About a year ago while browsing at the Southwestern College web site in Winfield, I ran across a comment by one of the students (on his personal web page) in which he lamented being in the middle of nowhere, in a spot where nothing was “happening” or had ever “happened,” as far as he knew. This comment bothered me, happening as it did at a college where the athletic teams are referred to as “Moundbuilders,” and one can’t walk along Timber Creek near the Southwestern campus without stumbling across arrowheads.
I grew up in southern Kansas and knew a little about the history of the area. A large percentage of what is considered the “wild west” in the movies and western novels happened within 200 miles of Cowley County. Of course, there are no ghost towns because the land is too productive to leave many of the old structures standing. The land is put to its highest and best use: agriculture. Prosperity replaced those early hard times and everyone who was there would just as soon forget the tough early days. They just didn’t talk about it any more.
The transition period from Indian country to white settlement took place rapidly. From our perspective (almost 130 years later) it looks like the Indians moved out on one Friday night and the White settlers moved in on Saturday morning. Towns and villages developed quickly in Cowley County. The original log structures were rapidly replaced with fine brick and limestone houses, business, and public buildings during the 1870s. The work was done well! Many of these buildings are still in use.
When you look at Winfield, Arkansas City, Udall, Burden, and other towns of Cowley County, you sense a state of permanency—almost a sense of having been there from the beginning. In fact, the population in the 1880s was nearly what it is today; but it was rural, a family living on nearly every quarter section of good land. In 1882 there were nearly 7,000 students in school, and something like 125 schools. Population increased at breakneck speed from 1871 to the mid 1880s. Something exciting was happening!
Microfilm files of the Winfield Courier had given me a taste of that excitement. But living in Austin, Texas, and running a computer company doesn’t leave me much time to investigate. Only a few historians with a good deal of time on their hands have had access to all of these papers or the microfilm copies. Digging through years of papers to follow a story line has required dedication and time, which most of us do not have. It was frustrating to know that so much exciting history lay hidden from view of people who walked along old Indians trails (like Main Street in Winfield) every day without knowing its history. How many folks, reverently circling Island Park along the “Trail of Lights” at Christmas time understand how holy a place this was to the Indians?
Richard Kay and Mary Ann Wortman spent over seven years entering entire volumes of papers into their computers. When I attempted to contact Kay in March 1997 to get a copy of Volume I, his son, Kevin, explained that Kay was in the last stage of terminal cancer and was not feeling well enough to talk. Kevin sent me a book and Kay’s wife, Mary Ann, con-tacted me. When I found out the wealth of material that she and Kay had accumulated in digital form, I knew that it needed to be shared with everyone interested in the history of this region. Never did I suspect how sharp a picture of the world and county in the 1870s would be presented in the Cowley County newspapers of that time. The complete contents of the newspaper files are contained in digital form on a compact disk, “COWLEY COUNTY HISTORY RESOURCES.” These papers tell the history in a special way. Each reader will find their own thread to follow, weaving in and out through the people and places and events of that era.
Richard’s plan, and last request to Mary Ann, was to do “The Indians” next. I didn’t visit with him about his reasons; but they have become clear as the book progressed. The eco-nomic base of Cowley County was greatly expanded once trade began with the Indians. A wagon load of wheat, hauled to Wichita, was worth a lot less than a wagon load of flour delivered into Indian Territory. And the U. S. Government provided cash to pay for the flour.
Some citizens learned to speak with the Osage, Ponca, Kaw, or whatever Indian their business required contact with. Some formed deep, thoughtful bonds with their Indian friends and customers. Other citizens covered their eyes and ignored the source of their wealth. Even today in Winfield and Arkansas City, I have heard people say, “The Indians never really had anything to do with Cowley County.”
Richard saw the news stories of the relationships between the Indians and the settlers and knew that this was the main story line. He had also collected enough local legends and family histories to know that there was more than what was in the papers. The relationships were complex and deep. From the time that E. C. Manning signed the lease agreement with Osage Chief Chetopah for the location of his log store (Bill Conner witnessing Chetopah’s “X”) and collected the six dollars from Col. Manning, the settlers and Indians each pursued their own interests through commerce with the other. Sometimes there was conflict and sometimes there was cooperation. Bill Conner and C. M. Scott became good friends. E. C. Manning and C. M. Scott became political enemies.
