BY DR. ANNA LEWIS, O. C. W. CHICKASHA
Fred, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, was a trading center located at the cross roads of the cattle trail coming up from Texas, since called the Chisholm Trail; and the overland wagon road from Ft. Smith, through Atoka and Boggy Depot, to the newly established post at Fort Sill, the Kiowa Comanche Agency located near Ft. Sill, and the Wichita Agency near Anadarko.
On the highway about three miles east of Chickasha, on the Alex, Lindsay, Pauls Valley road, can be found traces of those two most historic trails of Western Oklahoma. There can also be found remains of the once thriving community, called Fred. One of the old buildings still stands; the grave yard not far away and traces of the old stage coach stand are all silent reminders of the past.
After the Civil War and the establishment of the Plains Indian in the leased District, communication and protection had to be afforded. Fort Harker, Kansas, was the nearest railway point, and communication with Fort Harker was difficult because of high water, bad weather, and the fear of Indian attacks.
A more accessible route, and one which had fewer hazards was the old wagon road from Boggy Depot; it was over this road the mails came to the new stations in the West.
Boggy Depot had been a center of communication and trade long before the Civil War. When the Chickasaws came to their new home in the Indian territory, most of their provisions, furnished by the government, were deposited on Boggy River, hence the name Boggy Depot. Wagon roads and stage routes had been made from Boggy in all directions. In 1852 when Fort Arbuckle was the farthest post on the Western frontier in the Indian country, a road had been extended from Boggy Depot to this new fort. When Fort Cobb was established in 1859, it was not difficult to extend this wagon road on west. After the Civil War when Fort Sill and the new agencies for the Kiowa,
Comanche and Wichita Tribes were located in the West, communications were established between these places and Boggy Depot.
The road from Boggy to the old Fort Arbuckle followed the ridge of the divide avoiding as much as possible the river valleys and the high water. From Fort Sill to Boggy Depot it was about two hundred miles; this meant that a round trip was made in from ten to fifteen days. Along the road, stage stands were established at about twenty miles apart where fresh horses were obtained. All the stage stands provided places where freighters and traders could spend the night and get refreshment. Usually there was a store at these stage stands; sometimes, there was a Post Office, and an inn or hostlery, owned and operated by the postmaster and his wife.
After the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad came through the Indian Territory, in 1871, Atoka and the Caddo shared honors as the centers of the routes to the West. Boggy Depot was now to become just one of the stage stands on the route to the western part of the Chickasaw Nation. From Boggy Depot the road ran over the ridge route, crossing the Washita River near what is now Pauls Valley, where another important stage stop was located near old Cherokee town. Cherokee town was known to military authorities and traders before the Civil War and was named for that band of Cherokees which was driven out of Texas soon after the Texas Revolution. Near this place about two miles northwest on the Washita, Smith Paul established his home and ranch; Smith Paul's ranch on the Washita was designated by the government officials in 1866 as a place where supplies were to be sent.
The Superintendent of Indian affairs, W. Byres, wrote Major Henry Shanklin who was in charge of the removal of the Indians to the Kiowa, Comanche Reservation, in a letter dated December 4, 1866 as follows:
"You are hereby informed that arrangements have been made with Mr. C. B. Johnson to furnish supplies for the Indians of your agency. He has been instructed to deliver the same at Chisholm's Ranch, Butler Co., Kansas, and at Smith Paul's Ranch on the False Washita River, Chickasaw Nation."
After leaving Paul's ranch the road followed along the south side of the Washita keeping to the divide between this river and Rush Creek. The first stage stand west of Paul's ranch was Beef Creek; this was near the present site of Maysville, from which the road went on to Erin Springs. Here the road divided, one branch going on to Fort Sill through Rush Springs, the other branch on to the Wichita Agency near Anadarko. The stage stand west of Erin Springs on the Agency road was known as the Little Washita Stage Stand; it was near this stop that the road crossed the old Chisholm trail. This was Fred.
Fred, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, has a very interesting history. When the Texas cattle trail started North, trading posts or stores were built at river crossings. East of Chickasha, about five miles, the Washita river has a rocky bottom, and it was here that the cattle trail crossed the river; this rock bottom made it easy for the cattle to cross without bogging. So it was at this crossing on the Washita that Fred was first located; Old Fred consisted of a trading post on the north bank of the river. It was established early in the 70's and named for Colonel Frank Fred, who had a trading post at Anadarko and various other trade interests. The store was owned and operated by Walter S. Cook and his brother. These traders were originally from Kentucky.
In 1881 the store was moved back on the trail where the wagon road, coming up from Paul's Valley, crosses it. The reasons for moving it are obvious; cattle was not being driven north now so much and the most important trade was that of the freighters and stage coach travel.
Mrs. Anna B. Fait, wife of the late Reverend S. V. Fait gave a vivid description of her journey over this stage road in 1888. The Reverend Fait was sent out by the Presbyterian Church to do missionary work at Anadarko. They spent a night in transit at Fred, being entertained by the Cook family.
