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CAMP RUSSELL

Camp Russell provided logistical support for troops patrolling the Unassigned Lands of central Oklahoma prior to the Land Run of 1889. Named for Capt. G. B. Russell of the Tenth Infantry, the camp was an extension of Fort Reno and was located northeast of Guthrie, just south of the Cimarron River in Township 17 North, Range 2 West. The troops were mostly African American soldiers of the Ninth Cavalry, "buffalo soldiers," from Fort Reno. Their assignment was to keep illegal "boomers" from entering the area before the official opening. David L. Payne, a veteran of the Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry in the 1868-69 winter campaign of Gen. Philip Sheridan, led the boomers until 1884 when William L. Couch assumed leadership. The boomers' fifteenth "intrusion" was the most significant to the troops at Camp Russell. The group of two hundred men, women, and children arrived near present Stillwater in December 1884. They built temporary structures and prepared for the winter.

The military learned of the illegal encampment and ordered Lt. M. W. Day to the area to take the boomers back to Kansas. Day's troops arrived on the site on December 24 and met much resistance. Earlier that year, Day had ordered the "buffalo soldiers" to fire upon a group of boomers after a tense altercation and fistfight. Luckily, the troopers had refused to fire, and Day had quickly realized his error. The frightened boomers surrendered. This time, Day wisely avoided an armed confrontation, withdrawing to await further instructions and reinforcements.

Col. Edward L. Hatch left Caldwell, Kansas, on January 11, 1885, and arrived at the boomer camp shortly after. He soon had seven companies of the Ninth, two howitzers, and a company of infantry at his command. Hatch surrounded the camp and cut off all supplies. The boomers quickly ran out of provisions, surrendered, and were escorted back to Kansas. By 1885 the Boomer Movement lost its momentum, and troops from Camp Russell were reassigned to Fort Reno. There are no ruins of the camp.

SEE ALSO: CAMP GUTHRIE, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS, TERRITORIAL ERA, URBAN DEVELOPMENT.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Odie B. Faulk, Kenny A. Franks, and Paul F. Lambert, eds., Early Military Forts and Posts in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1978). William H. Leckie, The Buffalo Soldiers: A Narrative of the Negro Cavalry in the West (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967).

Michael Bruce

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