CHEROKEE STRIP ITEMS
Notebook kept by Lois Hinsey
Member, Arkansas City Historical Society
Article appearing in Newspaper
[Believe this came from Arkansas City Traveler]
[Specific date not given: about September 15, 1930]
‘My Own Town’ By Elwin Hunt
Tomorrow is the 37th anniversary of the opening of the Cherokee Strip, the most colorful event in all the history of the great southwest. We have been making a study of that story for the past six or eight years, gathering data, incidents, and pictures, and we find it very difficult to condense the tale into the short space allotted to this column. We can but give a brief outline here, for the entire chronicle takes a page or so, while if you deal with personal reminiscences you soon find yourself writing a book.
The Cherokee Strip was a tract of land containing about 7,000,000 acres, lying at the northern edge of the Oklahoma Territory, and comprising some of the finest and most fertile ground of all the acres in what is now a great state. Captain David Payne started the agitation to open this territory to white settlement as far back as 1875 when the matter was first dis-cussed by congress, and later Payne and his Boomers roamed the border, making forays into the territory and threatening settlement. Payne died over at Wellington, and sometime after his death congress adopted a resolution to open “The Strip” for settlement, setting high noon on September 16, 1893, as the time and date. Naturally Arkansas City became the meeting point for the mob of home seekers, being the largest town near the line from which the race was started. This line was at first fixed as the north edge of the Chilocco Indian school reservation and east and west therefrom. Later it was changed to the south line, but that is a part of the following chronicle.
For months before the opening easterners began gathering in this city. The last ninety days, or during the months of June, July, and August, were so hectic, so vivid, that they are etched in imperishable lines on the memory of the old timers who had any part in the event. We were not five years old, yet we can well recall many of the old things we saw at that time, for it was like a great and continuous show to a youngster. The streets were packed with people, the sidewalks entirely inadequate so that when it rained folks stepped out into the mud and plowed through. Our father, our grandfather, and all our small world talked, slept, dreamt of nothing but the Strip and the promised land. Dad secured a good claim near Blackwell, for he was one of those who realized that the tough little cow ponies would be much better adopted for such a race than the high-strung thoroughbreds. The race was not to the swift that time, although a good share of it went to the “Sooners,” who crawled into the territory from the south, east, or west, hiding out despite the soldiers who did their best to drive them away.
For the last three weeks we have been asking for names of persons still residing in or near this city who made the race. We know that our list is far from complete, yet we publish below what we have gathered.
Names given of those who made race.
Beeks, Frank, now living at Portland
Constant, G. K.
Downing, Elliott B.
Isham, O. H.
Loyd, B. F.
Sample, R. H.
Scott, Mrs. Ona
Scott, R. L.
Smith, B. W.
Smith, W. W.
Springate, R. A., R. R. 3
Swan, Mrs. Allie
Everyone of these persons has interesting reminiscences with regard to their experience on that great day, the claims they did or did not get, and the hardships they went through. But as above stated, we must confine ourselves entirely to a list of names this year. Next year we are going to ask each of these persons to write out something of the highlights of their story, and promise them it shall be printed. We shall also endeavor to greatly increase the list.
History records that the Cherokee Indians were paid $8,300,000 for the entire Strip or about $200 a quarter section, the town sites being thrown in. The Pawnees and Tonkawas were paid $110,000 for the surplus lands in their small reservations. The Poncas refused to sell, and now are profiting from some oil royalties on their property, which is not large.
Going back to the records we quote from the Traveler of that date, the accounting having been written by T. W. Eckert.
Soldiers were stationed along the line every six hundred yards to give the signal. Lieutenant Frank Caldwell was on the east. A section of the line had been stationed at the north line of the Chilocco reservation, but at 9 o’clock in the morning orders came allowing this line to move to the south line of Chilocco, along the creek, and the Santa Fe trains were also moved there, the cowcatcher just touching the little bridge. The soldiers had a terrific time keeping the line in order. The clouds of dust, the hot winds from the south, the nervous, frightened horses, the general sense of expectancy, all added to the unrest.
