False raid

This wire sent from Denison in April of 1873 reported an Indian raid that never happened. This article was cited widely in multiple papers, too. This is a snip from the Kasnas Democrat (Oswego, KS).

Once again, old newspapers reveal stories that hide more insidious events. I was researching something unrelated when I stumbled upon a reference to a “train with government supplies for Fort Griffin… captured by Indians on Cole Creek sixty-five miles from Denison.” (Denison is in Grayson County, TX and Fort Griffin is in Shackleford County, TX).

This raid took place in April of 1873 and is referenced in several newspapers. All of the newspapers reproduce a wire that the Denison Democrat sent to St. Louis. The text of the telegram was found in the April 25, 1873 issue of the New York Herald, May 2 1873 Kansas Democrat, and April 25 1873 Republican Banner from Nashville, TN. In some newspapers, the report was filed under “Indian and Mexican Troubles.”

This raid, of course, is not about the infamous Warren Wagon Train Massacre of 1871. The “train” does not refer to a locomotive but rather, a mule-cart outfit. The supplies consisted of food stuffs, materials, and sometimes, weaponry.

Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper from New York also relayed the report of a raid on Cole Creek, which turned out to be false, and like the other newspaper, did not issue a retraction.

While a number of raids on wagon trains took place in this period – with most of the blame laid at the feet of random “Indians” – I haven’t been able to point to the site of this particular one. The only Cole Creek I know of is northeast of Electra (Wichita County, Texas). There are other Cole Creeks but not in North Texas, at least to my knowledge. And none of the Cole Creeks are “sixty-five miles” from Denison.

The only Cole Creek in North Texas or southern Indian Territory is in Wichita County near Electra, which lies about 180 miles away from Denison (and not 65 miles). US Bureau of Soils.

I asked readers on my Facebook group about this raid – perhaps they knew of a place that I wasn’t familiar with?

One of my readers, MC Toyer, mentioned the “Indian Papers of Texas and the Southwest.” In this collection of letters and documents, Indian agents explained that rumors of raids spread often in localities and newspapers without evidence. This supposed raid at Cole Creek, for example, was a complete fabrication. Toyer cited a letter from J M Haworth, Kiowa and Comanche Agency, IT to Cyrus Beede, Chief Clerk of the Central Indian Superintendency, May 8, 1873: “The report of the killing of surveyors as sent by Shirley turns out to be false, also a report telegraphed from Texas recently of the killing of four men and capture of a train. I have learned since I came here that a large majority of the Indian reports are fabrications manufactured out of whole cloth.”

The newspapers never retracted this false information, either.

These kinds of rumors created fear and mistrust where none were warranted and further eroded any possibility of co-existence between the white elites and the Native tribes. So this got me to thinking. I wonder how many of the violent episodes between “settlers” and Native Americans actually happened in North Texas?

Stay tuned to see what I turn up, if anything!

Questions this blog post might generate:

What might the purpose have been for a newspaper to report a raid, and then not further report that the information was untrue?

Since the location of this false raid was also faulty, the person who wrote the wire was most likely no a local. What benefit(s) would a person who issues a false report about an Indian raid seek?

In what way(s) does a false report like this perpetuate racism?

An academy for Freedmen

Oak Hill Industrial School in 1905 was established for freed people, formerly enslaved by the Choctaws, near today’s Valliant in Indian Territory.

Per the 1866 treaties signed after the Civil War, the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations were supposed to provide education to the people it had formerly enslaved. The Chickasaw Nation never did this, but the Choctaw Nation’s historic affiliation with Presbyterian missionaries garnered collaborations to build schools to serve African American youths. Along the old road between Ultima Thule and Doaksville near the Red River (today’s Valliant, McCurtain County, Oklahoma) Oak Hill Industrial Academy was established in 1869 with funding by the Presbyterian Church for the education of freed people in the Choctaw Nation. The first terms as a real boarding school occurred nearly two decades later, in 1886, after the Choctaw Nation enrolled freed people as citizens in 1880 and African Americans demanded schools of their own as they were denied access to the academies at Spencerville, Armstrong, and Wheelock.

