BY BERLIN B. CHAPMAN
One of the nice legal questions pertaining to lands in the Territory of Oklahoma is that of the Neutral Strip. The Strip comprised about 2,700 acres in a bend of the Washita river, in the present vicinity of Mountain View. It lay on the north side of the river between two points where the river crossed the boundary of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservation, the distance between the two points being about six miles on the boundary line. By the treaty with the Kiowas and Comanches on October 21, 1867 the tract was included within lands set apart for the absolute and undisturbed use and occupation of the said Indians. By the executive order of August 10, 1869 the tract was set aside for the use and occupation of the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, who by the agreement of October, 1890 ceded it to the United States. Section sixteen of the act of March 3, 1891 provided that when the lands obtained from the Cheyennes and Arapahoes should by operation of law or proclamation of the President be opened to settlement, they should be disposed of to actual settlers only. President Harrison's proclamation opening the lands to settlement, recited the boundaries of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservation which included the tract in question; but the proclamation also stated that the lands to be opened to settlement were for greater convenience particularly described in a schedule appended thereto. The schedule did not include or describe the tract in question.
Secretary Noble observed that by the act of March 3, 1891 the lands of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country might be opened to settlement by "operation of law or proclamation of the President," and that the words, "operation of law" had reference to some law which might be enacted, or put into operation, at some future time, by Congress. In other words the lands might be opened by operation of law instead of by a proclamation of the President. Noble waived the question1 as to whether the lands actually remained a portion of the reservation set aside by the treaty with the Kiowas and Comanches. From that position he held that no part of the tract was subject to settlement or entry, but was reserved for the use of the Kiowas and Comanches until such time as Congress should take action in the premises.
In 1892 the military authorities present for the purpose of preserving order, allowed prospective settlers to enter the Neutral
1J. M. Johnson, 15 L. D. 87 (1892). Noble also said: "It is clear in my mind, that this tract of land having been reserved and set aside by treaty with the Kiowa and Comanche Indians in 1867, could not be legally included in a tract set aside and reserved for another purpose by an executive order in 1869."
Strip while waiting to make the "run" for lands in the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country.2 The true boundary of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservation was well known to the settlers at that time, and duly respected by those who entered the Cheyenne and Arapahoe country. The lands of the Neutral Strip were fertile and beyond the limits of taxation. About a dozen settlers squatted there, knowing that they were trespassers. Due to their political influence and to the tolerance of the Department of the Interior they withstood expulsion for eight years, at which time Congress rewarded them with a preference right of entry of lands on which they had located and improved.
On October 31, 1894 the Office of Indian Affairs called attention of Special Agent William H. Able to his power under Section 2147 of the Revised Statutes to remove from the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservation all persons found therein contrary to law.3 Able was also reminded that under Section 2148 of the Revised Statutes persons who should return after removal, or be found upon the reservation, should be liable to a penalty of $1,000. On November 27 Commissioner Browning directed Acting Agent Frank D. Baldwin to give this matter careful attention.4
According to Baldwin, reports were made frequently of depredations committed upon Indians by citizens, either living on or coming and going to or from the Neutral Strip. He said this necessitated his predecessors and himself to excercise the utmost and extraordinary watchfulness to prevent trouble between Indians and these white people In January 1895 Baldwin directed a United States marshal with three Indian policemen to proceed to the Strip and serve each person with a notice that he was on a portion of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservation. The notice said in part: "You are on the same in direst violation of law, hence you will be required to move from the Indian reservation without unnecessary delay. At the expiration of the forty days should you or any of your family or property be found within the limits of the reservation it will be at your peril subject to the penalties imposed by laws governing this Territory." The notice must have disturbed the settlers considerably because on January 25, Baldwin reported that threatening messages had come from the trespassers, stating that should they be molested, he, the marshal, and police would be killed on sight and property destroyed.5
5Baldwin to Com. Ind. Aff., Jan. 25, 1895, OIA, L. 7904—1895. The letter formerly was filed as L. 4371—1895; and L. 6164—1895. Filed with Baldwin's letter is a copy of the notice of removal.
Under date of January 30, J. J. Mabry and J. M. Roberts, acting as a committee to represent the residents on the Neutral Strip, addressed a petition to Governor W. C. Renfrow begging his clemency and craving his mercy, to intercede with the Secretary of the Interior to have Baldwin's order revoked.6 According to the petition the residents were not outlaws or trespassers but were law abiding citizens who had settled and improved their homes in good faith, and who were at peace with all mankind. The petition touched a cord of sympathy by saying if the order were enforced "our wives and children will be without homes to shelter them in midwinter." The next day the Territorial legislature passed without a dissenting vote a memorial to the Secretary of the Interior, endorsing the petition and asking that he grant speedy relief by revoking the order and investigating the south boundary line of Oklahoma Territory. Renfrow, C. A. Galbraith, Attorney-General of Oklahoma, and William Blincoe, Secretary to the Board for leasing school lands, promptly addressed letters to the Secretary of the Interior in behalf of the occupants of the Strip.7 Regardless of the merit of their case, the occupants had mustered sufficient political pressure to protect themselves for the present.
