History of the Llano Estacado and Environs

24 Jul

History of the Llano Estacado and environs by David Cummins

You didn’t know about the famous wolf hunt in 1905? President Theodore “Teddy” Roosevelt was returning from a Rough Rider reunion in San Antonio and stopped in Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory, residents knowing that he was in favor of combining the two to form a new state of Oklahoma, and therefore would be well received. Teddy was intrigued by the stories, well supported, that John R. “Jack” Abernathy could and did catch wolves with his hands. On April 8-12, 1905 Roosevelt lit out on a wolf hunt led by Jack Abernathy over three counties in southwestern [today’s] Oklahoma with fellow hunters that included Roosevelt’s physician Dr. Alexander Lambert, Quanah Parker, Samuel Burk Burnett, Tom Waggoner, and Bill McDonald. Others were lagging and dis-spirited but Teddy was present when Jack lured a wolf to attack his wrapped arm and Jack throttled the wolf with his free hand and broke its neck. He repeated the exercise with three other wolves. http://digital.library.okstate.edu/encyclopedia/entries/R/RO026.html Teddy thanked Jack for the display of courage in nature and Teddy headed for Colorado and a bear hunt with rifles.

The following year 1906 as president, Teddy signed the Oklahoma Statehood Enabling Act permitting both Oklahoma Territory [enhanced in 1890 by the addition of Cimarron Territory in the panhandle only 34 miles north to south but 169 miles east to west between the 100th and 103rd Meridians degrees of longitude west of the Greenwich Meridian at London England] and Indian Territory in which Anglo residents outnumbered Indians 9 to 1, to combine for a single new state of the United States. The 100th Meridian in the United States is historically regarded as “the dry line” everything west of it being a quite dry area and east of it being quite wet. The panhandle south plains of Texas is all west of the dry line.

In 1910 Teddy appointed Jack Abernathy U.S. Marshall for Oklahoma http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jack_Abernathy the youngest marshall in the nation

Samuel Burk Burnett http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu80 1849-1922 was owner of Four Sixes Ranch headquartered in Wichita Falls who started with Longhorns, then Durhams, then Herefords, to operate the finest strain of cattle. He introduced the practice of purchasing steers and grazing them for sale at auction. He had leased range land and ran cattle in Indian Territory by cooperation with Quanah Parker paying 6-1/2 cents per acre but as statehood approached he purchased107,000 acres in the Texas panhandle’s Carson County and 141,000 acres near Guthrie less than 100 miles east of Lubbock. The town of Burkburnett was named for him. His financial empire capital based on banking and oil was in Fort Worth.

Tom Waggoner http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fwa09 was the son of Daniel Waggoner [died 1902] operating the extensive Waggoner Ranch properties upon which oil was later discovered, with headquarters at Vernon Texas.

William Jesse “Bill” McDonald was captain of the Texas Rangers http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bill_McDonald_%28Texas_Ranger%29

Quanah Parker was the last war chief of the Quahadi Comanche http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/bmqvb forced in 1875 to lead his people out of Comancheria onto an Indian reservation in Indian Territory and he became a successful rancher there and spokesman for Indians with the federal government. http://www.quanahparker.org/

So-called Cimarron Territory was known in past times as No Man’s Land, Old Beaver River Country, Public Domain and just plain lawless land or desert but the Old Santa Fe Trail Cimarron Cutoff ran through it and Colonel Kit Carson was dispatched in 1865 to set up Fort Nichols at a point where the Trail meets the Cimarron River http://www.rootsweb.ancestry.com/~okmurray/stories/cimarron_territory.htm The Cimarron Cutoff proceeded from Fort Dodge Kansas [Dodge City] to Fort Union New Mexico Territory [the northern mountain Old Santa Fe Trail proceeded from Fort Dodge to Bent’s Fort and La Junta Colorado and through Raton Pass at the border while the more direct Cimarron Cutoff Old Santa Fe Trail joined up at Fort Union and continued west 110 miles to Santa Fe. The Cimarron Cutoff’s major watering station was the Cimarron River but of course both Comanche and Kiowa watered there as well. Today the Cutoff passes through Cimarron National Grassland, Rita Blanca National Grassland and Kiowa National Grassland to Clayton New Mexico [approximately where US Highway 56 vehicles travel southwest from Dodge City] and on to Santa Fe since Fort Union in the Mora Valley 45 miles north of today’s Las Vegas was closed in 1891 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fort_Union_National_Monument after forty years usage.