Initially, Oak Hill students met in the old log cabin of Robin Clark, a Choctaw Freedman, where studies focused on religious instruction and basic literacy (Clark’s log cabin had been initially built by Chief Leflore in the 1850s). Gradually, buildings and land were donated to the school by native black teachers.

This 1901 USGS map shows Oak Hill Academy, a prominent feature east of Fort Towson along the old military road.

The Presbytery recruited Anglo teachers, many from Pennsylvania, to expand instruction in academics. The main focus continued to be on mechanical education in farming and home economics. While this sounds practical, it was also a paternalistic denial of African American advancement. Though in his 1914 book about the academy, Robert Elliot Flickinger recognized discrimination and mistreatment of African Americans, he also wrote that one of the school’s goals was to “prevent sloth.”

Oak Hill Industrial Academy became a self-sufficient farming complex in which the crops, honey, and milk raised by the students helped to sustain the institution. In 1912, the school was re-named to “The Alice Lee Elliot Memorial School” to honor the wife of a donor from Indiana. As one of very few high schools for African American students in southeastern Oklahoma, the Oak Hill Industrial Academy/ Alice Lee Elliot Memorial School closed in 1936 when the Choctaw Nation moved to a public but nonetheless segregated school system.

Today, a historical marker at Valliant cemetery commemorates the academy, but there are no physical reminders of the school left on the surface.

Read more about Oak Hill Academy in this very informative blog post: http://african-nativeamerican.blogspot.com/2011/02/remembering-oak-hill-academy-for.html

Students pose in front of Oak Hill buildings. The large buildings in the front served as dormitories and classrooms. On the left sits the academy chapel. Between the chapel and dormitory is a two story, log cabin; perhaps this is Robin Clark’s cabin, a Choctaw Freedman who used his home (the home of former chief LeFlore) as a make-shift school when Oak Hill was first opened as a school for freed people.

Questions this blog post might generate:

Choctaw Freedmen donated buildings and taught the first classes at Oak Hill. However, when the Presbyterian Church begins to manage the school, white teachers were recruited from far away (and most lasted only a year) and hired instead. What happened to the black teachers? Why did the church do this?

How does the state purpose of the school —to prevent sloth —reflect racism?

Why did the Choctaws segregate black students from native students? White students, with special permission, could attend academies like Armstrong and Wheelock, but not black students.

Camp no longer

Camp Augur LOC

Map of the Comanche and Apache nation in Oklahoma Territory in 1889, noting the location of “Old Camp Augur” on the Red River.

Camp Augur in today’s Tillman County, Oklahoma was founded in 1871 to protect the tribes impacted by the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867. The camp never became a permanent post. Its role was to ensure that the peaceful bands of the Comanches and Apaches stayed safe from hostile Texans, and that peaceful Texans were safe from hostile Comanche and Apache bands.

Much of the hostility perpetrated by Texans stemmed from land squatting – meaning, Texans entered Oklahoma Territory and tried to stake rights on lands that were designated for the Wichita, Kiowa, Comanche and Apache reservations. These actions became especially egregious in the mid 1880s, after the last of the tribe’s war bands were defeated in the Red River Wars in 1875. The “hostilities” by the bands included unauthorized hunting; it was considered illegal for Indians to hunt bison or even to own a gun.

Named after General Christopher Columbus Augur (1821-1898) while he served as the commandant of the Department of Texas during the Reconstruction Period, the camp closed by the late 1880s because by then, non-natives continued to encroach on the lands and enjoyed U.S. congressional backing. Congress authorized that over 2 million acres of reservation land be set aside for land sales (aka “land rushes”). The Kiowa tribe sued because in doing so, Congress had violated the Medicine Lodge Treaty of 1867. In 1903, the Supreme Court sided with the non-natives in Lone Wolf v. Hitchcock… writing that the U.S. Congress had the power to “abrogate provisions of any Indian treaty.”

Monumental historical impacts and far-reaching consequences can be discerned just by reading maps.

