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 17, No. 1
March, 1939

Page 97

The Colorado Range Cattle Industry. By Ora Brooks Peake, (Glendale, California: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 1937. 357 pp. Frontispiece, maps, illustrations, bibliography, and appendices. $6.00.)

Since Colorado is one of the range states that has been somewhat neglected by writers dealing with ranching operations in the West, this supplies a real need.

In addition to a brief introduction the volume is divided into six sections. These deal with stocking the state, the removal of the Indians, securing land for grazing, stock associations, state ordinances and laws, and marketing Colorado range cattle. Numerous short tables present figures that are both interesting and informative. The portrait of John Wesley Iliff used as a frontispiece and eight additional illustrations and maps add to the interest and value of the volume. Many of the twenty-four brief appendices also present valuable material, though it is an open question as to whether some of them might not as well have been omitted.

It is to be regretted that a few errors and loose statements have crept in that, although trivial enough in themselves, might possibly serve to detract attention from other very valuable features of the book. For example, in referring to the destruction of prairie dogs (p. 242) the author says: "One teaspoonful of bisulphite (sic) of carbon soaked into any dry substance and dropped into a hole would kill about two hundred dogs." While bisulphite of carbon was extensively used to kill prairie dogs throughout the range area, any such easy wholesale slaughter was obviously impossible.

Other statements which tax the credulity of the reader are (p. 254) that a good cook was "supposed to prepare a meal in a half hour for from thirty to forty men." Also it is stated (p. 255) that in the eighties often as many as seventy-five wagons

Page 98

were connected with a single round-up. Since the author gives the number of men for every wagon as ten to twenty, each man with five to ten horses, it seems incredible that such an army of men, horses, and wagons could "often" have taken part in a single round-up. To pay twenty-three dollars for a Spanish bit (p. 256) must have been very unusual and the reference to "fish slickers" on the same page is misleading since the term "Fish" merely referred to a well known brand of slicker and linseed oil rather than "fish oil" was used in its manufacture.

Citations and bibliography indicate that the book has been prepared largely from printed materials and, though some manuscript sources have been used, the critical reader will regret that there is little reference to range books, personal letters, diaries, and other contemporary manuscripts of a personal nature.

In spite of such errors and omissions the volume shows evidence of long and painstaking research. It contains a great fund of very valuable information and is an interesting and worth while contribution to the literature of the ranching industry.

Edward Everett Dale

University of Oklahoma

McGillivray of the Creeks. By John Walton Caughey. (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1938. 385 pp. Bibliography. $3.50.)

Both the Indians and the white men were fortunate in having able leaders during "the critical period" following the War for Independence. The places of Washington, Hamilton, and Jefferson were taken among the red man by those two great leaders, Joseph Brant and Alexander McGillivray. This treatment of the latter presents him and his policies with a long-desired clarity. By using the system of printing the source material prefaced by an introduction of some fifty-seven pages by the editor, both those who read and run and those who stay to study are pleased.

Page 99

It has been the fate of the Indian always to be involved, willingly or unwillingly, in international rivalries. Sometimes the Indians used these rivalries to play off Europeans against each other. In every case any temporary success was followed by eventual defeat. Mr. Caughey presents documents showing that no one could have played the diplomatic game more adroitly, nor with more desire for the good of the Indians themselves, than did Alexander McGillivray. Though often incapacitated by disease, this important and remarkable man moulded a loose collection of villages into an effective instrument for trading upon the rivalries of Spain and the United States to extort concessions from both.