Here is a route map of the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in 1891 that illustrates that its trackage ran west from Dodge City to Coolidge Kansas, Lamar Colorado, La Junta, then left the course of the Arkansas River to go southwest to Trinidad Colorado, Dillon New Mexico near Raton, Springer, Las Vegas and Lamy [spur extended north to Santa Fe] and did not follow the Cimarron Cutoff of the Old Santa Fe Trail. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atchison,_Topeka_and_Santa_Fe_Railway#mediaviewer/File:Santa_Fe_Route_Map_1891.jpg It would be several years before spur railroads would enter the panhandles of Texas and Oklahoma such as Southern Kansas Railway of Texas chartered in 1886 becoming the Panhandle and Santa Fe Railway in 1914, and the Fort Worth & Denver City Railway crossing lines with Chicago Rock Island & Pacific Railroad at Dalhart Texas in 1888, shipping center for the XIT Ranch and other ranches, and extending beyond the state line toward Denver City Colorado.

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Alvar Nunez Cabeza de Vaca 1490-1558 was treasurer on the royal Narvaez Expedition to La Florida from Spain in 1527 [by way of Santo Domingo Espanola and Santiago Cuba] with 600 people, mostly men, with a commission to start two colonial settlements, that suffered a shipwreck and a 1528-1536 journey across the American continent beginning with being enslaved by Indians to 1532 and ending with Cabeza and three other survivors being traders and shamans with Indians of various tribes. The other survivors were Andres Dorantes de Carranza, his servant Estevan a North African Berber sometimes called The Moor, and Alonso del Castillo Maldonado.

On small boats near the mouth of the Mississippi River Panfilo de Narvaez http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narv%C3%A1ez_expedition was in another boat and was lost attempting to sail along the coast to Tampico [east coast of New Spain (Mexico)], while Cabeza and his boatload made it to Galveston Island where they were captured and enslaved by Karankawa Indians. From there in 1532 four escaped and walked west crossing the Rio Grande somewhere between the current Falcon Reservoir and Amistad Reservoir, but close enough to West Texas so that Cabeza heard about and perhaps saw bison and in his journal referred to this terra incognito [unknown land] as “Cattle Nation”. They walked through the north of New Spain [Mexico] and came down the west coast to San Miguel de Cuilacan Sinaloa where they met Spanish slavers on horseback. The next year in 1537 he sailed back to Spain and rendered an account to Holy Roman Emperor Charles V [King Charles I of Spain] awarding him a bison robe, among other items. Cabeza’s “account” titled Relacion (1542) (Narrative in English) https://archive.org/details/relationofalvarn00nrich is a marvelous report of the lands and peoples of this area. Andres Resendez, A Land So Strange: The Epic Journey of Cabeza de Vaca (Basic Books 2007) Lubbock Public Library 970.01 RESE Texas Tech Library E125.N9 R47 http://www.pbs.org/weta/thewest/resources/archives/one/cabeza.htm. The two other Spaniard survivors wrote their account titled Joint Report that is now accessible in Gonzalo Fernandez de Oviedo’s massive Historia general y natural de las Indias, islas y tierra firme del mar oceano https://archive.org/details/generalynatural01fernrich. Esteban did not write an account or memoir but one was imagined for him by the novelist Laila Lalami as The Moor’s Account: A Novel (Pantheon Books 2014) Texas Tech Library PS3612.A543 M66.

Cabeza de Vaca in Spanish translates as cow’s head so it turned out to be quite coincidental that he later, probably while with the Jumano Indians, saw bison that he recognized as cattle but somewhat different from Spanish cattle. He saw no horses and Indians who hunted bison then, hunted them on foot. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fca06 He was told by Jumano that they hunted to the north in a more arid region, perhaps the first recorded account of a reference to the Llano Estacado.