On February 14, Browning advised Secretary Smith that "these settlers have no valid claim to the lands," that he had serious doubt, whether they actually settled there in good faith believing the lands to be subject to settlement, and he pointed out that Baldwin's report indicated that their conduct had not been such as to entitle them to the sympathy of the Indian Department.8 However, Browning did not wish to entail any unnecessary hardship or suffering upon them, and was willing, if Smith approved of such action, to extend the time within which the settlers must remove until the weather became mild, but not later than May 15. Smith approved the extension of time,9 and Baldwin was so advised.
Before further steps could be taken against the settlers, injunction proceedings were brought against Baldwin. It was reported that the Territorial Supreme court in February 1897 held that, the land in question was a part of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservation, and that the settlers would consequently lose their homes. Baldwin on February 16, suggested that the settlers be given thirty days within which to vacate, but the Department of the Interior neglected to act on the suggestion.
In May, 1899, settlers organized the town of Mountain View, a portion of which was reported as being on lands of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservation. The number of trespassers
rapidly increased during the spring and summer. A company of speculators from El Reno placed on exhibition a false and misleading map and pretended survey to delude new comers into investing in these Indian lands with worthless title. In August, Amherst W. Barber, under instructions from the General Land Office, surveyed the northern line of the Neutral Strip. From Mountain View he wrote official letters describing so clearly conditions he found there, that some of his letters, or parts thereof, are incorporated in this article.
In a letter to the Commissioner of the General Land Office on August 19, Barber drew a diagram showing his establishment of the Kiowa line at D, C, B and A, through sections thirty to thirty-four.10
Barber said in part:
Yesterday morning, August 18, I closed in and connected my line from the east and the west, and drove my stakes on line across the new town of Mountain View, revealing to the people for the first time the full extent of their trespass. The line runs ten feet north of the north line of Maple street, so that it cuts off the front of six or eight business houses which are at the extreme north part of the business part of town. All the rest, including four lumber yards, twenty stores, five saloons, and a large number of dwellings, tents, etc. are in the Reservation, and were all the time known to be there, at least one half of them. The townsite speculators by means of false maps and other false pretenses, have Induced people to pay them for lots and expend large amounts for buildings, when it was well known to most of them that the old line would place a large part of them on Kiowa lands.
There are now many of these people who exhibit cheerful confidence that the Government will never interfere with them. They openly rely on their numbers, and their brazen defiance of the laws regulating such reservations. Others are facing the probability that their buildings will have [to] be moved. Certain business men told me yesterday that they might with all safety have built the town down by the depot, 1-½ miles south of the line and the Government would have let them stay.
They are excusable for this idea by the fact that a number of trespassers have for seven years openly lived and farmed south of this boundary, and still defy attempts to remove them. One of them, McAtee, has his farm and large herd of stock wholly south of this town in the fertile bottom lands of the bend of the river. He resists the attempt of the people and the R. R. Company to locate a new bridge where they need it, by openly proclaiming that he will shoot the first man who cuts a wire of his pasture fence. He has prepared papers for the Department under which he says he will certainly get a good filing on his place. He is represented as a very dangerous and violent man, but only one of the gang of about a dozen Texans who came in when the Department opened the lands north of this Kiowa line, and deliberately, and knowingly squatted on the finest land south of the line, under pretenses of a "neutral strip" or discrepancy of line.
10Letter of Aug. 19, 1899, OIA, L. 50163-1899. Photostats of this file were used by the author, and are now deposited with the Oklahoma Historical Society. A former number for certain papers in the file was OIA, L. 47515—1899.
Having well identified the Kiowa line at D. B. & A. as marked above, I set up over a stone corner at A. bet. secs. 33 & 34, took a solar course and ran east. Descending into timber I found vary old blazed trees along my line, ending at a marked tree on the bank. I sent a man to wade in the river and search for a corner: for this is the initial point for two fundamental Indian boundaries, running W. and North.
He at once found a large stone in the middle, on my line, and there is no other stone known in the whole river. He showed me its position and declared it to be 3 feet long, 18 inches wide, 4 or 5 inches above the sand, and immovable. I set a stake on line on the bank, 100 lks. from it. Mr. Blackwell stayed there, felt it over carefully a long time, and showed that it was only 7 to 8 inches under the muddy red water, lying with the North and highest, as if pushed over by the stream.
The only persons present besides my party were Mr. Chalk and his son. Chalk is a Texas trespasser on the Kiowa lands, living near, as shown. He and all others were greatly surprised at my finding a monument of whose existence they had no suspicion. Chalk talked about it a good deal:—said he had always believed his north line was much further north (though I had run close to his fenced field): and said he believed two or three stout men could "raise that rock out of the sand and see what it was, —just for curiosity."
Returning West and locating my line thus identified, we were met by three or four others of the farmers of the "neutral strip," who were greatly excited over the actual survey of the line on which they had so long ago removed all corners. Chalk went back east with them, and I was relieved of their presence. This was Aug. 15, 5 P.M.
