without finding him. It rained quite hard during the night and part of the oxen drifted back across the river. The next morning, in search of the oxen, we found Bear Robe. His team was hardly fit to travel. His wife was very sick in the wagon but she did not want to be left behind. We made a good days travel on Tuesday and camped at Sand Hollow.
"In the morning Bear Robe came to me saying his wife was dying. I went to see, and she lived only a few minutes after I got there. Our party took a last look at her; then Bear Robe wrapped her in his blankets and buried her while the oxen were being yoked for our onward journey. By noon camping time we had gone
about 35 miles, and in looking back over the road I could see an object approaching that looked like a jumping jack astride the shadow of a horse. On nearer approach, it proved to be a woman, Mrs. Yellow Horse, riding the poorest horse I ever saw ridden. She was an old acquaintance, but when I stepped out to shake hands with her she seemed cool and unfriendly. I enquired the cause and found there had been some mistake in the ration tickets, she failing to get her usual rations, supposed some one of our crowd had her ticket. She remained over night and left in the morning in better spirits. We reached Pond Creek at dark, pitched our tents in the rain, got supper and retired early, as the morrow would bring to view the 'promised land,' as this was the east part of the land chosen for the colony. We went to work at once putting 100 peach trees and. a dozen cedar trees we had brought with us. Then I set the young men to chopping fence stays, and Bear Robe and myself went to the Washita. The former's horse giving out, and I being the younger of the two, let him ride my horse, and I walked. The next day five of my Indians came over with the oxen and located at what used to be called the headquarter camp of the Washita Cattle Co. I laid out work for them and returned to Pond Creek, where I intend making my headquarters. The members of the colony are in good spirits and say as soon as they get the fence built, they want to get all their friends from the Agency to move into this fine country. As this is the pioneer corps to prepare the way for others, there were only six women in the party, so I made a rule on the way out that the young men should carry the wood and water and help with the cooking, which they did cheerfully. We were heavily loaded on the way out, so, the young men walked, and would get into camp ahead of the teams and have large piles of wood ready for use. So much for their good-will."
It was not long after Mr. Seger had arrived at his headquarter ranch on Cobb Creek, until he had his little band of colonists lo-
cated, I might say allotted, as these locations afterwards became their allotments. A number of these locations were made near the headquarters of the colony at the old Seger horse ranch on Cobb Creek, while quite a number were located in the rich valley of the Washita river only a few miles west. This was the beginning of the colony idea of locating Indians, or making individual allotments of land to the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indians. This idea afterwards followed by Captain Lee, agent, and other colonies were established; one, at Cantonment on the North Canadian river, and another, known as the Red Moon Agency, in the western part of the reservation.
Mr. Seger was not altogether secure in his position for several years, for the reason that after each change of administration an effort would be made to displace him with the appointment of some eastern politician. However, Mr. Seger's special qualifications for this work and his thorough knowledge of the Indian character had so impressed the agents in charge and also the Department of Indian Affairs at Washington, that he was given almost plenary authority in the affairs of the colony.
It was soon after Colony was established that Mr. Seger, with the encouragement of the agent and the approval of the Department of Indian Affairs, established his "Model Indian Industrial School." This school was a success from the start, and it grew and developed into the successful institution that was described in the first number of this story. While Mr. Seger was in charge of this institution, he wrote many letters which were published in the Cheyenne Transporter. All of them are interesting and are preserved by the Oklahoma Historical Society.
One of the last articles he wrote for publication was printed in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, September, 1928, and was entitled "Traditions of the Cheyenne Indians as told by John H. Seger in the year 1905, by one who was appointed to keep these traditions." In this wierd story told by the historian of a primitive people, an attempt was made to, account for the origin of the Indians but was so much of a myth that the student of ethnology or anthropology would find but little, if anything, to account for the aborigines of America. It did tell us, however, that the earliest traditions of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes were, that they once
lived in a cold northern country. Mr. Seger should be given credit for recording and preserving this myth of the Cheyenne Indians.
After the opening of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation in 1892, when white settlers were on every quarter section of land not alloted to the Indians, Mr. Seger was recognized as the arbitrator when any misunderstanding arose, or when any business was to be transacted between the Indians and the white homesteader. He was so just and fair that he gained the confidence not only of the Indians, but also, of the white settlers who had located in the new country. He was often invited by the schools and churches to talk upon the subject so near his heart, "The Traditions and Civilization of the Indians."
Mr. Seger was a public spirited man and was foremost in every progressive movement that had for its object, the betterment of the conditions of the people. He was at one time a member of the Board of Directors of the Oklahoma Historical Society and was recognized as an authority upon every topic pertaining to the history of western Oklahoma and the entire southwestern country.
It was thought by many people that the Constitutional Convention should have named a county for John Seger, as a fit tribute to his work in the civilization and development of western Oklahoma. Military heroes and politicians have always had first consideration when it comes to naming counties and cities.
In January 1911 a large number of people in the western part of Caddo County, including the town of Carnegie, and the people living in a tier of townships along the eastern border of Washita County, including the Seger School reservation and also two townships in Kiowa County, acting under the provisions of the constitutions of the state and the statutes, petitioned the Governor to call an election to create a new county from the territory described to be known as Seger County. The election was held March 4, 1911. A vigorous campaign was waged for the new county, but the proposition failed to carry, and we have no Seger county in Oklahoma. It can be said, to the credit of Mr. Seger, that the township in which he lived voted almost unanimously for Seger County.