Of Scotch, French, and Indian descent, McGillivray's first great experience was his education at Charlestown and the confiscation of his property as a loyalist in the Revolution. He served with the British, and as a colonel and British agent among the Indians obtained experience and importance. The withdrawal of the British left the Creeks without protectors and trade facilities. In his need McGillivray turned toward Spain. Americans were so notoriously land-hungry that they remained his bete noir for the rest of his life. By adroit presentation of the necessity of Creek friendship to Spain and the urgency of cheap and plentiful trade goods to hold this friendship, McGillivray secured Spanish help, increased his own importance among both Spaniards and Indians, and aided his own financial condition as agent of the Spanish and partner in a trading concern. He pushed the backing given by Spain to the utmost against the encroachments of Cumberland and Georgia. In spite of false treaties and attempts at his assassination and the dividing of his nation by the Georgians he held the Indians together, and convinced many Americans that he was in the right. Though handicapped by threats of the withdrawal of Spanish support, he drove back the settlers on disputed lands and compelled the United States to send a commission to settle matters. After walking out on this commission, he relented enough to go to New York in 1790 and make a treaty with Washington and the new government.

Page 100

This did not end his difficulties. The Spaniards were afraid that he had sold himself to the Americans; the land-hunters and speculators fought any limitation of Georgia's boundaries and grants; the filibustering exploits of William Augustus Bowles divided the Creeks; and McGillivray's old friend, Miro, was succeeded by the less-able Carondolet. Just when it seemed that McGillivray had overcome these obstacles he died at the height of his influence. Though it seems a pity, yet his death may have been fortunate. He did not live to see Pinckney's treaty and the defeat of Wayne, with their forecast of the destruction of his great goal of Creek independence.

Dr. Caughey, now assistant professor of history at the University of California at Los Angeles, presents a fine selection of documents telling this story. He is to be congratulated on his bibliography as well as his discovery, selection, and editing of the documents, which are largely taken from Spanish archives.

The main disappointment which students of this period may feel is that little is said about McGillivray's relations with the northern Indian confederacy, then engaged in a similar fight for life. Scattered statements in the sources printed here and the logic of the situation lead us to believe that this relation was important. One would like to know McGillivray's policy in this direction. Dr. Caughey is concerned with Spanish relations and probably did not feel it wise to make the necessary investigation into Canadian and British archives to develop this element. These archives lead one to the belief that Creek influence was influential, and perhaps even led to the failure of peace in the North in 1793.

This is volume 18 of the Civilization of the American Indian Series of the University of Oklahoma Press and has the attractive appearance, type, and make-up which we are accustomed to expect in its products.

M. J. Smith.

Bacone College

Page 101

Conquest of the Southern Plains, by Charles J. Brill. (Oklahoma City: Golden Saga Publishing Company, 1938, 323 pp. $3.50. )

The struggle between the Indians and the white men for the dominance of this continent reached its climax in 1868 in the "Battle of the Washita" in the western part of what is now the State of Oklahoma. There are two sides to every story, and in The Conquest of the Southern Plains, Charles J. Brill gives the Indian side of the struggle for dominance in the Southwest.

It is very important that the Indians' story should be told, and the author draws a vivid picture of some of the wrongs which the Indians suffered. That picture, in so far as it is true, is one which should make every decent citizen of the United States hang his head in shame. Brill is unquestionably right in his charges of bad administration of Indian Affairs by the United States Government. The Indians were driven from lands guaranteed to them by treaties and they were often cheated in the distribution of food and supplies.

Twice the House of Representatives passed bills putting the Indian administration entirely in the hands of the army, but both bills were strangled in the Senate. Few army officers, if any, would be likely to risk their reputations and their retired pay for the sake of petty pilfering, but the members of the Senate were not willing to take the political appointments away from civilians. There were also post-traders who were civilians, appointed by the Secretary of War, himself a civilian, and one of the greatest scandals in our history developed from the sale of the post-traderships under Secretary Belknap. Indian agents and dishonest traders often worked together for the undoing of the Indians.

Army officers in general are not attacked in the book, but General Custer, because he was the officer in command at the "Battle of the Washita," is.

As to the author's charge that the "Battle of the Washita" was mainly a massacre of women and children with the assassi-

Page 102

nation of Black Kettle, we have Ben Clark's assertion that when General Custer heard that some of his soldiers were "chasing the panic-stricken women and children" and Clark asked him if he wanted them killed, Custer replied, "No. Tell Myers to call off his men and take the runaways to a big lodge, and put a guard over them." Ben Clark then got together about sixty women and children who were saved by Custer's order. Of the women who were killed many had guns and were fighting as fiercely as the men. Most of the others were killed by the Osage scouts over whom Custer could not watch continuously, and who were glad to get a chance to wreak vengeance on their tribal enemies.