Published in: on May 11, 2020 at 3:26 am  Leave a Comment  
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Map that textbook

Map

A sketch of a map drawn for a textbook yields some interesting information.

Here’s a mid-19th century, hand-drawn map of the Indian tribes in the United States, as per the creator’s assumption of what was known in 1650 (the original interpretive date of 1592 has been marked out and replaced by 1650). This is a manuscript map made by the US Army, meant for publication in a geography or history textbook. Its located in the Library of Congress.

Around the Red River in today’s Texas, Oklahoma and southwestern Arkansas, the tribes are simply hand-labeled as “Texans.” The Caddos in Louisiana have been identified as “Appalachians” but the darker color than their supposed kin east of the Mississippi indicates that the map maker may have recognized that they were indeed separate.

Tribes are identified through language kinship, but I don’t think this map reflects that. If it did, the Caddos would be shown in a different color beyond Louisiana to include the Wichitas of the Cross Timbers, as the Caddos had a language of their own, unrelated to the other tribes. The Shoshones would have extended into Texas, as the Comanche language had Shoshone roots.

This is a fascinating history lesson of historiography!

Published in: on October 16, 2019 at 3:12 am  Leave a Comment  
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Slices of Sibley

John 2

Sibley (1757-1837) is buried in the American Cemetery in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

John Sibley was the first Indian Agent in the Louisiana Territory. Born in Massachusetts, Sibley became a physician in North Carolina and joined the army during the Revolutionary War. Years later, he offered his services again to the army along the Red River frontier. While there, he served as an Indian Agent in Natchitoches. He helped to procure the provisions and guides needed for Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and Col. Sparks to explore the Red River after the Louisiana Purchase.

The purpose of an Indian Agent was to ensure the security of the United States and its claims, which meant negotiating treaties, land sales, and agreements with tribes in the areas where they worked. Dr. Sibley documented his work as an Indian Agent through copious correspondence, some of which is reproduced below.

John 1

In 1804, Sibley described the final peace negotiations between the Caddos and Choctaws at the Indian factory in Natchitoches in a letter written to his commanding general. In this excerpt, he explained that the availability of liquor in the “little town of Natchitoches” had a bad effect on all inhabitants.

Sibley all

In 1806, Sibley sponsored an expedition to “recover” a large meteorite from the lands between the Brazos and Red Rivers in Spanish Texas that Indian Trader Henry Glass had relayed to him.

Of course, “recovering” this medicine stone was highly illegal for at least two reason. For one, the Spanish had made their claims on the lands of Texas abundantly clear, and they definitely did not want the Americans invading their lands. Secondly, the Wichitas and the Comanches considered the meteorite an important medicine (religious /medicinal artifact). Sibley thus paid for this expedition out of his own pocket, as he had hoped the meteorite was made of platinum and, I assume, he could retire in luxury if he was able to sell it.

IMG_20171228_112606118.jpg

The “platinum rock” turned out to be an iron meteorite, which eventually up at the Peabody Museum at Yale University.

Sibley’s expedition stole the meteorite from the Texas lands and sent it to geologists in New York once the sample was determined to be iron, not platinum. Purchased by rock collector George Gibbs, eventually the 1,600 lbs meteorite – the largest recovered as of that time period – centered Gibbs’s extensive collection.  Gibbs’s wife donated the rock to  Yale University’s Peabody Museum.

Fun with maps

map 1754

French map from 1754 (Library of Congress)

Did you know that the now- states of Arkansas and Louisiana once bordered Georgia, North, and South Carolina? It’s true! Until 1785, the original English colonies (after 1783, the original U.S. states) stretched their western boundaries all the way to the Mississippi River. In doing this, the colonies refused to recognize the Indian Reserve that the English had established between the Appalachians and the Mississippi River after the French Indian War in 1763. Inside this “middle ground” lived the Choctaws, Chickasaws, Shawnees, Delawares, and other tribes.

The Northwest and Southwest Ordinances (1785 and 1790, respectively) transformed the lands into territories for the creation of new states.Though George Washington proposed that the Indian tribes use the opportunity to form their own states, this suggestion was not taken seriously. Instead, new states were formed, and ultimately, their citizens advocated for Indian removals.