But two days later, Aug. 17, after dark, several members of this party of trespassers appeared here in town, hunted up my man Blackwell, and in the most insolent and bullying manner told him it was all a mistake about the stone; —that they had been there to search, and there was no stone at all, —nothing but a rotten chunk of wood,— They tried to intimidate him into some expression of doubt and weakness.
But Blackwell grew furious at their assailing his credit and his ability to distinguish a rock from a log, pronounced them all liars and dared any or every individual in the gang, one at a time, to try the issue with him in the frontier style. No blows were struck, and he escaped from them without a battle, and reported to me later.
I therefor[e] spent yesterday afternoon returning to the place with my three men, to make a second search, on suspicion that they had been there and stolen the monument. As I feared, the intruders on the Kiowa lands had been there, removed the rock and left only the depression in the bottom where it lay. My three men searched in vain, far down the stream northward, where Chalk wanted his line to be, but found no stone. Neither was there any vestige of a log or chunk at the corner point or anywhere near, to verify their statements.
Chalk and son being the only persons who knew its location except my party, they are the ones who organized the scheme and guided the lawless gang to commit this criminal offense. I shall urge upon Agent Randlett the propriety of having arrests made, with a view to discovering the guilty parties.
The removal of the stone does not in any manner weaken the certainty of the location of that initial point or of my survey. Any one of my men can find the exact point to within two feet or less.
As quite a number of similar trespassers have taken lands just east of the "Caddo line" running north from that stone, and gone into farming extensively on Indian lands, the Agent desires that line to be run
and marked, so they also may be ejected. If the Dept. shall order this done, my discovery of that corner and securing of its locus by a very precise line will be of great importance.
I will further report my opinion that the trespassing farmers and the whole population of this town will show no respect to the wishes of the Government and the rights of the Indians, until the Government assumes a positive policy, and quarters one or two companies of cavalry here, to see that the laws are obeyed. I consider my own position here neither desirable nor safe, without any more tangible backing than the letters of the Honorable Secretary and Commissioner.
The following letters11 to Commissioner Jones give in unmistakable language Barber's impression of settlers on the Neutral Strip.
Oakdale P. O.
Hon. Wm A. Jones,
People residing on the farms north of the Kiowa line say to me: "What is the Government going to do about those farmers over in the neutral strip? They say they are going to stay and hold their lands; and if that is allowed, why can't we all go down into the Reservation and pick out good farms just the same? If the authorities decide that they are on Kiowa Lands, and let them stay, then we will all have a chance for claims over there."
The "sooners" living on the strip say they settled there in good faith believing as they do now, that they were justified by the terms of some treaty or Executive order, that this boundary line or south boundary of the Cheyenne and Arapaho[e] country must run East "to the Washita River"; that it strikes the Washita west of this place, and that the line then runs down the river, placing their "neutral strip" on its N. bank in Cheyenne country, therefore now open public land.
They also count heavily on actual possession as nine points in their favor, and boast much of their innocent intentions. They believe the whole matter will idly rest until some new act of Congress to relieve all doubts and confirm their title. One of them is said to be boasting of the possession of letters from the Hon. Secretary, entirely in his favor.
The lands in question are now worth from $25.00 to 35.00 per acre, and they feel confident that the government is still as vacillating and weak of purpose in regard to them as it was some years back, when the Indian Agent had his Chief of Police, F. B. Farwell, serve them all with notice to move off the Reservation; and never enforced it.
Mr. Farwell told me about it yesterday. The settlers replied by getting an injunction against him and the Agent, which caused delay. Then the Agent got into other troubles so deeply that he took no further steps in the case after the injunction was dissolved.
Chief Policeman Farwell states, in regard to the point they make on the description of the Cheyenne lands, that the Executive Order, described
the boundary as beginning at the monument in the Washita river, which I have found, —running North, West, South, and then east along the Kiowa Boundary to the Washita river and point of beginning. If this is the case, it disregards three crossings of that river near this town, and terminates the line as it should, at the same initial point; and the settlers on the "strip" have no case.
It is a fundamental rule regarding land boundaries and conveyances, that a construction which shows a closed survey is always to be preferred to one which does not close.
On the other hand there are law-abiding settlers farming the lands north of the Kiowa line, who are now and have been for seven years very ill pleased with the action of the "sooners." They (the farmers) say that under authority of the Government they came here, arranged themselves along the south side of the Kiowa line in 1892, on a strip of land permitted by the soldiers, (about 28 chs wide, and still asserted to be a neutral strip by old Kinman), and at the proper signal they moved north into the newly opened lands and secured claims but that these Texans deliberately, and in violation of the boundary, chose to take far better lands where they are now. One of these "sooners" is said to have got a good claim of public land, sold his chance and soon afterward taken up Indian lands.
Chief Policeman Farwell tells me that he was ordered here to show the people where the true line was, seven years ago; that he showed them the original Initial Monument in the river, and the blazed line in the woods running west from it, before any other marks were made; that great pains were then taken to point out that part of the line to all parties; that he has served official notices on the intruders and that the Government has not yielded any point.