It would be only a few years later 1540-1542 when Francisco Vasquez de Coronado would explore that northern area and write his report.

Coronado was governor of the state of New Galicia on the west coast of New Spain and in 1539 Viceroy Mendoza sent Friar Marcos de Niza and Estevan [survivor of the Narvaez Expedition] on a northern expedition. Niza returned and said Estevan had been killed by Zuni who lived in a golden city of Cibola and there were other such cities. Coronado took it from there, preparing his own expedition. His route began on the west coast of New Spain [Mexico] at Compostela, then to Cuilacan, then north on an inland route to southeastern Arizona northeast to Zuni Pueblo in New Mexico, Acoma Pueblo, Tiguex Pueblo [on the Rio Grande River near Bernalillo and the present site of Coronado State Monument], and Pecos Pueblo from which he went east into the Llano Estacado to Blanco Canyon near Crosbyton and Floydada Texas, then crossed the Red River east of Palo Duro Canyon then northeast to the “Quivira” Indians in Kansas above the Arkansas River, returning by a more direct route to Pecos Pueblo in New Mexico. https://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/upcpt He found no gold or other valuables but many years later every piece of his expedition’s detritus has become quite valuable. What did he make of those herds of bison? His journal referred to them often and they were the main staple of a protein rich diet for the explorers.

Coronado did not treat Native Americans well, killing many Zuni and others. Juan de Onate brutally outdid him however on that score, as onetime governor of the area in 1598-1607. Conditions of subjugation continued, ultimately leading to the Indians Pueblo Revolt of 1680 http://www.americanjourneys.org/aj-009b/summary/ Juan Bautista de Anza was a Spanish explorer of Alta California all the way north to Monterey, and was Governor of New Mexico 1778-1788 defeating Green Horn a Comanche chief and stabilizing Indian Pueblo life free of raids by Navajo, Apache or Comanche. He started the comanchero trading program with Comanche on the Llano Estacado seeing it as helpful to containing Anglo-French westward expansion from the mid-continent region. It did not surprise de Anza that New Spain could not effectively colonize Tejas beyond the Bexar settlement at San Antonio founded early in the century. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Antonio He was very cautious about Anglos and French so he would never have permitted empresarios like Stephen F. Austin to bring Anglo settlers into Tejas in northern New Spain.

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Captain Randolph B. Marcy lit out from Fort Smith Arkansas in his 1849 expedition to trace the course of the Canadian River. Today we know it rises in far southern Colorado on the east side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, flows south into New Mexico west of Raton, through a canyon near Springer, and then east across New Mexico forming the northern border of the Llano Estacado through the panhandle of Texas and then across Oklahoma until it empties into the Arkansas River at the Robert S. Kerr Reservoir on the Arkansas, a total of 906 miles. Marcy traced its course in Oklahoma Territory and in Texas and some of New Mexico Territory and ended his exploration at Santa Fe [thus establishing the Marcy Trail from Fort Smith to Santa Fe] where he resupplied and then lit out across the Llano Estacado on its western border following the Pecos River southward to the edge of the Edwards Plateau at Castle Gap on the historic San Antonio-El Paso Road or Southern Emigrant Trail between the present towns of Crane and McCamey, and then locating the sandhills near Monahans and a large spring at Big Spring before turning north at the easterly escarpment of the Llano Estacado, thus circumnavigating the Llano Estacado and returning to Fort Smith. http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fma43

The Canadian River was known before 1849 due to an expedition by US Army Lieutenants James William Abert and William G. Peck in 1845, and before that by an expedition by Major Stephen Long in 1820 barely making it back to Fort Smith. Long’s harrowing return, including eating the meat of their horses, and report are the source of maps referring to the Llano Estacado and beyond on the high plains as “The Great American Desert”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephen_Harriman_Long