End of War

This photograph is possibly the last image of Comanche women in a traditional camp on the open prairie.

Comanche women and child at Mow-Wi camp at Palo Duro Canyon, possibly 1874. University of Texas at Arlington, Special Collections.

Palo Duro

Comanche women and child at Mow-Wi camp at Palo Duro Canyon, possibly 1874. University of Texas at Arlington, Special Collections.

It is noted by archivists that it was most likely taken in 1874 after the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon (Randall County vicinity, Texas). This battle was the final act of the Red River Wars. It pitted U.S. troops, led by Ranald S. McKenzie, against the Southern Plains Indian tribes led by Red Warbonnet (Comanche) and Lone Wolf (Kiowa), among others. The purpose of the Red River Wars was to force the tribes to remain on the reservation at Fort Sill, Indian Territory.

The camp was called Mow-Wi and was located within Palo Duro Canyon. Note the drying hides and the bison fur and deer hide spilling out of the tepee. I believe the women fashioned their tepee out of hides, a traditional practice that had become exceedingly rare at this point as the Indians adopted more modern means of manufacture, such as using canvas to construct their lodges.

A reader for Red River Historian stated that no photographers joined the army on its mission at Palo Duro Canyon. I can’t argue this, but I do argue that it took months for the native bands to break camp and trek to Fort Sill. After their horses were killed by McKenzie, they had to contemplate their place in this new world, and then walk to the fort – like refugees who had been forced out of their homelands.

migration-1876

Handwritten draft of Texas law from 1875, passed in 1876, that barred “Kiowas, Comanches, Apaches, Kickapoos, Cheyennes, Arapahoes, Wichitas, and bands affiliated with them from crossing the Red River from Fort Sill reservation into Texas.” (Texas State Library)

Throughout most of its history, today’s Texas was the domain of the Comanche. Their empire, the Comanceria, proved a formidable enemy of the Spanish, Mexican, and American governments.

The Comanches were defeated in the Red River Wars of 1874-1875. The Red River Wars were fought by the U.S. army against the southern Plains Indian tribes, which included the Wichitas, Kiowas, Apaches, Cheyennes, and Arapahos.

The defeat meant that the Comanches had to remain on their reservation lands surrounding Fort Sill, Indian Territory, and accept “Americanization.” The reservation had been established via the Medicine Lodge Creek Treaty of 1867.

In 1876, the state of Texas passed a law that prohibited any of the Red River peoples from moving to Texas. I’m not sure if this law expired, but when Indians gained citizenship – through a federal act in 1924 – the law may have been nullified/voided.

 

Published in: on February 19, 2018 at 11:58 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Depredations

Montague County

In the 1890s, these unnamed men from Montague County, Texas posed for a photograph after filing claims against the U.S. government for suffering Indian depredations. (University of Texas at Arlington Special Collections).

Since the southern Plains Indians were supposed to be under government supervision inside the post-Civil War reservations, any Indian activity (war, ambush, horse taking, hunting) was viewed as criminal, even if an ambush or attack was instigated by the settlers. American settlers thus could file claims against the reservations via the Bureau of Indian Affairs to recoup their losses. The monies were deducted from tribal annuities.

Check out the man in the middle (I don’t know his name). He must have suffered incredibly… though I’m not sure if the injury was from a depredation or from an attack or even from an unrelated calamity (Civil War, maybe).

In doing my master’s thesis research, I encountered Charles Goodnight’s depredations claims. His Palo Duro Canyon ranch was part of the Kiowa and Comanche lands that he received from Texas after his Ranger activity along the Texas/ Comancheria frontier during the Civil War. He used the money from the claims against the tribes to build up his livestock, which he then sold to the Fort Sill (Comanche, Kiowa, and Apache) and Fort Supply (Cheyenne) reservations.

As I tell my students, form your own conclusions about this.

