Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 14, No. 2
June, 1936

Page 228

We publish in this issue of the Chronicles the minutes of the Annual Meeting of the Oklahoma Historical Society held at Enid April 30 and May 1, 1936.

This meeting was in every way a success without one discordant event to impair the pleasure of the occasion. Great credit is due the commttee at Enid, headed by Sen. Harry O. Glasser and George Rainey, for the harmonious arrangements made for the meeting and for the successful carrying out of every detail of the program. It was indeed a reunion of those men and women who had helped make the history of Northwest Oklahoma, including "No Man's Land." It was fortunate that the speakers had had first hand knowledge of the subjects assigned to them and were not dependent for source material upon books or the stories told by others. The members, and visitors as well, were taken by the committee on an excursion to points of interest in Northwestern Oklahoma, including the historic Salt Plains and that natural phenomenon the Sand Dunes, as well as the Gloss Mountains. The historical society party were fortunate in having Dr. Chas. N. Gould, one of the foremost authorities on geology and kindred scientific subjects. He made several short but instructive speeches concerning these unusual formations. His talks were made out in the open, and we are sorry that we have no copy that we can publish.

The Chronicles is fortunate to be able to publish some of these historical speeches made by the real pioneers of Northwest Oklahoma.


The following is the address of welcome delivered by Mr. George Rainey, the author of the "History of the Cherokee Strip."

Mr. President, members of the State Historical Society and visiting friends:

Enid and all northwest Oklahoma are happy to-day at the

Page 229

coming to the metropolis of the Old Cherokee Outlet the painstaking researchers, the delvers into the historic past, and the preservers of the colorful annals of this wonderful state. We do not merely, in a perfunctory way, bid you welcome. That word is too trite for this occasion. We meet you and greet you with a genuine gladness. You who have come hither have again evinced that long-sustained interest which, from the early days of our commonwealth, has not flagged. To you and such as you, our people owe a debt of gratitude, and future generations will join in giving thanks to your memory, for passing on to them that which but for you would have been lost.

The true historian seeks to be exact, unbiased, and faithful to the truth; for history is but the preservation of the rocords of truth, the enemy of oblivion; the witness of the past and director of the future. Wherefore, it is esteemed an honor to welcome into our midst a group of earnest men and women in whom those qualities of character abound. Nothing save error need fear the historian.

Patrick Henry said: "I have no lamp by which my feet are guided but the lamp of experience." He might well have added: "and the experience of generations gone before," for history is a voice coming down to us through the centuries.

All too few read history; fewer study it, and yet fewer are guided by its warnings. It is a singular truth that most of the makers of history, the good and the bad, found themselves too busy to write it. The story of the Man whose short life wrought a revision of the calendars and changed a world was left wholly to others.

All written history is but fragments salvaged from the deluge of time. Millions of events which have profoundly influenced mankind in the forward and backward waves of civilization were never recorded and are lost in oblivion. Yet, happily, in all ages since the invention of letters, there have been faithful souls who, scanning monuments, peering into ruins, old records, tales and traditions, have recovered and preserved, somewhat, the momentous facts of the past. Thanks to those who have thus gathered up the tangled threads of history and woven them into a beautiful and complete fabric.

Page 230

Written history is comparatively modern; but God has written the story of the works of his hands on earth, ineffaceably in the everlasting hills and the eternal rocks. This record is faithful and true; and is that uncontradicting volume whose scattered pages reveal its wonderful truths to the geologist.

One common characteristic of historians is that they give little thought to pecuniary results of their work. Theirs is the enjoyment of their own labors; and to the products of their unselfish toil must future generations turn for their knowledge of events preceding their existence.

Oklahoma abounds in historic interest. Hardly a square mile of its area is there without its historic experience. Out here in the wheat bowl are many more marks of interest and historic importance than we shall be able to show you during your brief sojourn among us, which we know will be all too brief. You are now within a furlong of the famous Chisholm Trail, along which, in the decade following 1867, no fewer than sixty million hoofs from Texas crackled, and trampled into flour-like dust the soil now veneered with paving and with piles of brick and mortar to the height of twelve and fifteen stories. What cowboy of Texas Trail Driver, as he lolled in his saddle while trailing his herd through the site of this beautiful city, ever cast his eyes heavenward and saw, in fancy and miragic imagery, a Youngblood Hotel, a Bass Building or a Broadway Tower?