John Miller Morris, El Llano Estacado: Exploration and Imagination on the High Plains of Texas and New Mexico, 1536-1860 (Texas State Historical Association 1997) Lubbock Public Library 976.48 M876L Texas Tech Library F392.L63 M67

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Saturday October 4, 2014 is a trek to the site of the First Battle of Adobe Walls that occurred on November 25, 1864 about 150 years ago. Buses leave Amarillo Civic Center at 11:00 am or the Phillips Building in Borger at 1:00 pm for the site where Kit Carson’s grandson and Kiowa and Comanche will speak. $50 buys a seat on the bus and reservations are requested by August 15 to Amy Mitchell at Panhandle Plains Historical Museum phone 806-651-2242. More information e-mail Lynn Hopkins at Hutchinson County Museum lynnhopkins@hutchinsoncnty.com

General Carleton commanded a garrison of US Army New Mexico Department and was hateful to Indians, having ordered Colonel Kit Carson in the Spring of 1864 to take the Navajo on The Long Walk from their homelands to a newly founded Bosque Redondo reservation at newly opened Fort Sumner.

During the Civil War the Kiowa, Plains Apache, and Comanche repeatedly attacked travelers on the Santa Fe Trail and settlements of Anglo-Americans, so General Carleton sent Colonel Kit Carson commanding the New Mexico Volunteers to strike a blow at the Indians and show them that the United States would protect its transportation assets and settlements even while fighting the Civil War. Carson left Fort Bascom on the Canadian River near Logan New Mexico [1863 post abandoned 1870] http://www.cr.nps.gov/history/online_books/soldier/sitec11.htm with 260 cavalry, 75 infantry, 72 Ute and Jicarilla Apache scouts, two howitzers and 27 wagons and proceeded down the Canadian River intending to camp at Adobe Walls in Texas, then the ruins of William Bent’s abandoned adobe trading post and saloon on the northern side of the Canadian River 17 miles northeast of present day Stinnett Texas. Carson had, twenty years earlier, been active at the trading post when it was a going concern, so he knew its location.

Four miles from Adobe Walls Carson’s scouts reported a Kiowa village encampment so Carson attacked it and fell back to Adobe Walls to regroup. To his surprise there were at least four other villages of Kiowa Apache and Comanche nearby so in a matter of hours Carson was besieged by 1,200 – 1,400 attacking warriors. After the initial attack even more Indians, said to be about 3,000, were attacking by afternoon. Carson retreated into the first abandoned Kiowa village and burned it including the elderly in their tipis. He then retreated farther to where his supply train wagons were located, and on November 26 he led the troops back to New Mexico.

The current historical marker says “though Carson made a brilliant defense, the Indians won”. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/First_Battle_of_Adobe_Walls Eight years later the Battle of the North Fork of the Red River at McClellan Creek in Gray County September 28, 1872 would go against the Comanche and in favor of Colonel Ranald Mackenzie. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_the_North_Fork_of_the_Red_River Ten years later on June 27, 1874 in the Second Battle of Adobe Walls 28 buffalo hunters would be encamped at Adobe Walls and 250 or more Comanche attacked, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Second_Battle_of_Adobe_Walls setting off the declared Red River Indian War of 1874-1875 and the removal of the Comanche to Oklahoma Indian Territory. General Sherman approved Colonel Mackenzie’s strategy to attack Comanche resources and make their survival off reservation untenable. Mackenzie attacked the horse herds at Tule Canyon and Palo Duro Canyon and destroyed resources forcing the Comanche evacuation to Indian Territory.

Here’s a map of Comancheria https://www.flickr.com/photos/lakota_sioux_and_comanche_indians/11282928623/sizes/o/in/photostream/

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Here’s a look at Fort McKavett Texas overlooking the headwaters of the San Saba River west the present town of Menard http://www.visitfortmckavett.com/index.aspx?page=529 The fort served from 1852-1859 and again from 1868-1883 and for the last thirty years has been Fort McKavett State Historic Site where Buffalo Soldier re-enactors tell history stories. The San Saba flows east through Menard and the town of San Saba before emptying into the Colorado River.

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July 24, 2014

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