The Department can obtain official proof of all these matters, I believe, and will thus be able to refute the claim that these trespassers were ignorant of the proper boundary or innocent of any intentional wrong doing.
Yesterday afternoon, at the suggestion of Col. Randlett, I got a carriage and took Capt. Farwell and Leasing Clerk Blackman to the east end of my line. Farwell would not utter a word as to localities till I had pointed out my line and the ancient marks on trees to verify it. He then declared that I had found the exact place of the Initial Monument, and of the line, to his certain and positive recollection; and he will at once furnish me his sworn testimony to that effect, to confirm my report.
You will please bear in mind that said initial corner is the one which was stolen and removed within 24 hours after I found it; and presumably it was done by the "innocent settlers" of Kiowa lands, who thought in their ignorance that it would benefit their case to have it removed. I have made a full report of the matter to the Hon. Commissioner of the General Land Office.
From all the features of this case, it is evident to me that the time has come for the Department to show that this is a Reservation,
de facto as well as de jure. It is assailed on all sides.—The Rock Island R. R. has combined with this swindling townsite company, with its false maps
to mislead the people. The Territory issues false leases of land south of the line; and private trespass is all around.
from the well marked Kiowa line one mile west of here.—(the fenced south line of former Oakdale site.) to learn where a due east line would fall. They chose to trust to their numbers, to the R. R. Co., to the townsite Co., and to brazen aggressiveness. I know plenty of them who thought they were securing lots just north of the line, as secretly estimated, and are now on Indian land with large stores and stocks of goods. One such is a leading lumber dealer. He feels sure that the U. S. will not be so cruel as to compel all these honest and innocent investors to lose anything in consequence of their mistakes.
As to the rough, ignorant, and lawless element, I think that the United States has no friends among them. The Texan population is strong and numerous, and this section has its full proportion of desperate men with hereditary antipathy to our government. Frank Farwell has had his life threatened for years, when doing his duty as captain of Indian police. There are plenty of Indians in town, and they are thus far entirely sober, pleasant, and well behaved.
A. W. B.
Chickasha, Oklahoma, Aug. 22, 1899
Hon. W. A. Jones,
The average maximum temperature for the 16 days since I came here is 96°, by the weather record at Oklahoma City.
The record there for the last three days was 101°-101°-and 102°, taken, as usual, high above the buildings;—and 108° to 110° on the ground. The sun and the breeze are both scorching.
I now write to place on file information concerning the survey of the townsite of Mountain View, and the fraudulent map placed before the people there, showing a re-meandering of the river and obtaining a far different locus of the Kiowa boundary from that of the official survey. Everything goes to show deliberate and intentional fraud in the production of said blue print map.
When the townsite manager, F. E. Rickey, first showed the map, he told the people (so they tell me) that it was produced in Washington and Was authentic. When he showed me the map two weeks ago, he told me it was a map of a survey made by the Rock Island R. R. people, and was prepared by them at the main office in Topeka.
But today I interviewed one of the main members of the Mtn. View Townsite Company, Mr. Kerfoot, at El Reno, and he asserted that the survey and map were the work of one C. C. Brown, a local surveyor of El Reno, where all the parties to the scheme reside. —Kerfoot told me that Brown made the actual survey of the town site, assisted by one Ross, the county surveyor of Wichita County, residing a few miles north of Mountain View.
Ross is the man who also extended Bill Kinman's survey of the other townsite into the Kiowa lands, at "Mountain City," 4 miles west of Mountain View. Kinman's first survey of 4 or 5 years ago only came down to the Indian Boundary; but early this year Ross extended it some 28 Chs. into Indian lands, at Kinman's direction, and knowingly.
A surveyor or land agent named Williams in Mountain View, is said to have been very active in connection with both Ross and Kinman, in offering to file any number of claims for settlers, in the Kiowa and Comanche country. They take persons over there, show them land marks of survey, encourage them to plow a strip or make other evidences, and then, for fees, they get up filing papers and send them to Com. Hermann. An acknowledgment card comes promptly back, which says the letter has been received and placed on file, or some thing equivalent. Then old Kinman exhibits the card as sure proof that the man's papers are safely filed and accepted by the Dept; and thus he easily ropes in others.
I must strongly recommend that the Dept. of Justice be called upon, to institute proceedings against the two surveyors, Ross and Brown, under sec. 616 of your office regulations. The case is a flagrant one. They knew what they were doing; and being professional surveyors they are presumed to know the law and the boundary. The evidence is abundant in case of each townsite, if now secured.
I have not yet met Special Agents Leach and McKinley, but expect to meet the latter when I return there tomorrow.
In a telegram of August 22, the Commissioner of the General Land Office directed Barber to survey westward along the Kiowa reservation line through range twenty-one. Two days later Barber wrote to him saying in part:
The extent and amount of trespass increases every day; new buildings are put up daily; new business is being started, regardless of my having marked the line and shown that it is all in Indian country; six saloons are doing business under license of Washita County, when none of them are in that county, but all in Kiowa Reservation; the illegality of the whole situation is apparent to every one, and they are growing more and more fixed in the idea that the Government is too weak or tender-hearted to oppose this wholesale seizure of Reservation lands.