The author is correct in stating that Satanta and other chiefs of the Kiowas did not take part in the Battle of the Washita. But the Kiowas of his village went back on the 26th of November from Fort Cobb and could easily take part in the battle. According to General Hazen, Satanta and his principal chiefs did not leave Fort Cobb until the 27th the day of the battle. As to how friendly they were to the white men and how eager for peace, we have several statements of General Hazen in letters to General Sherman. They were published in General Hazen's Some Corrections of (Custer's) Life on the Plains, from which the author makes other quotations. Hazen wrote to Sherman on December 7, 1868:

"I have never had faith in Satanta, and if he finally gets a drubbing with the rest, it will be better for everybody. I think by large presents of coffee and sugar he might have been bought for peace, but not for a valuable and lasting one. . . I am more strongly of the opinion than ever that General Sheridan should do his work thoroughly this winter, and that it will be lasting . . . To suppose the late battle decisive and cease offensive operations would be very unfortunate."

Hazen quotes a letter from Philip McCusker, an official interpreter for the Indian agency who had lived with the Indians for eight years and who wrote:

"Soon after the close of the Council at Medicine Lodge, the Kiowas, Comanches and Apaches, instead of remaining on their reservation at peace, as they had promised deliberately violated all their pledges of friendship, and made many murderous raids

Page 103

into Texas—murdering many men, women and children, and carrying many of the latter into captivity, some of whom were with great difficulty ransomed with large sums of money and goods: many children dying on their way to the Indian camps, and some few were never given up, but have grown up among the Indians, the latter saying they were dead. As fast as I learned the particulars of these outrages, I reported them promptly to the Superintendent of Indian Affairs and to the Commissioner, and urged that some steps be taken to punish the guilty parties."

It seems inconsistent that Hazen and McCusker should admit the guilt of the raiding and murdering Kiowas and urge their punishment, and yet condemn the action on the Washita. They thought for a time that the guilty Indians should be punished as individuals after a trial.

As to the guilt of Black Kettle's Cheyennes, Hazen wrote to Sherman on December 31, 1868:

"I notice the papers are stating that Black Kettle's camp destroyed by Custer were peaceable Indians on their way to their reservation. In his talk with me some five or six days before he was killed, Black Kettle stated that many of his men were then on the war path, and that their people did not want peace with the people above the Arkansas. His people were those engaged in the trouble on the Solomon, and their reservation was not in this section of the country at all."

It was one of the war parties mentioned here by Black Kettle whose returning trail was followed by the Seventh Cavalry to Black Kettle's village the night before the battle.

As for the participation of Black Kettle's band in raids, it is admitted, as early as 1864, before the Chivington Massacre, in a statement signed by Black Kettle and quoted by the author on page 53 that at that time the Cheyennes had three war parties out and were holding seven white prisoners. As he was sincerely anxious for peace with the whites, he offered to give up the prisoners, and tried to keep his warriors from hostile acts.

The author of Conquest of the Southern Plains twice quotes General Harney as saying, "I have never yet known an instance in which war broke out with these tribes that the tribes were

Page 104

not in the right." But he condemned as strongly as did Sheridan and Custer the way in which the Indians made war.

Brill is to be commended for the tireless way in which he has collected material—photographs, maps, and documents of great interest and value. And it is very interesting to learn through him what the Cheyennes of seventy years ago told their children about the white men's conquest of the Southwest. But he has not written a history of that period. He has told the Indians' story of it. He rejects from the authors he quotes statements which reflect on the Indians.

His chief sources of information are the stories of aged men who were in their teens at the time of the events they describe. Those who are accustomed to weighing evidence have learned that great caution must be used in accepting details of stories told by old men of any race.