We shall take a pilgrimage to the Great Salt Plain where, it is expected, we shall hear our beloved and faithful geologist, Dr. Gould, relate to us some of the wonders of that mysterious expanse which we might consider a second creation. We shall see the sand dunes of the Cimarron and the Gloss Mountains, two more wonders of the gigantic forces of enduring time. We shall visit the famous Buffalo Springs, where many thousands of longhorns and hundreds of weary travelers and freighters, long before the days of the railroad, slaked their thirst and rested their tired bodies. We shall see the spot where poor Pat Hennessey fell and where his wounded and burned body was laid in 1874 in the suburbs of the thriving little city to the south which commemorates his bravery and perpetuates his name. All these are in easy reach of the place of our present meeting.

Page 231

Had we the time and the distance were not too great, we could visit Old Fort Nichols which, owing to the limited geographical knowledge of its founder, the redoubtable hero, Kit Carson, is listed in the records as being in New Mexico, but which, in fact, is in our own Oklahoma. We would also gaze on Black Mesa, that once molten stream of black lava, six hundred feet high, three miles in width, stretching its serpent-like form from Carizzo Creek in Oklahoma where it appears as in the act of drinking from its waters, to its tail seventy-five miles away in Colorado, another of the world's wonders, here in Oklahoma. But for this time, we must forego these two pleasures. But we trust that Enid and its citizens shall so abundantly show their appreciation of your coming among us for this 1936 annual meeting, that you will come again and further enjoy the historic sights in northwest Oklahoma.


The response on behalf of the Oklahoma Historical Society, to the address of welcome, was given by Dr. Joseph B. Thoburn speaking as substitute for Dr. Grant Foreman who was unable to be present. Dr. Thoburn delivered a very interesting and appropriate address on this occasion.


By O. E. Brewster, Secy-Treas. The C. S. C. P. A.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen of the Historical Society of Oklahoma: I need not tell you how happy I am at this opportunity you have given me, for as I can recall it, no other Cow Puncher, Ranch and Trail Cook, has ever been promoted to such a high position.

Now it is not given to all of us to have lived on the frontier of civilization their three score and ten, and have experienced the rapid development from the primitive to the sublime and witness the development of a vast virgin territory to the justly proud State of Oklahoma, but this has been my lot as Pioneer, as Cow Boy, and 89er in Old Oklahoma. It seems but yesterday when as a mere lad my sister, Mrs. Cora Fox of Marshall, Oklahoma, and I gathered

Page 232

buffalo bones from the prairies of the "Strip" hauling them to Wellington, Kan., for the stupendous sum of $7.00 per ton and buying our first real "store clothes."

The subject assigned me this evening on this program is the Chisholm Trail.

On this subject, I have spent much time for several years in gathering all the available data possible, and have the testimony from trail drivers and cow men who had driven the "Texas Long Horns" to the northern markets from 1867 to, 1893.

The facts of all this research, to state it briefly establishes the facts, that during this period of time it is estimated that over ten million of the Texas "Long horns" were driven principally over the Eastern or Abeline trail, and in later years of the drive, over the Western or Dodge City trail.

Tonight I desire to place emphasis on the Eastern or Jesse Chisholm Trail, and for this purpose will here introduce two main facts, viz: The map and survey by the Cherokee Nation in 1883 and which it will be noticed, that the quarantine lands were set aside both along the Chisholm and the Western trails and also at the shipping points of Kiowa, Caldwell and Hunnewell, Kans.

In my research I have determined the following facts.

Jesse Chisholm made his first trip from Leavenworth to Anadarko in 1865 and later in 1869 this Freight Trail was extended to Ft. Sill. The same year the Southern drives started from Wichita, Kans., on to Abeline, Kans.

The best I can conclude is, that the Texas drovers so named the Chisholm Trail as such from the fact they would intersect the Freight trail at Red Fork, now Dover, Oklahoma, and would follow that route on to Abeline, Kansas.

The Texas Trail Drivers in a Resolution passed in 1930 stated clearly that, "The Chisholm Trail started at Red River Station and that there never was a Chisholm Trail in Texas."

