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GARVIN COUNTY INDIAN PIONEER PAPERS

 

OKGenWeb Indian Pioneer Papers Collection

 

Garvin County Indian Pioneer Papers

 

 

J.R. Massagee

 

Interview # 9763
Field Worker: Maurice R. Anderson
Date: January 17, 1938
Name: Mr. J.R. Massagee
Residence: Pauls Valley, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: June 3, 1850
Place of Birth: Tennessee
Father: Richard Massagee
Mother: Mary Brassfield, born in Missouri

 

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I was born in Tennessee, June 3, 1850, and my first remembrance of events was in Texas. I was living with my grandfather Massegee. My father died in Texas when I was only a year old, according to my grandfather, and my mother died in the same state when I was only five. I received very little schooling, in the early days in Texas there were very few schools.

My grandfather lived on a farm in Texas. Before going to Texas he had lived in the state of Arkansas where he owned a small farm. My grandmother having passed away at an early date, this left only grandfather and me, so in 1860 we loaded what belongings we owned into a wagon and, working the only team grandfather owned, a large pair of horses, we left for Arkansas. We passed through the Choctaw Nation and were several weeks making the trip. While crossing the Indian Territory we came upon several small settlements of Indians but the best I can remember we didn’t see but a very few white men. There were at that time plenty of deer, turkeys and wild animals. At night the panthers would come right up close to our camp and scream. We would keep the horses staked near the wagon. If we killed a deer any time during the day while we were traveling, we would have it with us until we made camp, then after taking what meat we wanted off of it for supper and breakfast we would drag it about two hundred yards from where we made camp and leave it. In doing this if some wild animal did come near our camp it would not attack our horses as long as it could find a freshly killed deer. We had no trouble with the Indians while crossing the Indian Territory. There were no roads or bridges in the early days. Sometimes we came to small creeks that would be nearly out of their banks and often we would have to wait a day or so until the water would go down so we could cross. There were no wire fences, in some places we came to a small piece of land that would have a log fence around it; this would belong to some Indian for that was the way they farmed then. They would have three or four acres of corn. These patches of corn were called Tom Fuller patches. There must have been very few white men living in that part of the Indian Territory at that time, as I do not remember seeing a white family.

When we reached Arkansas we settled on my grandfather’s place and farmed until 1867, at which time my grandfather passed away. By the time everything was paid off, I had one yoke of oxen and a two-wheeled cart to haul what few things I owned. So in the early spring of 1868 I left for Texas, working the yoke of oxen to my two-wheeled cart. I went back over the same route that Grandfather and I had come over in 1860; I was only eighteen years old and all alone going on this trip. I didn’t ride but had to walk, as the cart was a homemade one and at times it didn’t look like it was going to carry what few things I had piled on it, but in early June, 1868, I drove my yoke of oxen into Jacksboro, Texas, and found that the Government was building Fort Richardson, about a mile from Jacksboro, and the Sixth U.S. Calvary was stationed there.

Everything then was hauled by wagon train, so I went to work for the Government, hauling lumber to finish building the fort. While I was working on this wagon train hauling lumber there was another wagon train hauling corn to Fort Griffith and this wagon train hauling corn consisted of eleven wagons, one man to each wagon. The boss over the wagon train was named Warren. One morning in the fall of 1868 this wagon train left Fort Richardson, commanded by Warren, and it was loaded with sacks of shelled corn on its way to Fort Griffith. Before the wagon train pulled out it was short one driver and Mr. Warren asked me if I wanted to make the trip. How I got out of making this trip I don’t recall, but another man was hired to make the trip and, after seeing what had happened, I was glad I did not go. This wagon train had made one day’s drive and camped and early the next morning before it pulled out for another day’s drive they were attacked by the Comanche Indians and only five escaped alive and three of the five were wounded. The boss of the train was killed and one of the men was wounded so badly that he could not get away. The Indians tied his feet to one wagon and his hands to another wagon and while he was swinging this way they built a fire under him and burned him in two; after this the Indians took the sacked corn out of the wagons and must have laid the sacks in front of them on their ponies and cut a hole in the sacks and rode in a large circle, and the corn was scattered all over the prairie around where this massacre took place. There were over four hundred Indians in that raid; it was later learned that Chief Big Tree was one of the Chiefs on this raid and according to what he told at his trial, the white man that was burned after being wounded to where he could not get away, had lain on the ground and, with his two-six shooters, had killed several of the Indians and that was why they had burned him, according to Chief Big Tree’s story. The men who had escaped met a woodhauler and were brought to Fort Richardson and put in the army hospital. At that time General W. T. Sherman was on a tour of the west looking over army forts and happened to be in Fort Richardson at the time. He was notified of the massacre; everybody was in an uproar over what they had heard. General Sherman ordered out fifty soldiers and headed for Fort Sill and by hard riding this company of soldiers, commanded by General Sherman, arrived at Fort Sill the next day and General Sherman stationed an interpreter near headquarters at Fort Sill to see what could be learned. It was a custom of the chiefs of the Comanches, Kiowas and other Western Indians to gather at this place and tell about different raids they had made. The interpreter didn’t have long to wait, as General Sherman arrived ahead of the Indians in Fort Sill. The interpreter heard Big Tree, Chief Satank and others telling about the raid. General Sherman had his soldiers ready for any trouble so when the interpreter reported what he had head, General Sherman ordered the soldiers to round up the Indians. When the Indians saw the soldiers coming the fight started; in this fight several were killed, soldiers and Indians, but Chief Big Tree, Satank and a chief of the Kiowas were arrested, handcuffed and loaded in a wagon and brought to Jacksboro for trial, as court at that time was held at Jacksboro. One of the chiefs was killed before the soldiers had gone but a few miles; this Indiana Chief had a knife on him that the soldiers had overlooked. He cut his hands down so that he could slide the handcuffs over his hand and made a run at one of the soldiers and before he could reach the soldier he was shot down and left there. Chief Big Tree and Satank were brought on to Jacksboro for trial. I was deputized as one of the guards to watch these two Indians while their trial lasted. Court was held two days and when they were found guilty, Chief Satank only sat and grunted but Big Tree made quite a fuss about it; the Judge sentenced them to hang within thirty days. When the interpreter told them what the Judge had said, Satank only grunted but Big Tree said, that an Indian wouldn’t do a dog that way, hang it by its neck and let it choke to death, he wanted to be shot and within three days. That night about two hundred citizens got up a petition asking the governor to commute the death sentence to life imprisonment, saying it would be for the best for as long as the two chiefs were in prison maybe their people wouldn’t do anymore killing, they would be waiting for their chiefs to return to them; but if they learned that their chiefs were dead a new chief would be elected and new raids and killings would begin over again. So the governor of Texas reduced their sentence to life in prison but in a short time Texas made a treaty with the Indians that if they would stay out of Texas they would send their chiefs back to them. The treaty was agreed on and Big Tree and Satank were returned to their tribe.

Texas organized a state troop in 1873 to patrol the frontier; I joined the troops and served until February 1874. In 1874 I remember two white women were killed by a band of Indians and the company I belonged to rode all one day and one night without unsaddling their horses trying to overtake the Indians but they crossed Red River into the Indian Territory just ahead of us, as we were state troops and could not cross the river. In this way many an outlaw made his escape by crossing Red River into the Indian Territory. Then it was up to the U.S. Marshall to get him.

I was married in 1876; my wife is still living. We now live with our daughter in Pauls Valley. 

 

Submitted by: Alta Massegee TheDeweys@cottoninternet.net

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