The First Eight Months of Oklahoma City.



The most faithful friend Oklahoma ever had is Captain W. L. Couch. He was born in Wilkes county, North Carolina, November 20th, 1850. After the war, in 1866, he moved with his father's family to Jonhson county, Kansas, where he received a common school education. When he was twenty years of age he settled on the Osage ceded lands near Douglas, Kansas. The following year, (1871) he was married in Johnson county and commenced his battle with life on a farm near Douglas, where he remained for six years. In the fall of 1876 he went to Wichita, Kansas, and engaged in the live stock business and very soon established the fact that his judgment and ability in this line was beyond the average. He was very successful and after a time started a large grocery and hardware house.

He turned his attention to real estate and in this also was he successful. He rapidly accumulated property and at one

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time was the owner of several of the best business lots in Wichita and fourteen hundred acres of good farming lands in Sedgwick, Sumner and Butler counties.

He was one of Captain Payne's warmest friends and assisted him greatly in a financial way in the organization of his celebrated Oklahoma colony in the winter of 79-80 By trusting too much to his numerous employees and agents, and by the endorsement of votes for friends, Captain Couch in 1881, became financially depressed and disposed of all of his vast business interests so that he could, like an honest man, meet all his obligations. In 1882 he moved again on a farm near Douglas, Kansas, and devoted his time to farming and handling Texas horses. In 1883 Captain Payne reorganized his colony and was ably assisted by Captain Couch in a great many ways. The colony invaded the Oklahoma country in February of '83, six hundred strong, and located on the North Canadian river about fourteen miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Payne was president of this colony and Captain Couch had entire charge of the wagon train, consisting of one hundred and nineteen teams. Capt. Carroll of the Ninth U. S. cavalry arrested the colony, escorted them to the Kansas line and told them to return no more. In August of '83, the colony was called together again at Arkansas City, Kansas, and reorganized. Payne was elected president and Captain Couch vice president. These positions they occupied until the death of Payne in '84, when Captain Couch was elected president. From the date of the election in August of '83, Captain Couch, at Payne's request, was placed in immediate command of every organized invasion or attempted settlement of Oklahoma. He directed the movement of the forces or settlers, and kept Payne fully informed, who agitated the matter in the newspapers of the adjacent states. These men believed that they might establish the right to settle in Oklahoma without legislation and if not, the general agitation would force congress to a consideration of the question.

Captain Couch devoted many weary years in the labor of leading colonists into the new country. In August, '83, he led two hundred people across the border into Oklahoma. They were all arrested by the military, escorted to the Kansas line and liberated. The next movement was that of the invasion of the country by about thirty men on horseback under the leadership of Couch. They successfully evaded the troops for thirty days, but were at last arrested, confined in the guard house at Fort Reno for a time and finally sent to Texas, where they were 

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released from arrest. In April '84, six hundred settlers were brought into the country and located before the military knew it or at least before it interfered. Sixty-five of the leaders were arrested and ejected and the remainder of the colonists voluntarily departed a short time after. In May of the same year Captain Couch boldly marched across the line at the head of a company of more than two hundred. They located along the Cimarron river about six miles below the present city of Guthrie. This company, like the others, was arrested, taken to Fort Reno, imprisoned for a few days, taken to the Kansas line and all released except Captain Couch and four others who were turned over [to] the United States marshal, held for trial and were acquitted. While the trial was pending in the United States court, Captain Payne, with a large number of settlers, located on the Cherokee Strip, were arrested, taken to Fort Smith, Arkansas, and released on bond. In November '84, a large company of boomers were at Arkansas City, preparing to again enter Oklahoma, when the death of Captain Payne occurred. A few days after his funeral Captain Couch with two hundred colonists marched to the promised land and laid out the town of Stillwater on exactly the same ground now occupied by the thriving village of that name. What transpired there caused congress for the first time to seriously consider the question of opening Oklahoma to settlement. As usual, the company of colonists under Captain Couch was attacked by the military under Lieutenant Day, Ninth United States cavalry, on December 24th, '84. The colonists refused to be arrested, Captain Couch claiming that he had been tried for the offense of invading Oklahoma and acquitted by the United States court. The result was a call to arms on both sides and it appears for a while that bloodshed could not be avoided. The military being largely out-numbered, retreated and sent for reinforcements. The colonists held out for over thirty days, or, until General Hatch, with eight companies of regulars, was sent out against them. Captain Couch still refused to surrender. Hatch cut off the colonists' supplies and they were forced by starvation to abandon their position, and left in an orderly body for Arkansas City. Five of the leaders, including Captain Couch, were arrested by a deputy United States marshal in Kansas and again the case was dismissed by the courts.