Now if as Mr. Geo. Rainey says in his History of the Cherokee Strip, that "Jesse Chisholm departed this life in 1868" it is very obvious that he died ignorant of the Western or Dodge City Trail.

Page 233

Now many millions of Texas "Long Horns" were driven over this route in later years which makes it equally famous as a Trail.

I would call your attention to the fact that Jesse Chisholm was not a cattleman or drover but was an Indian trader, guide and scout and never engaged in the cattle business.

To be brief, I consider the March issue of the Chronicles and report by Mr. S. H. Tennant has been the final chapter on this much mooted question and merits the gratitude of all Trail Drivers.

The report and complete survey of both the Eastern and also the Western Cattle Trails which has been so thoroughly done by Engineer H. S. Tennant and which to my mind is the Final Brief and leaves no further need of discussion.

When I stand with bared head in the sacred "Shrine," the Alamo, in San Antonio, Texas and visualize the bravery of that daring band of patriots who perished to the last man, in its defense, I am filled with awe and reverence.

When at Santa Fe, New Mexico, and read the history of the pioneers who traveled that way in the Rush of 49, I am filled with reverence and humility, and my heart goes out in gratitude to those, whoever they may be, who have been so foresighted in marking these sacred spots of frontier history in order to keep that memory alive.

Whenever I go through the Society Museum at Oklahoma City and see the amazing array of historical data being assembled by the Society it all fills me with gratitude, and I thank you every one for your labor and sacrifice in preserving the traditions and history of Oklahoma, and tonight I know whether you agree with me or not, we are assembled on hallowed ground.

You may wonder why the Old Time Cow Boy is so deadly in earnest in marking for all time this famous "Cattle Highway of the Long Horns" now, while we who have been spared are yet alive.

It is because we shared the same experiences and dangers of driving the long horns, swimming the muddy boiling rivers and driving the herds to the northern markets during the 70's and 80's.

Page 234

That experience has bound us in a brotherhood that will last all our lives, for we can never forget those days.

Will I ever forget the crossing of Red River, the Washita and the South Canadian, North Canadian and the Cimarron rivers, those muddy boiling rivers we had to swim the herds across?

How we tore flour sacks into strips, and with case knife we corked the wagon bed and made it serve as a boat, by lashing the running gears to the bed, taking off the lead team, three cow boys with ropes on wagon tongue, one to two cow boys with ropes over wagon bed to swim up stream and prevent it from rolling over in the swift current. Then we were ready to burst that muddy boiling river.

If we hit a sand bar or made the crossing quick enough or before the wagon bed shipped too much water all would be O. K.

Sometimes it would take two days to get our outfit across and no hogs ever came from a wallow muddier than we would be.

Not only high water tried our nerves but a long period of rainy weather with everything wet and soggy, water squashing in our boots, cattle hard to bold and after the storm finally broke and the sun shone again we spread our blankets to dry.

Now repeat this above experience many times during the driving season and you will see how the cow boys earned their wages.

Then these "Long Horns" had a very wicked habit of putting on a show of their own in the stampedes which would try the nerves of the bravest.

Then in those days we were always apprehensive of Indian outbreaks and the Indians knowing our helplessness would demand "Wohaws" or beef plenty, and it was better to give them "Wohaws" than to have them stampede our herds. Why, on some trips on both the Eastern and the Western trails the demand for Wohaws was so great that it would almost exhaust our supply of "Mavericks" before reaching the Cherokee Strip ranges.

Would you think it easy to forget the swimming the long horn herds across the Cimarron River just below the mouth of Johns Creek during the season of 1883 which we did 23 times that year?

Page 235

Wouldn't you think that memory would last? I do and so do all other cowards who had no better sense.

Will I ever forget the exact spot where the charred remains and burned wagon irons lay beside the trail clearly indicating where brave Pat Hennessey was tied to his wagon and burned to death, and how we of the trail and freighters as well would bring rocks to mark the spot. I do not forget.