The people are watching with intense interest for the result. If the Department is inactive, or is paralyzed by considerations of every kind, tending to delay, temporizing, or negotiation, you will at once see a great influx of homeseekers into the whole Reservation. I hear well-disposed and judicious men say that if the Department permits ten or a dozen farmers to hold lands south of the line, they will have an equal right and will take it.
They say if these stockmen, who lease secs. 36 from the School Board, can run their fences down across the Kiowa line to inclose a whole section, they can go further and take possession of any claim they like.
They say also that if a village population of two or three hundred, by force of numbers, can hold their ground here in Mountain View, south of the Reservation line, they will certainly be able to swarm in by hundreds and thousands and get homes in like manner.
It is thus evident to me that the occasion demands prompt acceptance of my survey, to enable Agent Randlett to promptly execute the wishes of the Department in this matter: for any matters of detail which may be found to need, correction can yet be completed later.
The people here mean to resist removal by every legal quibble, political pull, and dilatory trick. The settlers on these farms rely on their lawyer to interpose obstacles and sue out injunctions against the Indian Agent, as they did before: and they boast of an impregnable position.
Before I proceed to survey the rest of the line, I wish action taken on this portion, so that the Agent will be warranted in detailing some of his police to accompany me and cut away the pasture fences that now illegally obstruct my passage on the Kiowa side of the line.
It is the opinion of certain men here that the reservation will not be cleared of trespass, without the aid of at least two companies of cavalry from Fort Sill.
Agent Randlett anticipated that when ordered by proper authority to remove from the reservation, all the people who had located on the Mountain View town site with the belief that the town site was outside the reservation line would quickly and peaceably obey the order. He considered it probable that others, including squatters who entered the reservation and took up lands for homesteads would not leave unless confronted with force; that they would defy agency authority, and appeal to Territorial courts to prevent its execution. In a letter of August 31, Randlett stated that a small military force of twenty men under a competent commissioned officer, if sent at the right time, would meet the requirements of such emergency.12
On the same day Barber addressed the following letter to Commissioner Jones:
Hon. Wm A. Jones,
I have now to report further that I have completed the survey called for under my first orders, and have the report nearly ready to mail. The Commissioner of the G. L. O. will probably receive my complete field notes on the day after this is received. Col. Randlett urged that I avoid completing and mailing the report at this place, fearing treachery; and suggested that I go to Anadarko for the purpose. He and I both desire to transmit it with entire secrecy, and at the earliest possible moment, and I have impressed on my office the importance of immediate acceptance and approval, so that the purposes of the Hon. Secretary, whatever they may be, may not be impeded by minor considerations.
Col. Randlett and I are both aware of the purpose of these people to invoke and use every legal or illegal point that can be found for delay; and that while the population here are fully advised of my increased labor, now before me, to run the line west to Red River, and are led to believe my report cannot be made till that is done, and that weeks may elapse before it will receive action, yet that the safest and most efficient course is to file my report at once, without their knowledge, and trust that prompt measures will be taken before the Agent's hands are tied.
I am credibly informed that there is no idea or purpose in the minds of any of these trespassers to obey any ordinary notice to leave. They propose to stay until forced to go: but have no idea they will be ejected.
It is my full belief that nothing but the arrival of a strong detachment of blue coats will cause them to respect the authority of the Department: Any movement which omits such a force, would in my opinion be weak and ineffective, and give them time to try all the resources they know, aided by their attorney Blake, who came here to consult and advise them this week.
The saloons all do an active business, one of them being a wholesale liquor store beside the hotel I occupy, and far within the Reservation. They are open every day in the week and are presumed to sell whisky though I do not yet know the fact myself.
A citizen named Biggs keeping a hotel mostly north of my line, tells me that when the El Reno Townsite Company were planning this scheme, they employed a surveyor named Woods to show them the probable location of the Kiowa line, by measuring north 28 chs. from the Township, line; that he did so measure and showed them the position, nearly where I have placed it; and that they went on with the scheme, laying off the whole area into lots down to said township line. Mr. Woods' address can be easily got.
Building and improving goes on rapidly south of my line and very slowly in the public-land portion. The leading men are encouraging everyone to join their side, and fortify their position by risking every thing they can on that side; and then they will appeal for sympathy for the poor innocent sufferers.
Mr. Biggs says that one prominent consideration, openly expressed, and boasted of, is that by locating their stores and property in the Kiowa lands they avoid paying any taxes to the county adjoining!
This is mailed to Mrs.