At just eight minutes before the hour a cloud of dust was seen to the west. A soldier at that end of the line had accidentally discharged his gun, the line had started forward, the horses on a dead run, and realizing he could not possibly hold them or call them back, Lieutenant Caldwell fired his own pistol and shouted “Go.” Every man plunged spurs into his horse and away they flew. Among the number on horseback were two ladies, who rode clothespin fashion. The line was two miles long, and from an eminence it provided an awe-inspiring spectacle. It was estimated that 150,000 men made the race, and possibly 25,000 were there as spectators.
There was one shooting that day. It occurred at the southwest corner of the Chilocco schools. An aged man, James A. Hill, of New Jersey, was the victim. Hill had shipped in a fast but easily excited race horse. Fifteen minutes before the time to start, the horse became unmanageable—passing one of the soldiers and guards at a gallop. The soldier yelled to Hill to stop, but he could not control his horse, so the soldier fired and killed him. The soldier was afterward court martialed, but acquitted.
The rush to Perry for town-lots was reported almost as great as the run for farms.
The local Santa Fe depot sold 12,000 tickets for the day, and the railroad was totally unable to furnish cars. The scene at the depot was indescribable. For blocks in every direction the streets were jammed and frantic officials did their best to get the trains through. A train would be mobbed and packed with humanity long before it reached the depot, many persons going to the south yards to climb aboard before the trains were made up. The Santa Fe ran eleven specials and handled about 8,000 people that way. Many bought tickets to Perry with the idea of dropping off and finding a home in the territory.
The romance of the Cherokee Strip will never be written. Edna Ferber touched it in her book, Cimarron, but no easterner, no matter what a master painter of word pictures they may be, can hope to understand the heart of a pioneer, the men and women who went into a new land and endured many hardships that a wonderful state might be born and the Union strengthened.
The winning of the west has been a glorious adventure in which the opening of “The Strip” stands out as the foremost chapter.
Ferdinandina—Earliest White Settlement
by George H. Shirk in
The Oklahoma Almanac, 1961
At the beginning of the 18th Century both Spain and France had vast colonial ambitions.
Spain used Mexico as its base for expansion into the Southwest through New Mexico. France used its control of the Mississippi River to spread its influence through the central United States. Situated as it is, the area of Oklahoma was squarely between the rival designs of these two great powers. The Spanish used the mission as the focal point of local influence, whereas the French used the trading post.
In 1719 France commissioned two exploration parties to explore the area of Oklahoma and to secure the friendship of the Indians. Captain Bernard de la Harpe was sent up the Red River from New Orleans and entered present Oklahoma in August, 1719.
The other party, under Clude Charles du Tisne, traveled overland from the Illinois country. This group traveled up the Missouri River as far as the Osage River, and then ascended the latter to somewhere near the present western boundary of Missouri. From there they traveled forty leagues southwest to the villages of the Pani [Pawnee] Indians.
Although the journals of du Tisne are indefinite, it is now believed from present information that the party reached a spot in present Kay County, Oklahoma, where Deer Creek flows into the Arkansas River several miles southeast of Chilocco. He recorded that on September 27, 1719, he concluded an alliance with the local tribes and raised the Royal flag of France over the Indian village.
From physical evidence it has been determined that the settlement comprised two separate villages: each covering an area of about 30 acres and separated from one another about one and one-half miles. About forty mounds, no doubt the collapsed ruins of their timber-framed, dome-shaped, earth-covered dwellings, may still be seen at each site
This location was first investigated in 1917 by J. B. Thoburn, who reported finding well-defined lines of separate sod representing the floor and the roof, with one or more layers of ash underneath.
The French erected their stockade adjoining the southerly village. It was approximately 200 feet in diameter with the main gate at the southeast. It was surrounded on the outside by a wide trench or dry moat. The soil removed in its construction was placed on the inside of the circular ditch to give greater height to the wooden stockade.