In 1884 a Post Office was established at Fred, naming the store-keeper, Walter S. Cook, postmaster; Cook remained Postmaster until 1893. The Post Office at Fred continued until August 7, 1894. Fred was the oldest Post Office in Grady Coun-
ty after Silver City; the Post Office at the latter place was established in 1883. In the vicinity of Fred lived some of the prominent families of the Chickasaw Nation.
Out just a little way from Fred is the old Moncrief graveyard. This was named for Sam Moncrief, a member of one of the oldest families of the Chickasaw Nation. The grave stones go back to 1866.
Between Fred and Anadarko another stage stand was Cotton Wood Grove, now Verden. Cotton Wood Grove was the site of Camp Napoleon; this was important as a meeting place in 1865 at the close of the Civil War of the Confederate Indians with the Plains Indians; they hoped to create an Indian Confederation for mutual protection.
Means of communication between these stations affords interest to the student of history. The means of communication and travel between Boggy Depot and the Agencies in the West is clearly and interestingly shown in the following letter to Agent Laurie Tatum.
Boggy Depot, C. N.
U. S. Agent for Kiowas & Comanches. (near)
Sir; Finding at Chicago and by your letter which I received at Lawrence that there was delay about the wagons I remained with my party four or five days at Lawrence knowing there was no place to stay here. Yesterday I reached Atoka—found nothing there and hearing of the removal of "Caddo" I went there with Indians. There I could hear nothing of wagons and had great difficulty in getting my party from Caddo to this place.
By careful inquiring I satisfied myself that no wagon to meet us were this side of Cherokee town and accommodations being inadequate here, all stores high, the Indians impatient and the weather getting cold, I decided to start them off today, if I could.
After much trouble in securing teams I started them just before noon, in charge of Mr. Jones with three (3) teams, hired to make the trip to Fort Sill for Sixty dollars each ($60.00) and one ambulance or light wagon which I brought here.
Since they started I have obtained two more teams and sent them on to overtake the party—as most of the Indians were on foot.
Mr. H. P. Jones is in charge of the whole and will report to you on arrival the names of the teamsters (not more than five) who have made the trip. To each of them please pay the stipulated sum of Sixty (60) dollars for the work on proper vouchers from any funds you have. I made this request officially under authority of the Department and will see your vouchers go thro'. But still, if you object, leave the receipts blank, send vouchers to me care Indian Office, Washington and I will at once send check to fully re-emburse you.
The main thing is to have the teamsters promptly paid cash on arrival as this was their only inducement to go to Sill instead of taking freight to Texas.
It makes little difference which of us pays the bill as in either case the vouchers will be charged to the appropriation for your Agency.
The light wagon, harness and two horses, I have directed the driver, George Frazier to turn over to you on arrival at Sill. Will you please give the wagon and harness to Horseback, Chief of the Noconees from me—with my thanks for his assistance last summer and my regret at his being unable to accompany our party—
The two horses are mine—bought for this occasion and to be sold for me. Please take care of them till Dr. J. J. Sturm calls for them and then turn them over to him.
They go off in a very unsatisfactory and uncomfortable way, but I hope will get thro' all right.
This failure about the wagons—wholly attributable to the War Dept. was unfortunate and will cost the Indians over a thousand dollars. The sum would have bought them a hundred yearling heifers for stock.
These Indians go home well provided with clothing for the Winter. Individually, women as well as men, and I hope the trip will prove to have been of benefit to them—
I shall await the report anxiously.
Please ask this man George Frazier who drives the light wagon and acts as Conirj. to the party to let you see the card I gave him.
I request as a personal favor that you give him employment and really believe that you will find him almost invaluable at the issuing room on the cattle pen. I really don't know what I should have done on this trip without him. He gets along admirably with Indians.
I shall be pleased to hear from you as to state of affairs following the return of the party.
I think we have had a very pleasant and successful trip—yet I know none of them will be more glad to get home again than I shall.
Excuse this hasty letter and its appearance—as I write in a cold room with fingers numb—
Please consider it official to a certain extent—
With sincere regards to yourself and Mrs. Tatum—
The overland road like the cattle trail grew shorter as the railroads pushed in through the Indian Territory. After the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad through Purcell and Pauls Valley the road was cut almost in half. Pauls Valley now became the center of communication and travel to Fort Sill and the Indian Agencies of the West until the spring of 1891. Then the Rock Island Railroad came to Chickasha; Chickasha now was the
center. Then the railroad, more efficient, but less romantic, took the place of the stage. After the Post Office was established in Chickasha the mail was carried by stage between Chickasha and Anadarko for a short time until the railroad reached Anadarko.
After 1894, Fred was now no longer a Post Office, Chickasha had taken its place. All that is left of these two important cross roads of the prairie in Grady County are dim traces along cotton and corn fields. The cattle trail can be followed by a close observer over the prairie on to the crossing at the Washita River. Of the wagon road no traces are left except the stage stands just over the hill from the Moncrief graveyard; there one can still see a pile of rocks and stones.