Cattle Barons

Charles Goodnight (center, seated) with others at the JA Ranch, Palo Duro, TX, 11/29/1921; standing, from left, M.K. Brown (Pampa), Whitfield Carhart (Palo Duro), T.D. Hobart (Pampa), H.W. Taylor (Clarendon), J.W. Kent (Palo Duro), H.W. Patrick (Clarendon), S.W. Dunn (Mobeetie); seated, from left, Vass Stickley (Canadian), T.S. Bugbee (Clarendon), Goodnight, G.W. Arrington (Canadian), Judge O.H. Nelson (Amarillo). (UT Arlington Special Collections)

Montague, Parker, Clay, Palo Pinto, Jack, and Young counties reveal incredible amounts of history about the clash between Texas and the Comancheria. It’s only been pretty recent that historians have taken a serious look at this very important part of history. It’s one of the reasons the U.S. won against Mexico in 1846, and one of the reasons Texas seceded from the United States in 1861.

The white men fighting along the frontier before the Civil War were cattlemen. Their wealth was on the hoof, and they used slave labor, along with paid hands, to work their capital. The Indians’s use of the land was always suspect to them – by 1859, the tribes in the Brazos Indian Reservation in Young County had been forced out of Texas. By 1876, a mere year after the end of the Red River Wars, the state of Texas refused to allow Indians to enter into Texas at all, and Indians who still lived in Texas were forbidden from owning guns.

There’s a lot of history to be uncovered in group portraits.

Published in: on February 4, 2018 at 4:05 am  Leave a Comment  
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Caddos along the Red River Valley

Three major Native American tribes called the Red River Valley of the Southwest home long before Europeans staked their claims. The Comanches lived along the western most reaches – their primary economy consisted of hunting and the horse trade (some would say horse taking, or theft). The Comanches, who stemmed from the northern plains but worked their way down into the southern prairies, built an empire at the same time the Spanish, French, and English built theirs, and became formidable enemies of the Texans (both American and Mexican).

The Wichitas inhabited the Cross Timbers region of the middle section of the river. Their domain reached from central Texas all the way to southern Kansas, with large cities and small villages, multiple languages, and an economy based on both agriculture and bison hunting, and later, French trade – they didn’t interact much with the Spanish except to raid them every once in a while.

I’ll write about those tribes soon in much more detail on Red River Historian. This blog post  in particular focuses on the people of the lower portions of the Red River Valley, where the water flowed wider and deeper. Here, the Caddos lived. Some historians label their government as a “confederacy,” tightly knitted in kinship but loosely tied in mutual alliances. Like the Wichitas, theirs was a well-developed society of the Mississippian people, with large villages and a well-developed social class system. Unlike the Wichtias, however, archeologists have documented their society in much more detail than the other two Red River Valley tribes.

Bowie county mound

This photograph from the Texas Archeological Research Laboratory depicts crews employed by the WPA (Works Progress Administration), who in 1938 excavated a Caddoan ceremonial mound that may have been the first mound depicted by Europeans (via the Teran del Rio expedition, 1691).

The mound was a major site (religious, commercial) for the Nasonis, a powerful tribe of the Caddo confederacy. Throughout the years, archeological excavations of this site uncovered almost 100 burials, large circular structures, and plenty of whole pottery pieces that indicate ceremonial burials. Carbon dating and historical records from the Spanish and French indicate that the site was occupied from 1200 to the 18th century. By the early 19th century, the Caddos had been pushed west by American settlers until ultimately, they found a new home in central Oklahoma.

The site is on private property, and I’m unsure of the exact location. I did some aerial survey using Google Maps, and believe I found mound remnants. In any case, it’s in northern Bowie County, Texas, northwest of Texarkana.

 

Natchez

This vessel, found at a Nasoni (Caddoan) settlement in Bowie County (Texas) by archeologists T. Perttula, B. Nelson, R. Cast and B. Gonzalez (principle investigators), was made by the Tunica tribe that lived near today’s Natchez (MS). Other items found in the dig included glass trade beads, most likely traded with the French, that were predominantly blue in color. The dig occurred over several years, but its findings were published in 2010 – making me conclude that there is a lot of history yet to be found along the Red River.

