By Colonel John H. Brandt

Winfield, Kansas in the 1890's, when local citizens were finding that popular poaching trips south into Indian Territory could be costly as well as fun!

from: Winter, 1968 "OLD WEST".(from the collection of James E. Davis, Winfield, KS)

Perhaps, few of the present-day citizens of the State of Oklahoma [1927] peacefully enjoying their broad acres of living securely in their thriving cities, realize fully--if, indeed they even know--what part the army of the late '80's played in clearing their territory of squatters and other undesirables just before the great homestead run which occurred on April 22, 1899. [???]

At that time there existed in the place of the present state, two territories, the Oklahoma Territory and the Indian Territory. The entire section was overrun with squatters, men who had--without any authority--moved in with their families, cleared farms, and generally established themselves. In addition there were horse thieves, fugitives from justice, as well as cattle rustlers, moonshiners, and a general collection of outlaws. When Congress decided to open the Oklahoma Territory to homestead settlers, it became, necessary to free the country of the elemnet which held the land unlawfully. The army was called upon to do this work.

It was not altogether the people who lived unlawfully in the territory that gave us our greatest trouble, however. some of the most thrilling ventures were met with in encounters with the solid citizens from the nearby border towns and cities. [ie. south, central Kansas]

It had long been the habit of the more wealthy businessmen of these cities to get together twenty to twenty-five people, consisting of teamsters and others, make up a hunting party, cross the Kansas line in the night, and go down near the Red River were all kinds of game, such as deer, antelope, wild turkeys, and fur-bearing animals were abundant.

They would stay for a week or tendays, load up three or four wagons with game, and then, traveling by night, make their way back over the line. Later they would brag about their feat and consider it good sport to "so easily fool the soldiers."

Their operations, of course, were illegal, and the men were, to all purposes and intents, just as undesirable an elemnet as were the squatters. It was our duty to see that they stopped their depredations. The trouble was that there hard to catch due to the great amount of border to be patrolled by a few soldiers.Once home, they were influential people and it would have been hard to prove anything on them.One large party, however, we finally corralled, and this was the end of hunting expeditions by the wealthy.

A large party of bankers and businessmen of Winfield had gone to the Red River country two weeks before Christmas, and had had wonderful luck getting deer, antelope, and turkeys. They had four farm wagons loaded to the gaurds with game when they returned. Also, they still had an ample supply of ammunition and other supplies.

They sould no doubt have come out all right had they not made one fatal mistake. Banking too much on their prestige at home, perhaps, they haggled unnecessarily with a rancher's wife over the price of meals. She asked them twenty-five cents per meal for the eighteen men in the party. They refused to pay the price, claiming that it was exorbitant. While the quarrel was in progress, the rnacher's ten-year-old boy slipped out the back way, saddled up his pony, and rode twenty miles to inform the soldiers of the whereabouts of this party.

It was seven o'clock at night when we received the news. Mycommanding officer, Captain Fosbush, detailed four other men and myself to go out "and bring them in dead or live," with further orders to take no chances.

At seven-thirty we were out on the trail, carrying with us 100 rounds of ammunition for our firearms and some hardtack for rations. We knew the country, which was fortunate, for this gave us somewhat of and edge on the marauders. We knew that they must ford the Chickasha River in order to get out, and we knew further that they could ford it nowhere save at a certain point. Thus forearmed with knowledge of the situation, we rode north directly for this ford where we planned to wait for the caravan and take the party by surprise.

A light snow having fallen, we were able to determine, upon reaching the ford, that the hunters had not yet arrived. Therefore we got under cover at a point from which we could command the crossing, and began our vigil.

At about eleven o'clock we heard the rumble of heavily laoded wagons on the frozen road. As the party drew nearer we heard the ben laughing and joking, little suspecting that tere was a soldier within ten miles of them.

I split my detachment of four, and placed two on each side of the road. They had orders to shoot to kill if any one of the oncoming party offered the slightest resistance. As the leaders qpproached the ford, I stepped out into the moonlight and challenged the party, at the same time telling them to hold their hands up high, that I had a whole company covering them with orders to shoot to kill at theslightest move.

The party halted. The leader, riding a beautiful bay horse, asked me what it was all about. I informed hin that he and his associates were prisoners of war. He asked me if I knew that the Secretary of War was a good friend of his, and told me further that if I did not stop my foolishness, I would lose my job.

That would be too bad, I told him as I would be financially ruined, but as there was to place to spend my income, it would not make much difference. He then offered me $1,000 to let the party go. I replied that I had never known a soldier of the United States Army to take a bribe, and that I would not consider it.

Then I called Acting Coporal Jerry Dunn, a man with over twenty-eight years of service, to come forward and disarm the party, which was done with neatness and dispatch. Having lined them all up, ordered the teamsters back on their wagons, and tied the saddle horses on the rear of the last wagon, we were about ready to start when the thought struck me that if that bunch sould ever scatter, and realize that there were only five in my detachment, we would be in a fearful jam.

I called Corporal Dunn into conference. He suggested that the men be hobbled. The idea seemed first-rate, except that we had nothing to hobble them with. Therefore, I told Corporal Dunn to translate his suggestion into the deed. He did forthwith. H merely reached into a pocket, got out his knife, and proceeded to cut off every button of the hunters' trousers and underwear. It was winter. They could not afford to lose so much apparel. Consequently the prominent financiers had to hold up their clothes. They were sufficiently hobbled to make them docile during the march.

With everything in readiness to go, I asked Corporal Dunn to call in the company. Whenonly three men answered his summons, the remarks of our captives, were anything but complimentary--and in those remarks was inncluded Uncle Sam's whole army. However, they marched with us. We delivered our prisoners in person to the captain at eight-thirty in next morning.

For Chrismas dinner we had much game, and a great variety of it. The soldiers dined sumptuously and many were the stories told by myself and the detachment of four. The bankers also had what was special fare--for them. They dined on Government Straight, hardtack, sowbelly, and Black Jack coffee.

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