The conclusion was reached that this was in fact the spot first visited by du Tisne in 1719 inasmuch as his journal stated that a fine salt mine was found two day’s journey to the west and then a short distance to the southwest. This corresponds to the distance to the Great Salt Plains in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma.
The site of the stockade with its center tower or rampart is still clearly discernible on the high bluffs overlooking the junction of Deer Creek and the Arkansas River. This site is located in the northeast quarter of Section 15, Township 28 North, Range 3 East.
Bert Moore Collection.
Mr. and Mrs. Bert Moore, Winfield, Kansas, spent years studying the sites; more than 5,000 artifacts have been collected. Their collection established without doubt the extent and type of the Ferdinandina settlement. The character of the relics shows clearly the following:
1. White activity was extensive and lasted for some period of time.
2. Ferdinandina must have been a “wholesale depot” for trade with Indians.
The usual Eighteenth Century European style was found among the remains of the wood-working tools, wedges used for rail splitting, axes, hatchets, and the adze.
The gun hardware is of the flint-lock type with highly decorated butt plates, trigger guards, and stock ornamentation. The form of the designs are often of fleur-de-lys. The mechanisms of the gun hardware establish without doubt the European origin and age of the weapons.
The beads in the collection are of European origin: the Ferdinandina examples are glass or porcelain. Indian beads are invariably made from shell or bone.
Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, has the Moore collection.
Departure of French from Ferdinandina.
The exact date of departure by the French will never be known.
It fell into gradual disuse after the French influence waned.
In 1763 Louis XVI made a formal gift of the area to Spain. This shifted control to the red and gold banner of Castile and Leon. Individual French remained in the region in the employ of those in control under grants given them by Spain. By then, however, the importance of Ferdinandina as a center of European culture had passed.
Ferdinandina appears on maps published in Europe as late as 1840: not considered of any significance as the European cartographers were normally many years behind in publishing a current map of distant regions.
Origin of the Name “Ferdinandina”
Origin of the name, Ferdinandina, is uncertain. It is thought by some that the post was named after the great grandson of Louis XIV, who became in 1746 Ferdinand VI of Spain. If this is true, it must have been by someone jubilant over the circumstance which brought a Bourbon of France to the Spanish throne. Available evidence indicates that Ferdinandina was the name used by this post not later than 1740.
The settlement, now completely vanished, was the vanguard of the white man in the state of Oklahoma.
From Book: Oklahoma, A Guide to the Sooner State
Compiled by Kent Ruth, 1957
The 101 Ranch is a striking symbol of that changing West which brought fortune to men and took it away with no more than a shrug of regret.
In the early 1870s a shrewd trader named George W. Miller left Kansas with 20,000 lbs. of bacon to exchange for whatever could be sold at a profit He arrived in San Saba County, Texas, in the spring with enough bacon to trade for 400 longhorn steers. These he herded back of the good grass trail to a range in the northeastern corner of Indian Territory that belonged to the Quapaw Indians, selling the steers at a handsome profit.
In order to obtain more range for the enlarged herds he meant to own, he went out to the Cherokee Outlet and found abundant grassland. His first lease was for sixty thousand acres.
Then, going back to Texas, he found that he could buy a steer for $3.00 in gold instead of $6.00 in bacon.
Miller’s next step was to induce the small tribe of Ponca Indians, then living temporarily with the Quapaws, to accept a reservation near his leased land and allow him to graze his cattle on it for one cent per acre annually. He was a good friend to the Indians, an excellent cattleman, and a tireless hustler: his earnings from the ranch grew enormously. When his sons (Joe, George, Jr., and Zack) grew up, they too joined in pushing forward the enterprise.
George Miller died in 1903, in the dugout that had been ranch headquarters, just before the first “White House,” (three stories and a basement) was completed. Before his death, he saw 3,000 acres of the ranch sown to wheat, 3,000 planted in corn, and 3,000 acres devoted to forage crops. Miller was paying $32,500 annually in rentals to the Indians, and his running expenses were approximately $75,000 annually. Income ranged from $400,000 to $500,000 a year, and the problem was how to employ these earnings profitably: made more compli-cated by the discovery of oil on the 101 Ranch holdings.