Will I ever forget near the crossing on Washita River when the Indians came to our camp and demanded "Wohaws," and I in sign language told them falsely that "Wohaw Chief had gone to Ft. Reno not be back for three suns." Well I had plenty of cause to regret for after they had taken the wohaws by force they returned 42 in number and played "Cat and mouse" with me by taking their knives and lifted my hair as though to scalp me. It made me nervous, but I wasn't scared much, but I have never wanted to repeat the act.

And another time at or near old Cantonement where our herd was stampeded by the Indians and the Indians grabbed my leaders and run me, chuck wagon and all into a large stockade where I was made prisoner for two days and nights until the U. S. troops came to our rescue and the squaws and papooses kept me awake by throwing rocks and arrows at me whenever I showed myself.

Another memory still lingers as to the many times I have filled my water barrels at the Government Springs here in Enid, drove my four horse team and chuck wagon back on the Chisholm Trail over the very center of this city, when this was only waving grass land prairie.

Now Jesse Chisholm never dreamed that civilization would locate the envied City of Enid directly on the Jesse Chisholm freight and cattle trail, neither did I.

At the annual reunion at 101 Ranch 1930 where were assembled 103 of the old cow boys, we passed a resolution that was unanimous that the Chisholm trail crossed Red River at Red River Station and follewed North almost with 81 Highway and everyone agreed that the trail passed directly over the square here in Enid.

We at that time thought it would be fine if the Legislature of

Page 236

Oklahoma could be induced to take steps to mark the trails of Oklahoma.

They later did and House Bill 149 was the result which did command the State Highway Department to survey and map both the Eastern and the Western trails.

This has been done on paper very fine but as yet Tuttle, Oklahoma, though but a small town leas a splendid marker on the trail which would be a credit to a much larger town.

On October last or Oct. 24th I presented the Buffalo Hide Memorial and Roster of the C. S. C. P. Association to the Society who graciously consented to furnish suitable case and preserve for all time.

In behalf of our Association of members yet living and in behalf of the gold stars of our members who have crossed the Great Divide, I sincerely thank the Historical Society.

Now as I explained at that time we were too weak and our members decimated by death, that we could not of course case and preserve the Memorial, neither could we do more than sponsor the marking of the old Chisholm Trail, that is so dear to the memory of all Old Time Cow Boys.

I would like at this time to appeal to the State of Oklahoma; To the Historical Society; to the fine towns on 81 Highway that some way be found to mark forever one of the most historical cattle Highways ever known.

Our hope is that it be done quickly as possible that we who are yet spared may see and know.

And now in closing I will direct my remarks directly to the most favored City of Enid on 81 highway in the Cherokee Strip.

Our days on Cow Boy Hill will soon be over and it would be futile to hope to leave any evidence or marker of the fine gatherings and happy days spent there on our camp ground, since 1920.

Now I will offer a suggestion and you of Enid may if you will, consider it a Cow Boy Prayer.

Won't you please find a way to build a monument to the

Page 237

founder of the trail, and also dedicate it to the C. S. C. P. A. as the LAST STAND OF THE LONG HORNS.

This is our prayer.


By Grant Harris
First typesetter in the Cherokee Strip.

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen:

When I was asked to speak before this meeting about my experiences with Captain Payne at Rock Falls, I wondered what I could say that would be of interest to you, for while the boomers were making history all right, life in the camp at the time was pretty dull and uninteresting. There was not much to do and the boomers spent a good deal of their time under the shade of the trees and in the printing office discussing what the officials at Washington and the cattlemen would do.

It is almost exactly 52 years ago, early in May, 1884, when I and two other printers, Will Cunningham and Harry Felton, rode into Rock Falls from Caldwell where he had been working. We had heard that Captain Payne was looking for a printer and it was partly to see the sights and the prospect of a job that had taken us there. The first thing that attracted our attention when we dismounted in front of the printing office was a proclamation tacked on the door. It was printed on heavy bond paper about 17x22 inches in size and was signed by Henry M. Teller, secretary of the interior. Among other things it said that anyone who printed or assisted in printing a paper on the Cherokee Strip would be guilty of trespass and subject to a fine of from $100 to $500 and imprisonment from one to five years. When we read that we immediately lost interest in a job in that partcular printing office, and began looking around for amusement.