In a report to the Commissioner of the General Land Office on September 1, Barber said of Mountain View:
The town contains 300 or 400 people, and nearly all the business part is in the Indian Reservation. I think over three-fourths of the people are also south of the Boundary.13
In accordance with the direction of the Commissioner of Indian Affairs, Frank B. Farwell, Chief of Indian Police, proceeded to Mountain View and during the last days of September obtained the names of owners, occupants, and value of improvements upon lands occupied by trespassers in the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache country. Farwell found the total valuation of improvements of the town-site settlers and farmers in the Neutral Strip to be nearly $40,000. In an itemized report of October 2, he listed thirteen
13Barber's report of September 1, 1899 and the field notes of the survey are in GLO, Field Notes, Okla. Territory, vol. 210, pp. 1-26. See also Barber to Com. Gen. Land Office, Sept. 2, 1899, GLO, 114443—1899. Barber subsequently was directed to extend his survey of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache boundary six ranges farther west. In a report of September 17 he said that as a general thing settlers had treated the line as a nullity, and farmed and fenced far south of it.— Barber to Com. Gen. Land Office, Sept. 17, 1899, GLO, 119247—1899.
farms, having improvements of a total value of $5,675.14 Occupants of the farms and the cost in dollars of improvements made thereon were as follows: W. H. Wilburn 923; T. A. Wilburn 780; J. H. McAtee 638; C. A. Meek 450; M. J. Dosher 410; M. L. McAtee 395; J. M. Peoples 370; J. M. Griffin 361; Miss J. E. Myers 360; J. M. Meek 350; Mat Moore 308; J. M. D. Chalk 185; T. J. Easterwood or Bill Kinman 145.
In the town of Mountain View were persons having improvements valued in dollars as follows: Adams and Stanberry 120; B. Allen 125; J. Babs 25; H. Baker 30; Berringer 300; A. A. Biggs 200; J. C. Brogthton 200; C.S. Brown 80; C. F. Bruns 125; A. Calhoon 2,100; J. M. Campbell 100; D. M. Carter 85; Charley Cary 180; E. L. Chapman 350; J. N. Clark 125; H. E. Craggs 250; Crenshaw 60; Frank Davis 75; M. L. Dyer 50; T. J. Eaton 350; C. T. Frederick 500; M. H. Grey 450; A. V. Griffin 16; A. Guthrie 200; J. T. Harris 100; D. F. Holiss 400; J. N. Hudstaf 200; P. N. Hudstaff 400; L. A. Jones 700; Clarence Kerfott 600; H. O. Lee 30; Lockheart 600; M. F. Mackentire 125; H. C. Maxwell 50; McAtee 150; L. McGee 600; E. D. Moore 75; D. N. Morrison 1,000; D. P. Page 550; Bill Patrick 10; J. M. Pem 550; J. R. Powell 45; T. E. Rickey 500; Mrs. E. Samuels 400; G. A. Saunders 60; J. M. Seawell 600; John Sebasten 27; H. Shafer 875; A. Skoup 250; M. L. Smallwood 250; A. Smith 40; A. J. Stuart 70; Sullivan 70; M. H. Tompkins 600; M. H. Trigg 400; J. Turner 25; G. M. Uterback 50; C. Weir 45; E. M. Wright 50; Yates 25.
Some of the improvements listed above were used as places of business. Other places of business had the following valuation in dollars: Adams and Stanberry 65; Belemy and Jones 400; H. C. Bradford and R. S. Trulock 1,000; Brown and Hale 135; Cameron Lumber Co. 800; Carson Bros. 150; Clark and Brown 780; Gordon Bros. 700; Hardcastle and Meek 125; C. Huber and Bros 1,200; Leepor Bros. 1,500; Lockheart and Grey 100; Moore Bros. 250; M. S. and M. C. Moore 400; Mulvane Lumber Co. 325; T. F. Norman and Co. 1,000; Rail and Lane 225; J. M. Reynolds and Co. 900; S. H. Roberts and Bros. 400; Sahn and Helena 200; C. Saluretbar and Sons 450; J. M. Seawell and Sons 350; Sneed and Co. 800; Stephenson and Brown 1,600; Stincen and Lambert 1,150; Town Company 45; Washita County State Bank 1,600; Yates and Dufield 850.
Commissioner Jones did not wish in the least degree to excuse the action of either the farmers or the town-site settlers; but he and Acting Secretary Ryan deemed the best course to pursue was to allow them to remain until Congress met, when the entire subject
14Report of Oct. 2, 1899, OIA, L. 50163-1899. See also Com. Jones to Sec. Int., Feb. 2, 1900, H. Reports, 56 Cong. 1 sess., ii (4022), No. 483, pp. 3-5. Names are spelled as they appear in the report of Oct. 2, 1899.
could be laid before that body with the recommendation that appropriate legislation be had for the formulation of an agreement satisfactory alike to the Indians and settlers.15 Julia E. Myers sought to make homestead entry for a quarter section in the Neutral Strip; but Secretary Hitchcock, in 1899, held that the land was not open to settlement or entry.16 An unsuccessful effort was made to secure the passage of a bill by Congress providing for the extinguishment of the Indian title to the Neutral Strip, and for the opening of the same to settlement, giving settlers then occupying the lands a preference right of entry to the lands for thirty days, and credit for the actual time they had resided thereon. Neither the Commissioner of Indian Affairs nor the Commissioner of the General Land Office would write an unqualified endorsement of the bill.