The Miller sons thought up the idea of the “101 Ranch Wild West Circus.” The first try-out was staged at Ponca City April 14, 1908, with 200 performers. For eight years the show made money. The Miller sons devoted more and more time to it, and less and less time to the legitimate business of the ranch. After 1916 the tide began to turn. By 1921, owing to losses and extravagance, it became necessary to reorganize. Joe Miller died in 1927 of monoxide gas poisoning; George was killed in an automobile accident two years later.
When oil prices dropped the show failed and Zack Miller found himself facing an indebtedness of $700,000. In August 1931 the ranch was replaced in receivership, and despite Zack’s roared protests—backed by a loaded shotgun—a man from the federal courts was placed in charge.
The White House.
The guest register at the “White House,” with its scores of names of the well-advertised in almost every line of endeavor, reflects the Miller sons’ absorbing passion for publicity. The house became a bleak square of foundation stones. The two-story white stucco “Ranch Store” is the only building that remains. The sprawling ranch has long since been broken up.
The Miller Brothers erected the White Eagle Monument in memory of the Ponca Chief their father induced to come to this area in 1879. The monument stands on a hill, once used as a signal station by the Ponca Indians. Built of native red stone, the monument is 12 feet in diameter and 20 feet high, topped by the huge white figure of an eagle.
[Note found in Hinsey notebook]
Mrs. LaMont Warrior, Ponca City, an art and craft teacher at Chilocco, told me in 1969 that she was a granddaughter of White Eagle, who was buried in the Indian Cemetery two miles south of Ponca City on Highway 177, then two miles west. She stated there are monuments.]
White Eagle was a principal figure in a drama of tribal exile quite as tragic, though not as well known as the “Trail of Tears” made by the Five Civilized tribes.
In 1868, after the federal government had induced the Ponca Indians to make two cessions of their land along the Missouri River in Dakota and had solemnly confirmed them in the possession of what remained, a treaty with the Sioux included a clause giving them every acre of the Ponca reservation. The Poncas refused to give up their ancient homes, and warfare between the tribes followed in which the more powerful Sioux killed a fourth of the Poncas.
Nine years later, the government acted to save the Poncas, not by giving back their land and otherwise satisfying the Sioux, but by ordering them off their land. They still objected to removal, whereupon an official from Washington came to escort ten Ponca chiefs to Kansas and Indian Territory so that they could select a new home.
The Ponca Indians reached the country of the Osages in the fall of 1876. In the words of one of the chiefs: “We . . . found it stony and broken and not a country that we thought we could make a living in. We saw the Osages . . . without shirts, their skin burned, and their hair stood up as if it had not been combed since they were little children.”
Arriving at Arkansas City, Kansas, without having induced the Poncas to choose a new location, the government man lost patience with the chiefs and deserted them. So they went back, five hundred miles, on foot. The following summer, in 1877, soldiers gathered up the tribe and marched them to the Quapaw reservation in the northeastern corner of Indian Territory. It was here that George Miller found them and persuaded them to move to land adjoining his lease.
In their new reservation—which had been described glowingly by the Commissioner of Indian Affairs as “in all respects . . . far superior to their old location in Dakota,” 158 of the tribe died within a short time. To make their situation more bearable, the government gave help in building homes and establishing schools.
In the winter of 1879 Standing Bear led a party of Ponca Indians northward to the Omaha reservation located in Nebraska. The Omaha, kinsmen to the Ponca, gave them refuge and supplied them with seed to plant in the spring. Before they could plant, however, soldiers came to arrest Standing Bear. He and thirty of his followers were imprisoned at Fort Omaha.
The Ponca Case. Trial of Standing Bear.
Through the intervention of citizens of Omaha, led by a newspaperman, the case of the Poncas came to trial on a writ of habeas corpus sworn out to secure their release. They were successful and the Poncas returned to the Omaha reservation where they were joined later by some 200 others who came up from Indian Territory.