There is need of an accurate history of the struggle between the two races for the dominance of this continent. But its author must weigh evidence carefully and be able to see and understand both sides of the struggle. There was right and wrong on both sides. The Indian race has made a great contribution to the building of America in the past, and all her sons of every race are needed to build the America of the future.

Colonel Charles Francis Bates,
U. S. A., Retired.

Bronxville, New York.

Southern Plainsmen. By Carl Coke Rister. (Norman, University of Oklahoma Press, 1938. 289 pages. $3.00.)

This interesting book written by an eminent scholar in southwestern history is a valuable contribution to the entire field of history. The author has made a minute study of the background of the present southern plains civilization. His purpose has been to show that the area including the plains of Nebraska, Kansas, Indian Territory, Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado

Page 105

is apart from the northern plains in its physical characteristics, its flora and fauna, and in its history, and to demonstrate that these peculiar forces have given rise to a culture which is unique and outstanding. From first hand knowledge as a son of a pioneer Texas family, Dr. Rister is familiar with the intimate details of the southern plains life. His work reflects his intense interest in it but he has not lost the historical approach and logical evaluation of the abundant material which he has collected. In his fluent, lucid, and readable style he has pictured vividly the merciless tempering of the rugged pioneer by the fire of Indian raids, grasshopper pestilences, and outlawry, and his polishing by education, religion, and justice to produce the southern plainsman.

Dr. Rister opens his narrative with a discussion of the abundance of wild life in the Southwest before the advent of the white settler. The author relates the story of the destruction of that "hunters' paradise" by the inrush of the railroad, highways, and permanent settlements. The life of the Indian warrior, the early hunter, trader, missionary, teacher, cowman, and the pioneer farmer are brought before the reader for review. Not satisfied with relating the events of this background period he has searched out and chronicled the traits of the country and people, details of everyday life, and historical facts surrounding it, and has carefully traced and analyzed the effect of all these factors in the development of the present plains culture.

The courageous Indian, although often duped by profiteering and corrupt agents, was conquered despite his heroic resistance to save his wild game, his lands, and his people. The cattlemen in possession for a brief era were forced to share the rich lands with the "nesters" who soon began to fence their fields. The author tells the interesting story of the opening of Old Oklahoma and its rapid development during the next few years. Many amusing stories of experiences in early days enlighten the narrative. The boasting bullwhacker swinging his twenty-foot blacksnake whip in his effort to cut a man's pantaloons without cutting

Page 106

the flesh, the Judge Roy P. Bean type of western justice, the pioneer square dances, the selection of a teacher for a frontier school who could spell "surcingle", are examples of western comedy. However, in contrast the sufferings of white women and children from Indian raids and tribal captivity, the struggle of the frontier farmer against devastating insects and severe dust storms, and the hardships of the early missionaries reveal that life on the early plains had its serious side.

Many of the eighteen chapers have catchy titles such as "The Land of Milk and Honey," "Ships of the Plains," Moonlight Raids," "Clodhopper vs. Grasshopper," "Soldiers of the Cross," and "Home Remedies and the Pill Bag." Twelve illustrations of early pioneer life, and a map of the southern plains with early and late settlements, give distinct aid. The author includes an excellent bibliography composed of manuscripts, state and national government publications, newspapers, periodicals, diaries and journals, and many books on western history. The book is printed in Caslon 337 type which is somewhat trying upon the eyes of the average reader.

The publication is covered with an attractive jacket which has an interesting pioneer village design drawn by J. P. Conkright. The quality of the book is proven by its recommendation by the Book-of-the-Month Club. The author has assembled valuable historical material upon an era of American history which has passed and the reviewer feels that the writer has succeeded in his purpose in showing that life on the southern plains differed from that of any other region.

J. V. Frederick.

Northwestern State Teachers College.

Quanah, the Eagle of the Comanches. By Zoe A. Tilghman. (Oklahoma City: Harlow Publishing Corporation, 1938, viii+196pp. $2.50.)