But someone had told Captain Payne there were some printers in the camp and he looked us up and asked us if we wanted work. We told him that we were not looking for trouble nor did we want to break into the penitentiary. He insisted that there was not a bit

Page 238

of danger; that the government was just bluffing and even if we were arrested all they would do would be to take us out of the territory. He said he would pay any one of us $25 a week and board if we would go to work. We asked for a little time to consider the matter for $25 a week and board was big wages for a printer in those days.

We finally decided to make him the propostion that if he would employ the three of us at those wages we would go to work. No sooner was the offer made he pulled out a roll of bills, counted out $25 for each of us and said: "You are all hired and I want to get out a paper Wednesday."

The printing office was the only frame building in town. It was on the highest point in the camp, just south of the Chisholm trail where it crossed the Chicaskia river and a short way south of the falls. The equipment consisted of an old Washington hand press, but the type was all new and in the packages as they came from the type foundry.

It was necessary for some of us to return to Caldwell to return the horses and get our belongings and Cunningham and Felton were chosen to go and I stayed at the camp. Sunday afternoon I laid the type in the cases and the next morning put an editorial in type that Captain Cooper, the editor, had already prepared. That was the first type ever set, on the Cherokee Strip. The other two printers could not get used to that proclamation and only stayed a week or two, but I stayed until the soldiers arrested us and drove the boomers from the strip.

There was no amusement and not much work to do and time hung pretty heavy on our hands. However, there was occasionally a little excitement caused by wild rumors that got started somewhere, but they always turned out to be just rumors. Sometimes it was the Indians that were going to drive us out; other times it was the cattlemen, but most frequently it was the soldiers. One such incident that I distinctly remember was when the report came in that a bunch of young Indians had gone on the war path and would attack us. The officers of the company took enough stock in the tale that guards were posted and everybody was more or less uneasy. About 9:30 that night a noise was heard on the south side of the river near the ford. It was plain that there was quite a party

Page 239

there and soon camp fires were burning and it could be seen that they were Indians. While they did not look very warlike, few people slept very sound that night and when morning came and it was discovered it was a party of Indians with their squaws and papooses on their way to Wichita after supplies there was a distinct feeling of relief.

Captain Payne was ruler of the camp and enjoyed the confidence of his followers to a remarkable degree. He was not an orator, as I remember it, but could sway a crowd at will. He was a typical frontiersman and usually carried two .45 revolvers in holsters. One of these was an ivory-handled .45 that had been given to him by the citizens of Abilene for some outstanding service while he was marshal and had more than 50 names of the donors engraved upon it. He was said to be the best pistol shot in the west after wild Bill Hickock was killed. He was a natural leader, but a poor business man. Anyone with a hard luck story could get anything he had and when he gave money to a person he immediately forgot all about it unless the other person mentioned it. On the other hand, if he borrowed money he forgot that just as readily and felt hurt if the other party to the transaction tried to collect. His books were in bad shape and one day he asked me if I would help him with them, and from that time until the end most of my evenings were spent in his tent. A membership fee of $10 was charged to join the colony and there was also a surveying fee of $3. If a man wanted to join the colony and did not have all the money the captain would take what he had and tell him he could pay the rest at a later date, but the chances were he would make no memorandum of the transaction at the time and that night when he went to put it on the books had probably forgotten the man's name and the amount he had paid. Nearly every evening he would have more money than he could account for and would have it credited to "miscellaneous receipts." If someone claimed he had not received proper credit he would be credited with what he claimed he had paid and the amount deducted from the miscellaneous receipts.

In the evenings while at Captain Payne's tent I met many interesting people who came to consult him. Among them I remember a Cherokee chief—I forget his name—and a Cherokee lawyer named Duncan. They rode up to the camp one afternoon

Page 240

and dismounted in front of the Captain's tent. Duncan said "Captain, we beliefe you are honest in your belief that the Cherokee Strip is government land subject to pre-emption, and we have come to convince you that you are wrong." "If you can do that," the captain replied, "I will stick my tail between my legs and get going and never stop until I reach the state line." The visitors came into the tent and for an hour argued the merits of their contentions, but naturally no one was convinced, but they expressed good will when they left. Captain Payne told them that the strip had been set aside by congress for the Cherokees as an outlet to the hunting grounds to the west so that they would not be compelled to cross any other Indian reservation, but had never been ceded to them, and that as the strip was not used any more for that purpose it naturally reverted to the government and was subject to homestead entry. That was the foundation of the whole boomer movement.