In this book we look at the settlement of the Indians in Indian Territory—not just the Osages, the previous residents of Cowley County—but all of the Indians who became trading partners in the mid 1870s that fueled the incredible growth of Cowley County. We also look at military engagements with some of these Indian tribes by the U. S. Army and Kansas militia groups as well as activities of the Bureau of Indian Affairs, Congressional commit-tees, Congress, and Kansas officials.
Dr. Wm. W. Bottorff
P. O. Box 161522
Austin, TX 78716
What is this book all about?
It is about the Indian tribes living in the Indian Territory (which later became the state of Oklahoma) with whom the citizens of Cowley County established contact via trade shortly after the formation of Cowley County. At first trade was limited to buying furs from the Osage Indians. This trade broadened in 1876 due to the county flour mills gaining government contracts for flour to be transported to Indian agencies.
Did we trade with all the Indians in the Territory?
No. We traded with the Indian tribes immediately south and southwest of us.
Are other Indian tribes covered in this book?
Yes. The Cherokee and Sioux Indians, as discussed in the first chapter.
How much history of the relevant Indian tribes was covered.
We have attempted to develop the time when each tribe we traded with first went to the Indian Territory. We have also tried to give a brief background on different tribes; and in some cases, we were able to find out what their present status is.
Does this book cover warfare between Indians and whites?
Yes. We obtained data from early newspapers, starting with 1868, at which time the first settlers came to the future Cowley County before the Osage Indians had departed. Engagements with the militia, military, and citizens by Indians on the warpath are covered starting with 1868 in the Cheyenne and Arapaho chapter; also some of the same events are chronicled in the Kiowa and Comanche chapter. Other sources than newspapers were used to present a more complete picture of Indian depredations and the reason they were prone to fight.
How did we manage to settle matters with those Indians prone to fight?
The military finally convinced the Indians it was useless to fight. Government agen-cies were established to look after their needs: food, clothing, schooling, etc.
How did the citizens of Cowley County react to our neighbors in the Indian Territory?
At first with extreme wariness. As explained in the first chapter, this soon changed.
Are there any stories about Indians?
From newspaper articles, stories are related concerning contact by people from Cowley County with the Indians: individually and collectively. Unfortunately, we do not have articles by Indians in the Territory other than items given by Indian Agency newspapers. In the early days very few Indians could communicate in English.
We do have informative articles about the establishment of the Chilocco Indian School in Indian Territory and the Carlisle Indian School in Pennsylvania.
Are there stories about the change from Indian Territory to the state of Oklahoma?
There are references to changes proposed by Congress due to the need for more land for settlers and an outlet from Kansas to Texas for railroads. The change from the Indian Territory to the state of Oklahoma is not covered in this volume other than a few brief references to the changes brought about when the Indian Territory ceased to exist.
C. M. Scott.
Much of this book contains material about C. M. Scott, one of our earliest frontier men, thanks to his granddaughter, items from his diaries, and to the many articles written by him during the time he was editor of the Arkansas City Traveler as well as further articles submitted by him and written by others concerning him after he left the newspaper. Scott made many friends among the Indians and was able to communicate with them either in their own language or in sign language. He and other early-day newspaper editors assisted greatly in bringing mutual understanding, communication, and cohesion with different tribes in the Indian Territory.
Cowley County History.
Thanks to Dr. William (Bill) Bottorff, Austin, Texas, who formerly lived in Winfield, the work has continued on the history of Cowley County. Without his help this book might never have been completed.
By depicting events which molded this county, we hope to assist researchers.
We welcome interesting stories about Cowley County settlers. If you have one about your early ancestors, we will print it under your name, reserving the right to edit.
Let us hear your comments about Volume II.
Mary Ann Wortman
Member, ARKANSAS CITY HISTORICAL SOCIETY.
1400 North Third Street, Arkansas City, KS 67005