The Stillwater difficulty caused so much excitement that congress, then in session, passed the act, just before adjournment, authorizing the president to enter into

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negotiations with the Creek, Seminole and Cherokee Indians for their interest in the Oklahoma and Cherokee Strip lands. In March 1885, Captain Couch, believing that President Cleveland would immediately negotiate with the Indians and open the country to settlement, organized a colony of thirteen hundred people at Arkansas City who waited for the word from the President that would give them the right to occupy Oklahoma. After waiting for some time Captain Couch went to Washington and had an interview with the president and the secretary of the interior regarding the matter. He received no encouragement from them relative to the immediate opening of the country and at once returned and reported the facts to the waiting colony at Arkansas City. He was led to believe that the proper measures would be taken toward the opening of the country within two or three months, but time proved that it was more than that many years before anything definite was done. He became convinced that the colonists could never succeed without additional legislation and accordingly he secured the services of Hon. Sidney Clarke, an old friend to the colonists, and together they drafted and placed in the hands of General Weaver and Senator VanWyck for introduction, copies of the original Oklahoma bill to organize the territory of Oklahoma. For four years Captain Couch devoted his entire time and energies to securing the enactment of some law that would open Oklahoma to settlement. Triumph finally came, but it was long deferred, for it was only in the closing hours of the Fiftieth congress that the required legislation was secured.

Captain Couch is an upright, fearless man; quiet, undemonstrative and firm as a rock. He had much to contend with when mayor of Oklahoma City yet he discharged what he thought to be his duty regardless of the fear or favor of any man or any set of men. His firm-ness in the administration of the affairs of the city is a part of the foundation upon which the city now rests in point of popular favor and commercial prestige. Oklahoma owes to Captain Couch a debt that can never be paid. This generation will, in all probability, never attempt its payment, but in the years to come, when the valorous deeds and unrequited toil of the brave few who so incessantly and for so many years faced the summer's heat and the winter's storm for the opening of Oklahoma to settlement are known, the name of Captain W. L. Couch will stand out bright and shining, revered by the children of the Beautiful Land for the prosperity of which he fought so long and well.

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                              MAYOR'S OFFICE}
OKLAHOMA CITY, I. T., NOV. 11, 1889}


DEAR SIR: -- I herewith tender my resignation as mayor of Oklahoma City for the reason that my interests and rights as a homesteader have necessitated my removal from the city. I request that you lay the same before the council at the earliest practicable moment.

I desire to tender to the council and the city officers my earnest thanks for the uniform courtesy and able assistance accorded me. To the friends who entrusted me with the duties of the position I can only attempt an expression of the gratitude I feel. I have endeavored at all times to discharge my duty and if in anything I have failed it has been an error of judgment.

Very respectfully,
Your obedient servant,

Hon. Sidney Clarke, president of the city council, in the following proclamation called for an election:


WHEREAS, A vacancy exists in the office of mayor of Oklahoma City, Indian Territory, by the removal from said city of W. L. Couch and

WHEREAS, Section 18 of the charter of said city provides that when any vacancy shall happen in the office of mayor the president of the council for the time being shall exercise the office of mayor until such vacancy be filled, and

WHEREAS, It is further provided in said election that the person exercising the office of mayor shall cause a new election to be held giving ten day's notice thereof by proclamation.

Now, therefore, I, Sidney Clarke, president of the council and acting mayor of Oklahoma City, do hereby proclaim and made known that a special election will be held on Wednesday, the 27th day of November,

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1889, for the purpose of electing a mayor to fill the unexpired term of W. L. Couch. The polls will be open at 9 o'clock a. m. and closed at 6 o'clock p.m. The place of holding the election in the first ward will be at the mayor's office on Main street and the place of holding the election in the second ward will be at the northwest corner of California Avenue and Broadway. All male citizens of the United States over the age of twenty-one years who have resided in the city for thirty days prior to said election and who comply with provisions of the ordinance providing for the registration and qualification of voters will be entitled to vote in the ward in which they may reside.

The following named persons are hereby appointed to act as judges of the election in the first ward: E. W. Stone, L. W. Benepe, J. W. Roller.

The following named persons are hereby appointed to act as clerks of the election in the first ward: H.B. Calef, G. H. Crasser.

The following named persons are hereby appointed to act as judges of election in the second ward: John Brogan, Sidney Denham, W. M. Pyles.

The following named persons are hereby appointed to act as clerks of election in the second ward: W. H. Ebey, R. S. Bowers.

Dated this 15 day of November, 1889.

SIDNEY CLARKE, Acting Mayor.
JNO. A. BLACKBURN, City Recorder

Two candidates were placed in the field for mayor, H. Overholser and Dr. A. J. Beale. After an exciting campaign the election was held and Dr. Beale was found to have been elected mayor by a majority of fourteen votes. It was a victory for the Kickapoos whose history is given elsewhere in this book -- and they celebrated the event in a display of fireworks and in great and prolonged rejoicing.

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