Other prominent people I remember were M. M. Murdock, editor of the Wichita Eagle; Dan R. Anthony, of the Leavenworth Times; J. K. Hudson, of the Topeka Capital, and Morrison Mumford, editor of the Kansas City Times, all of whom did valiant service in the boomer cause and were largely instrumental in forcing the government to open not only the Cherokee Strip, but all of Oklahoma to settlement.

After many false alarms the soldiers finally came. They surrounded the camp and details of negro soldiers made the arrests of the officials of the company and lined up the boomers and headed them for Kansas. They came to the printing office and arrested Captain Cooper and myself and loaded the printing outfit into a government wagon. Then they started for Captain Payne's tent. He was standing at the door of his tent with a six-shooter in each hand. Before the negro sergeant could say anything the captain said: "No damned nigger can arrest me. If you open your mouth to give an order I will blow your head off." The sergeant evidently believed he would do as he said and told a soldier to go after Lieutenant Day, who was in command. The lieutenant came and Captain Payne handed him his guns and surrendered.

I have been asked many times what became of the printing plant after the soldiers confiscated it, but I do not know. How-

Page 241

ever, many years afterwards a negro janitor on the Kansas City Star told me he had been in the regular army and was one of Soldiers that drove the boomers out of the Strip. I asked him if he knew what was done with the printing plant and he said it and a lot of other stuff the soldiers took at the camp was thrown into the Cimarron River when they crossed it at what was then known as Red Fork, but is now Dover. I am inclined to believe that that is the way it was disposed of.

Six of us, as I remember it, were arrested—Captain Payne, the two Couch brothers, Captain Cooper, the surveyor, whose name I forget, and myself—and the rest of the boomers were lined up and headed for Kansas. After the last of the boomers had been lined up and started on their way the officer in command sent for me. "You were the printer?" he asked. I said that I was. "Can't you read? Didn't you see that proclamation on the door?" he demanded.

I answered in the affirmative to both questions and he demanded: "Then why did you go to work."

"Lieutenant," I said, "I was working in Caldwell for $7 a week and board, and the difference in salary looked larger to me than the proclamation." He laughed and said: "If I turn you loose how long will it take you to get to the state line?"

"About 15 minutes if you will give me my pony."

He ordered a soldier to bring my pony and as I mounted he said: "Good bye, and see if you can't beat that 15 minutes a little."


In 1882 I had the pleasure of meeting W. H. Osburn, then Secretary of Payne's Oklahoma Colony. He persuaded me to become the photographer for the Payne's expedition into Oklahoma, February, 1883.

The last day of January, I had first outdoor sleep in camp,

Page 242

just South of Arkansas City, Kansas. I will never forget lying there, looking at the stars. A little after 3 a. m., I awoke with about three inches of snow on me. It did not take me long to start my first camp fire, and the blizzard was on. We drove over the Salt Fork on ice with 133 prairie schooners. We camped one day in the dry bed of Deer Creek. Everything was one mass of ice. While making the first picture crossing the line into Oklahoma, my hands froze so in a short time I had soft hands. Camping with temperature below zero was no fun for a tenderfoot.

One eve Captain Payne gave us a good talk. I can only remember, "Boys, if we do nothing else, we are making History." It was so.

At camp Alice, (named after Alice McPherson), about where the old waterworks was at Oklahoma City, I had a change of food from good fat pork to garfish which we got under the ice with a pitchfork.1

A man said, "You see that tall man with long hair, mustache, and goatee? He is the best shot in Camp—kills deer with a six shooter." That afternoon this man asked if I wanted a piece of still deer. "You bet I do."