Settlers on the Neutral Strip found relief in the act of June 6, 1900, providing for the opening to settlement of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache country, and giving them preference right of entry for thirty days on the lands upon which they had located and improved.17 Just what influence the settlers used to secure the preference right is not clear, but the insertion of that right in the act was doubtless due to their activity. The Secretary of the Interior did not admit that settlers on the Neutral Strip had acquired any legal rights, or that the act of June 6, prevented the Indians from taking allotments there, yet in order to prevent any difficulty and to avoid involving allottees in litigation, he directed allotting agents not to allot those lands.18 Settlers there had acquired legal rights only as against other whites. The people of Mountain View were very anxious that the river should be made the county boundary line at that place, and that they should be placed in Washita county.19 The proclamation issued by Secretary Hitchcock on June 24, 1901 designating county boundaries complied with their desires in this respect.
In a proclamation of July 4, 1901 providing for the opening of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache country to settlement, President McKinley called attention to the preference right of entry on the Neutral Strip.20 Persons entitled thereunder to make entry would be permitted to do so at any time during a period of thirty days following the opening of the lands on August 6, without regard to registra-
15Jones to Sec. Int., Oct. 18, 1899, OIA, 6970 Ind. Div. 1899; Ryan to Com. Ind. Aff., Oct. 20, 1899, OIA, Ind Div., Letters Indian Affairs, vol. 107, p. 166.
19W. A. Richards to Sec. Int., June 5, 1901, GLO, 5152—1901. The proclamation of June 24, 1901 is in H. Documents, 57 Cong. 1 sess., xxii (4289), pp. ccxlivccxlvi.
tion, and without regard to the drawing to be held at El Reno in July. At the expiration of the thirty-day period the lands in the Neutral Strip for which no entry should have been made would come under the provisions of the proclamation.
Of the thirteen farms in the Neutral Strip, it was concerning the one on which Farwell found improvements of least value that the most interesting contest occurred. Prior to 1897 a man named Roberts cleared and cultivated a few acres on the eastern end of the Neutral Strip. In August of that year William Kinman and his wife settled on these cleared lands and before the close of the year Kinman corresponded with the General Land Office, claiming right and applying to make homestead entry therefor. He built a dugout, cleared, fenced and cultivated a part of the land. In 1898 he claimed to have about forty acres under cultivation. After having resided on the place about seventeen months, Kinman in January 1890 leased it for twelve months to two brothers, T.J. Easterwood and Henry J. Easterwood. Kinman reserved some rights of control as to cutting timber, the use of a garden patch, and he left on the land some personal property. At this time he moved to a proposed town site, several miles away, where his wife was appointed postmistress, and afterward they moved with the post office to Hardin, about twenty-five miles away.
Henry J. Easterwood admitted that since July 1899 his relations to Kinman had not been friendly, especially since January or February, 1900. At the expiration of the lease, Henry J. Easterwood set up a squatter's claim to the land and attempted to retain it. Early in February, 1900, Mrs. Kinman attempted to go upon the premises, but the Easterwood brothers seeing her coming met her at the gate, one having a cane or club, and forcibly prevented her entrance. She claimed that they were armed, one with a knife and the other with a club; that T.J. Easterwood told her that if she attempted to enter the premises they would hurt her, and that they would hold the land or kill Kinman. The Easterwoods denied that they made such threats, but a witness later testified that Henry J. Easterwood said that if Kinman attempted to come back to the land, he would "winchester him in a holy minute." The witness stated that he communicated the threat to Kinman. Thus when the act of June 6, 1900 was passed giving settlers on the Neutral Strip preference right of entry for thirty days on the lands upon which they had located and improved, the Easterwoods were in possession.
In the fall of 1900 the Easterwoods sold the improvements on the place and their possessory right to one Sandifer, who then took possession and held it until about May 1, 1901, when he sold out to James M. Appleby. Appleby moved onto the place June 15, and Sandifer stayed with him until August. Sandifer stated that he did not know of Kinman's claim to the place until about
July 1, and Appleby stated that he bought out Sandifer without knowledge of the claim.
While President McKinley was issuing the proclamation of July 4, providing for the opening of the lands of the Kiowa, Comanche and Apache country to settlement, events occurring on the eastern end of the Neutral Strip were narrated as follows in an opinion21 of Acting Secretary Ryan:
Kinman, in his contract with the Easterwoods, reserved the right to go upon the land at his pleasure, and when he moved away from it he left a portion of his personal property there, consisting of tools and some articles of household furniture, which he has never moved away. He testified that owing to threats made against him by the Easterwoods he was afraid to move back to the land after the expiration of the lease, but that he sent his wife, with their household property, thinking that her sex would protect her from violence. She procured a wagon, team, and driver to convey their household goods to the land, and about midnight on July 3, 1901, she reached the place, entered, and proceeded to a place in the timber where she purposed erecting a tent in which to live. While she and the driver, one Ewing, were unloading the goods from the wagon, Sandifer and Appleby appeared on the scene, armed with shotguns, and demanded to know who they were and what they were doing there. She told them who she was and that she had come there to take possession of the place. They ordered her to take her property and leave. She refused to do it, and continued to unload the things from the wagon. Sandifer began to reload the things into the wagon, and she threw them out as fast as he put them in. He took up the reins to drive the team out, and she also took hold of the reins and tried to stop the team, but he jerked them from her and drove the team out into the road, leaving her alone with the things she had succeeded in getting out of the wagon. Ewing took the remainder of the things back to the point from which they started. She testified, and was corroborated by Ewing, to the effect that Sandifer cursed her and threatened to kill her and tried to tie the lines around her arms when she took hold to prevent him from driving the team out; that he tried to throw her under the mules, and threatened to tie her and throw her in the river if he found her there the next morning; and that Appleby had a shotgun presented at her and Ewing. She remained there till daylight, and then crawled into a briar patch, and laid down beside a log, where she remained all that day and the next night, and on the morning of July 5, 1901, she got away. Sandifer gathered up what things she had unloaded from the wagon and hauled them to Mountain City. She testified that while she was hiding by the log in the briar thicket she heard what she took to be Sandifer and his wife searching for her.