The greater number of Poncas, some 700, remained on the land assigned to them in the Cherokee Outlet.
At the trial of Standing Bear, government attorneys contended that an Indian was not entitled to a writ of habeas corpus because he was not a “person within the meaning of the law.” An old chief answered them eloquently and well: “The people of the devil . . . have tried to make me believe that God tells them what to do, as though God would put a man where he would be destroyed! . . . They have destroyed many already, but they cannot deceive me. God put me here, and intends for me to live on the land they are trying to cheat me out of.”
RECAP OF BOOK, THE 101 RANCH
By Ellsworth Collings in collaboration with
Alma Miller England, daughter.
Norman, O U Press, 1938
Three towns on domain: Marland, Red Rock, White Eagle.
Fences: 300 miles; Cost $50,000
Museum has pictures of last Sun Dance on 101 Ranch, taken by Geo. Cornish, gift of Robert E. Cunningham.
White Eagle: Chief, about 50 years, Died February 3, 1914, at 78 years of age.
Chapter 9, Page 127: tells about White Eagle.
Ranch: Receivership filed August 27, 1931, Kay County.
Fred C. Clarke, Winfield general operating receiver, appointed September 16, 1931
[Zack hoped to have a part and keep ranch as a unit, but Clarke was handicapped by lack of funds, etc., and chose to lease property to individual farmers and dispose of all personal property by a receiver’s sale. Zack tried to stop sale with his six-shooter, he thought it was legal robbery.]
White House: 22 rooms, built on banks of Salt Fork.
July 5, 1936, auction sale of entire contents.
[Picture of White Eagle by Lenders, greatest of all artists on Indians and buffalo.]
1905: first annual round-up that grew into the Wild West Circus.
WHITE EAGLE, CHIEF OF THE PONCAS.
By C. M. Zimmerson, 1941
White Eagle, Oklahoma
Printed by Telegraph Press, Harrisburg, Pennsylvania]
[Zimmerson, M. D., former physician, U. S. Indian Service, Department of the Interior,
at Ponca Agency and Schoop until abandonment in 1919.]
From book: White Eagle, born 1840, on Nebraska Reservation, son of Iron Whip, grandson of Little Bear. Bravery allowed White Eagle to participate in Sun Dance. He was a fine orator. Tribe moved from Nebraska to Oklahoma [Indian] Territory in 1877.
White Eagle was courageous, ambitious, intelligent, excellent hunter. When he was a boy, he lived in a teepee, although Poncas later built log cabins for winter, using tents for summer. Brought to Baxter Springs in 1878-1879 by U. S. Army. Poncas in a year moved to Ponca Reservation.
BILL PICKETT HILL
Article entitled “Dateline” Oklahoma
By Francis Thetford
[Date not given]
Even the folks in Marland have forgotten the names of the five persons buried on nearby White Eagle Monument Hill.
Most of them refer to the familiar landmark nowadays as “Bill Pickett Hill,” because the one grave they know about is that of the famous Negro cowboy who died in 1932 at the age of 71.
The native stone White Eagle Monument was erected by the Miller Brothers of 101 Ranch fame as a memorial to White Eagle, chief of the Ponca tribe, and as a marker designating the northern end of an old Ponca hunting trail.
Obe Griffith, retired Marland carpenter, helped to build the big monument. He stated that he thought the marker on the hilltop just northeast of Marland was built in the early 1920s.
The sturdy marker has been kept in good repair since.
Pickett won his fame as a performer in the 101 Ranch Wild West Show, starting in the early 1900s. He was the first man to bulldog a steer by sinking his teeth into the animal’s nose and wrestling him to the ground. The heralded “Dusky Demon” was the star of the Miller 101 Ranch Wild West Circus. He death came from injuries suffered in a fall from his horse in April 1932, and the Miller Brothers buried him in a place of honor on what was then ranch property.
Monument Hill, just off present SH 156, is now on a tract owned by Bill Brown, a Marland rancher.