At that camp the soldiers arrived from Fort Sill and Fort Reno. After Captain Payne had been arrested, Mr. Osburn was making a speech. Some one whispered to him that there was a spy in camp.His reply was, "I don't care if there is a spy in camp." Then some one said, "Where is he?" Another said, "Get a rope." Then Captain Couch got on that stump. "Halt! Boys. We are Americans and here under the American Flag we are not to do harm." That put a stop to the rope. Osburn was next to be arrested. Then a Mr. Ackerley who sold whiskey for court purposes. Then the orders came, "All are to return to Kansas, under escort of soldiers and anyone found in camp at 7 a. m. will be taken to Fort Reno a prisoner," and I was the only one. We had 552 men in came. Some camp. When we started, "Oh, Joe. Here's your mule," there was same noise. The soldiers had one get in the wagon with the other three. Then Osburn, "Wick, what are you doing here?" My reply, "I started with you and will see you through." (He

Page 243

helped me buy the photo outfit) and I slept under his blankets. Then we started for Fort Reno, February 11th. Rain kept us in camp one day Arrived at the Fort the eve of the 14th—three days' trip. By the way, our mess outfit went back to Kansas so when the soldiers brought us a dishpan full of beans we had to use our four fingers for a spoon. Later the top part of a bisquit. The soldiers had nothing for us and no love because we had them leave warm quarters and camp as we did in a blizzard, that was some below zero. On the way to the Fort there were eight men added to the list of prisoners. They were on the way to Camp Alice so we had 12 in the guard house. In about two weeks the orders came for us to walk to Caldwell, Kansas. We sat waiting until the messenger came and said, "Let the damn boomers ride." A hip, hip and off in charge of colored soldiers. Safe and sound in Caldwell. Captain Payne was a typical Westerner, a natural leader. You could not help liking him nor say "no." After our return, a friend said to another, "I never will loan him another dollar." Friend said, "I'll bet you a five you will." Bet taken, and in about 10 minutes he was called in the hall, came back. "Who was it?" "Oh, Payne." "Did you let him have any?" "Yes, a ten," so lost the five with it.

A common expression of his, "You can have this right arm if I don't do so and so."

Yet with all thy faults. I love thee still.


Address by Miss Maude O. Thomas

At The Annual Meeting of The Oklahoma Historical Society, April 30, 1936.

Not since the landing of the Pilgrim Fathers at Plymouth Rock has a more remarkable or a more interesting community existed on the American Continent than that section of Oklahoma, formerly No Man's Land, now Beaver, Texas and Cimarron counties. In the language of one of its earliest citizens, "it is a people without example and without precedent." It has been owned and disowned, claimed and disclaimed, an orphan among nations—no

Page 244

man's land—finally obtaining a permanent home as an appendage to the Territory of Oklahoma. Its lands have been under the sovereignty of two monarchies, three republics and two states. Its boundaries were created as a result of diplomacy, war, slavery and, in part, "Topsy-like," just happened.

Originally French domain, it passed from France to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase only to be disclaimed and given to Spain in the Florida Treaty. With the Revolution of the Republic of Mexico it passed to Mexico as a part of the Mexican State of Texas. When Texas won her independence it passed to the Republic of Texas. In the subsequent formation of states and territories, it was left out completely—a strip of land 34½ miles wide by 168 miles long, a section which Congress forgot, and, very appropriately, it came to be known as "No Man's Land." It was the property of Uncle Sam, but beyond the pale of any law because it was not within the limits of any judicial district. So far as it is known, roving bands of Indians were the first humankind to occupy this region. Great herds of buffalo, deer and antelope; flocks of wild turkey, prairie chicken and quail made it literally "a happy hunting ground" for the red man.

William Becknell, of Missouri, the father of the Santa Fe Trail, was perhaps the first white man to set foot on Beaver County soil. He crossed what is now Cimarron County in 1823. Sheep-men who settled in the northwest corner of No Man's Land in 1863 were the first settlers in this colorful section. They were followed by the cattlemen who came in 1870. About this time came bands of hunters who slaughtered the buffalo for their hides, leaving the prairies literally covered with carcases. A little later a freight trail wormed its way across No Man's Land. A half-way stopping place on this trail from Dodge City, Kansas, to Tascosa, Texas, was on the Beaver River. Here, in March 1880, James Lane established a camp.