GS Caddo bowls frog effigies found by AC Looney 1962 AHC (2)

These frog effigies bowls were found in Lafayette County in southwestern Arkansas by AC Looney in 1962 and are now housed at the Arkansas Historical Commission (where the photo comes from). They were most likely from the Kadahadacho tribe, which resided on the east side of the river across from the Nasonites. The bowls aren’t very elaborate, but they’re whole – it seems they may have been used for ceremonies, but most likely in a household, not in a communal setting.

There haven’t been many newer archeological digs along the Red River in recent years, and economic activities (pipe line building, for example) is damaging a lot of the potential sites.

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One of the reasons for the lack of exploration in the lower Red River Valley in recent years is that farms have occupied some major sites – for example, the 1,000 year old Belcher Mounds site in Caddo Parish, Louisiana. One of the mounds can be seen in this photograph. Because the site is on private property, one can surmise that it is being preserved. A danger can be that the site is mined for artifact collections (specifically, arrowhead). If you collect arrowheads, please make sure to document the location (co-ordinates, photographs, and journal) to help provide context!

A complaint about access

Indulge me for a moment while I vent a consistent frustration of mine… and probably one experienced by historians (professional and lay alike) everywhere.

This past weekend, I took a trip up to Oklahoma to see if I could spot the remains of historically significant sites. Specifically, I was seeking the Oklahoma historical marker, placed in 1958, for Nail’s Crossing, a stage stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail and Stagecoach route. I was also seeking the possible remains of the Wapanucka Academy, a boarding school established for Chickasaw girls before the Civil War. During the war, the school acted as a temporary hospital.

Wapanucka academy possible ruin

I’m not saying this aerial image (from Google Maps) depicts the old Wapanucka Aademy site; I’m just saying I’d like to have the opportunity to find out.

I was thwarted in my endeavors on both accounts. For one, there were no posted indications at all that anything historic was in their respective vicinities. Not only that, but when attempted to access the places after my careful research to pinpoint their locations, I was met with “no trespassing” signs. Now, I don’t know about you, but I don’t like getting shot, so I heeded the warnings and left the road trip “empty handed.” I was disappointed, to say the least – especially because Google Maps indicated that these sites were, in fact, close to country lanes. These roads no doubt have been taken over by land owners and are now considered private.

Nails Crossing possible site

Notice how Google Maps has Nail’s Crossing Road going all the way to the Blue River? Well, access is restricted past the last driveways on both the southeast and northwest sides. The red circle is where, I surmise, the crossing took place. A bridge was erected there before the Civil War.

It bothers me greatly that important historic are tucked away for only a select few to access. For example  rivers (and their shorelines) and cemeteries are both considered public lands. Yet consistently, I find my access to both restricted. I cannot access the Nail family cemetery at the Blue River, nor the Colbert family cemetery near the old ferry crossing and toll bridge on the Red River. Just getting down to the Red River beyond the obvious access points is a feat in itself.

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The old Nail’s Crossing road can no longer be traversed.

While I love Oklahoma, I must point out that this state is particularly bad about historic site preservation and access. Although mid-century historical committees urged restoration and upkeep of historical sites and continued placement of historical markers, often their advice was not heeded. Instead, the intrepid explorer continually finds herself having to use historical maps and anecdotes to find sites that have been already surveyed and documented previously. The land owners that allowed access to one group may restrict further attempts at visitation, or the descendants/new owners are simply not interested. While I do not mind the research I invest in finding the sites, I do mind that I cannot visit their physical remains.

Nails crossing what the committee wanted to do

Click to access v036p446.pdf

Here’s a description of what the historical committee recommended for Nail’s Crossing in 1958. Nothing came to fruition, however. To read more about the 1958 effort to document the Butterfield Overland Mail & Stagecoach route in Oklahoma, read this.

History should be as readily accessible and as much documented as possible. It helps the academic, the genealogist, and the community, as historic properties can bring tourist dollars and lend prestige to an area.

And, it helps me. Who wouldn’t want that?