Time has weathered away the other sandstone markers that identify other graves on the hill, but residents of the little Noble County town recall that one grave is that of a man named Curby, an ox trainer for the ranch.
The others!??? Well, there was a girl, daughter of a man named Ryan, who worked for Zack Miller, Jr. And there were two young Negro girls who died in a fire in their home thirty years or so ago.
Assisting in the task of identifying the graves were Grant Lewis, Jr., Marland grocery store proprietor; Louie Levings, welder; and Bill Wallace, retired grocery man.
Bill Pickett’s daughter, Nannie Pickett Holmes, lives near Spencer, as does a grandson, Willie Wilson. They have some of the old cowboy’s personal effects. Among the keepsakes is an original poem, by Zack Miller, read at Pickett’s funeral.
Three Sands is a ghost town, It was once known as the “billion dollar spot.”
The Three Sands story began in June 1921 with the first oil strike. Almost overnight the town became a jumble of derricks interspersed with jerry-built shanties By 1923 the boom was at its height and the camp had an estimated population of six thousand.
During its period of peak production the field’s more than 500 wells were gushing out an average of more than 100,000 barrels a day. Little more than the post office remains of this once famous boom town.
The town of Mulhall was named for “Uncle Zack” Mulhall, a showman, who came into the country in 1889 as a rancher and livestock agent for the Santa Fe Railway. In the prosperous days of “Uncle Zack,” Mulhall was headquarters for 80,000 acres of ranch land in “Old Oklahoma” and across the line in the Cherokee Outlet—the home of his rodeo, and a notable center of hospitality. Out of the Mulhall rodeo forces emerged two well-known figures in the entertainment world: his own daughter, Lucille, who starred as the world’s first “cow girl,” and the even better-known Will Rogers.
Like the Millers, the Mulhalls failed in ranching, the family scattered, and the last to occupy the old house was Lucille, who died just after Christmas in 1940. The ranch was sold and the house torn down.
NOTE BY HINSEY RE KICKAPOO INDIANS.
In the early 1800s the Kickapoo tribe was roaming the section now known as Cowley County and camped on the north bank of the Walnut River in central Cowley when under attack by Osage Indians.
The word, Kickapoo, comes from Kewiganawa, meaning “He stands about” or “He moves about, standing now here, now there,” according to the Handbook of American Indians issued by the Smithsonian Institution.
In about 1832 the Kickapoo tribe came to Kansas under an agreement signed by:
1. Pa-Sha-Cha-Hah, meaning Jumping Fish.
2. Kennekuk, the famous Kickapoo prophet.
Later a large number left the main body of the Kickapoo tribe to migrate to Texas and from there to Mexico.
GORDON W. LILLIE, PAWNEE BILL.
Book: Oklahoma Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.
Lenora Rosamont Morris. 1930.
Gordon W. Lillie, Pawnee Bill, one of the original five Oklahoma “boomer” leaders:
Payne, Couch, Samuel Crocker, Sidney Clark.
In fall of 1888 Lillie was employed to collect groups of boomers and lead them into “Forbidden” land. In January 1889 he moved his colony to Arkansas City. About this time Congress was considering the opening of Oklahoma and it was feared an invasion now would cause a defeat of the bill. Caldwell made available every lot and building to the 4,000 followers and Lillie moved them to Caldwell. Later he led the group into the territory on April 22, 1889. In 1893 he organized and led a party into the Cherokee Strip Run, having been based and backed by the Arkansas City Chamber of Commerce.
[From story in Arkansas City Daily Traveler, September 16, 1893]
Mentions W. H. Nelson, Postmaster.
Mentions “Uncle Billy Gray,” one of the U. S. Deputy Marshals.
Story by Elwin Hunt.
1890-91 Indian Territory, southeast corner
Oklahoma Territory, rest of state
Cattle Trails: West Shawnee Trail through Arkansas City from Boggy Depot to Wichita and meets East Shawnee Trail and on to Colbert’s Ferry.