Boomers from the boom-town of Wichita, Kansas, discovered that the "strip" was really no man's land and took the first steps in its permanent settlement. They organized the Beaver City Town Company and on March 6, 1866, arrived at Lane's Camp announcing they had come to build a town. Satisfactory arrangements were made with Lane, the site was surveyed and the company's

Page 245

representative went to Washington, D. C. to secure a patent for the land. At the same time they boomed the new town and country far and wide. They failed in getting title to the townsite, but their advertising of the section was more successful. Settlers came pouring in. Caravans of covered wagons, filled with men, women and children, came down the trail to the "Promised Land." A frontier sod town sprung up and settlers "squatted" on claims. Families of from six to twelve often lived in one room "soddies" or dugouts, with an over-jet set down outside for the "parlor." Naturally disputes arose as to titles and sometimes they resorted to shooting scrapes to determine the "legal" owners.

A second attempt was made to organize a government, but a neat swindle soon developed and this effort "went by the board" for the people wanted honest government or none. On November 29, 1886, a meeting was held which resulted in the organization of Cimarron Territory—one of the most unique governments ever organized by civilized man. At a general election held later, O. G. Chase was elected delegate to Congress and went to Washington to secure recognition and admission of Cimarron Territory to the Union. Its organization had been perfected and its officers functioning for some months. It was a "bitter pill" when word came back that Congress had refused to recognize the territory. Our wonderful Empire of Cimarron had vanished, but still the settlers stayed on, waiting, "Micawber-like," for something to turn up. On April 22, 1889, when the Oklahoma Country was opened with the famous "Run," our settlers, grown weary of waiting, left their homes in No Man's Land and flocked to the new country. From a population of over 12,000, less than 3,000 remained and, it is said, we had to count in some prairie dogs and jack rabbits to get that number. The few who remained did so because they were not able to get away. The ravens fed us!

Finally in 1890 the Territory of Oklahoma was created and No Man's Land was included, but other sections of Oklahoma were opened about the same time. The tide of settlers did not come in as they had gone out. No material influx came until 1903. By 1906 more than 40,000 had come. The pioneers, most of whom were cattle owners, dubbed the new neghbors, who came to farm, "pumpkin rollers" and told them they would starve to death trying to farm in that arid region. These warnings were treated with con-

Page 246

tempt. The soil produced most prolifically, and the region became noted for its progress and prosperity. It became the home of the finest thoroughbred cattle and hogs, and its poultry topped the market. Its bountiful acres of wheat and broom corn attracted nation-wide attention. Its climate was the finest and its water the purest and coldest to be found in all the Great Plains.

The last chapter in the turbulent struggle of "No Man's Land" for regularly constituted government, equal to any state, was consummated November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma became a state.

That the people of "No Man's Land" were without a peer has been proven, if there were ever any doubt, by the heroic manner in which they have faced the tragedy of the past four years of drouth and dust storms. Do they intend to leave the Promised Land where sleep their brave pioneer fathers and mothers? No, a thousand times, No! "God's in His Heaven; all's right with the world" and No Man's Land. This, too, will pass, and again we shall see our verdant hills and vales in all their beauty, and our wide expanse of golden grain waving in the mellow glow of twilight. We have no thought of leaving. We, in "No Man's Land," are not weaklings.

I could not close without paying homage to the bravest settler in all No Man's Land—the heroic wife and mother who helped "hold down the claim." Surely God's richest blessing is reserved for her. As a toddling youngster, the youngest of a "brood" of ten, six of whom came with our parents in a covered wagon to our dug-out home in No Man's Land, I will remember the tear-stained face and the far-away look in the eyes of my dear old sainted mother. She never failed to tuck us into bed with a good night kiss, after our little prayer, "Now I lay me down to sleep," said at her knee. I did not then know what it was all about for, in an effort to be cheerful and make her family happy, she went about her many household duties singing.

"Picking up bones to keep from starving
   Picking up chips to keep from freezing,
Picking up courage to keep from leaving,
   'Way out west, in No Man's Land."

This was the scene enacted in many a "little sod shanty on the

Page 247

claim" in No Man's Land and back of it all was the heart of a true, brave Pioneer Mother, the real Empire Builder of the West.

And now a toast to No Man's Land: Somehow here your heart is filled with love for God and man. You feel it is a sacred place out here in No Man's Land. So, when at last my time is come to take that sleep so sweet, I want to rest in No Man's Land where Earth and Heaven meet.

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site