In the sixth year of the third decade of the last century a band of marauding Comanches descended upon the pioneer settle-

Page 107

ment at Parker's Fort on the Navasota river in Texas. A young girl, snatched away amid the fire and slaughter on that day in May grew up among her captors, the Comanches, to become years later the wife of the Nokoni chief. To this strange union was born late in 1845 a son whom they called Quanah, which translated into the language of the boy's mother meant The Eagle.

The tragic story of Cynthia Ann Parker might have been as other tales of white captives of Indians, but for this son. Quanah, bearing in his person the blood of two races but all Indian by inheritance and by instinct, was born in a Stone Age culture. He became the leader of his father's people, and from this primitive and nomadic life he passed into the civilization of the white man and became the friend of two presidents. The story of the life and accomplishments of Quanah Parker is, at the same time, the story of his people. This is the chronicle of Comanche wandering on the plains of Texas, and the struggle of the tribe against the steady white encroachment upon the Indian domain which reached its climax in the defeat of the Indians at Adobe Walls. The Comanches were relentlessly pursued by the United States Army until they finally capitulated and were moved to the great reservation in what is now southwestern Oklahoma. There the Comanches entered a new life, and their last chief became at once a trusted friend and adviser of the Government, living to see his tribe give itself and its heritage to the formation of the commonwealth of Oklahoma.

The life of the Eagle of the Comanches has been faithfully drawn from the meager official records, family documents and newspaper sources; and, in manuscript form, was read and corrected by a son of Quanah, the Reverend White Parker. Many passages are descriptive of the beautiful Comanche frontier; indeed, at times Mrs. Tilghman's prose is almost poetic. Especially contributory are the chronology of the chief events of the biography and the listing of the members of the family of Quanah. A map of the Comanche country at the time of Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker forms the end papers. Other illustrations are

Page 108

drawings in sepia by Phoebe Ann White. These reproductions from photographs are faithful and artistic; but this reviewer, for one, would have preferred instead the inclusion of some of those photographs, though perhaps they would not have reproduced so well. The volume does not have an index.

This is substantial contribution to the history of the Southwest. Mrs. Tilghman, whose husband was a well-known frontiersman, deserves hearty congratulations for this fascinating story of this great Indian leader.

Gaston L. Litton.

The National Archives.

Song of the Old Southwest. By John A. Overstreet. (Guthrie: The Cooperative Publishing Company, 1937. 300 pp. Twenty full page illustrations. $1.00)

This is written in amphibrachic blank verse with alternating tetrameter and trimeter lines. The work also has a special feature of absolute measure not heretofore observed in books of blank verse composition. The word-selection used has molded the lines into correspondingly even and exact lengths, so that there are no divided words at the end of the lines. This is made possible by using equal-space type for the text, and unquestionably required considerable attention in the formation.

The work treats of the early conditions and peoples of the areas formerly known as "the Southwest," with special emphasis on the roving Plains Indians, the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes, the Buffaloes, the Cowboys, the Roundups, the Cattle Trails, the Cowmen, the Bad-Men, the Squaw-Men, and the Immigrant Farmers. The consideration of these subjects is based mostly upon the personal contact and observation of the condition by the Author himself, who was born in Texas and has spent more than fifty years of his life in the section of country now embraced in Oklahoma. He was one of the early students in the University of Oklahoma, where he was in attendance for

Page 109

a period of five years and was one of the organizers and a charter member of the University wing of the Oklahoma Historical Society. His knowledge of the early conditions has substantially aided him in this work. The price of the book has been reduced to $1.00 recently.

Song of The Old Southwest was printed and bound by The Co-operative Publishing Company at Guthrie, Oklahoma, and the excellent format of the book reflects credit on their ability to turn out work of high character. The text is printed on 80-pound enameled paper, and the attractive and durable "Karatol" is used for the cover. It is neat in appearance and convenient in size, being eight inches by six inches.

Joseph B. Thoburn.

Union Room
Oklahoma Historical Society.

Return to top

Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site