Sandifer and Appleby admit that they ordered her to leave, and that they drove the team out. They also admit that they were armed with shotguns, but they deny that they attempted or threatened to do her any violence.
On August 6, Appleby made homestead entry for the land in question, and on the same day Kinman filed an affidavit of contest, claiming a preference right of entry. It was clear that Kinman had voluntarily left the place, intending to reside elsewhere for the next twelve months, and had not been an actual settler on the
lands for more than a year at the time of the passage of the act of June 6, 1900. Although he did not intend to abandon his claim to the land, the question arose as to whether one could maintain settlement and establish residence by an agent, so as to acquire rights under the homestead laws. On July 14, 1903 Acting Secretary Ryan dismissed Kinman's contest, stating that it was evidently the intention of Congress to give preference rights of entry to those persons who had made settlements and improvements on lands in the Neutral Strip, and who maintained the same, and not to those who had settled on and improved the lands at some past time, and who had abandoned and left the land either because of a sale of their improvements or for any other reason.
Kinman contended that the decision erred in holding that he lost his rights as a settler, and that Appleby's qualification was immaterial in the case. On March 2, 1904 Secretary Hitchcock reviewed the case, sustained Kinman's right of entry, and directed that Appleby's entry be canceled. Hitchcock said that the determination of the Easterwoods to hold the land after the expiration of the lease, "and to use whatever force was necessary to accomplish that unlawful purpose, excused Kinman's failure to return to the land."22 Since Kinman had the right of possession on June 6, 1900, and was prevented only by fraud and violence from actual possession, he was regarded as being in possession and entitled to the benefit of the act of that date.
In September 1899 Miss Julia E. Myers, at a cost of $400, acquired the improvements and rights of a prior settler on a tract of land just east of the town site of Mountain View as established on the Neutral Strip. She occupied the house upon the claim, and slept there every night for two consecutive weeks. From some time in December 1899, to February 4, or 5, 1902 she slept, ate and worked in the family of her sister, Mrs. McAtee, on land adjoining her claim, and did not reside on the claim. Nevertheless she continued to assert her rights to the claim, exercised dominion over it, caused it to be cultivated by a tenant, and contributed with others, whose lands were in like condition, to payment of expenses and service of counsel, to prevent allotment of their lands, and to obtain congressional recognition of their settlement rights, her contribution being forty-one dollars. Her claim to the land was recognized by her neighbors. On August 6, 1901, she made homestead entry for the land, alleging in an affidavit that she was residing on the land, and had been residing there since August, 1899.
On February 8, 1902 Velda A. Plaster filed a contest against the entry. The Commissioner of the General Land Office found that Miss Myers was not an actual settler upon the land in good faith when the act of June 6, 1900 was passed, and he held her entry
for cancellation. Miss Myers appealed the case to Secretary Hitchcock, who on April 30, 1904, sustained her entry, after finding that it was not made invalid or fraudulent in its inception by any inaccuracy of statement made in good faith.23
Settlers on the Neutral Strip in many ways were not unlike other groups on the western border as the frontier line moved across the American continent. There was no sacred law designating or prohibiting the occupaton of portions of our country by squatters or others. In the early nineties settlers on the Neutral Strip occupied a tract of vacant land, used it to their advantage, and, as Barber said, held it by "brazen aggressiveness." On that score the settlers deserve no special condemnation. We sometimes wonder if it is always the meek who inherit the earth. When Barber wrote that settlers on the Neutral Strip meant to resist removal by every legal quibble, political pull, and dilatory trick, he was using words that could have been applied properly to hundreds of frontiersmen for more than the space of a century. The government has a perpetual obligation to help the poor, which we have with us always; and what New Deal relief does in the twentieth century—that the government did in the nineteenth century by means of free or cheap land.24 Finally, settlers on the Neutral Strip knew something about the exertion of political influence, a thing on which many a Sooner has since thrived.25
24In Washington City, D. C., Senator Elmer Thomas and Mr. Gaston Litton gave the writer valuable assistance in finding materials for this article.
25Dr. Berlin B. Chapman is Professor of Economics at Fairmont State Teachers College, Fairmont, West Virginia. He was formerly Assistant Professor of History at the Oklahoma A. and M. College.