I like to re-read this from time to time and it has been a while since I’ve posted it. I find the descriptions and the “attitude” recorded by Mr. Mcleod fascinating. And as a way of putting it in context I have followed it with a few of the locals from January 1879.
From “Good Words” by Norman Mcleod, 1878
“Sketches on the Prairie”, the travels of Albert Hastings Markham, Captain, R. N. (British explorer, author, and officer in the Royal Navy)
Sir Markham journeyed from St. Louis to Ft. Sill with a “letter of introduction to General Mackenzie”. I could not find a mention of the date he was in Caddo, but in his biography it says that he traveled through the prairies from November 1876 to March 1878. His writings also contain extensive descriptions of the land and animals and other communities.
“Caddo Station was reached at half-past three in the afternoon, and here I alighted with my luggage. From this place to Fort Sill, my destination, I had to travel by stage a distance of one hundred and sixty-three miles. It was rather annoying to find, on making inquiries, that the stage would not leave for forty-eight hours, and that I should therefore be compelled to spend that period in Caddo. It was not a delightful prospect to look forward to, but there was no alternative; so, putting the best face on the matter, I walked into a small wooden establishment situated near the station, on the front of which was painted in very large letters "Railway Hotel," and engaged a room, the only one I think in the house, whose sole furniture was a bed and a wash-hand stand; but so much space did the former occupy, and so little room was there to move, that the chamber might very truly be said to be a great deal over-furnished.
Caddo consists of about eighteen or twenty small houses and stores, and owes its existence, like many other places in this part of the world, entirely to the railroad. It contains a population of about two hundred, the majority of which are coloured. Although such a small place, it actually rejoices in the possession of three hotels! These are more for the convenience of Indians residing in the neighbourhood, with whom the greater part of the trade of the place is transacted, than for white men; indeed, with the exception of those men in government employ, the railroad officials, and those few who are allowed to keep stores—and these men have to rent their land from the Indians—no white men are allowed to settle or even to live in the territory, which is strictly reserved for the Indians. People here own no politics, nor do they possess any vote or interest in the country whatever. The only way by which a white man can reside in this region is by marrying a squaw, which according to their law transforms him into an Indian, and he can then own land in common with his tribe. As may be imagined, the majority of men residing in this part of the country—I of course allude to white men—are those whose social positions were not very exalted, being principally men who have either fled from justice, or those who were unable to get a living elsewhere.
The Indians who are settled in this vicinity are in a semi-civilized state. They live in frame-houses or log-huts, possess farms, cultivate the land, and dress in what is in this part of the world called "citizen’s” clothes! It is long since they even dreamed of going on a war-path, or of scalping an enemy! I am now alluding to the tribes through whose country the railway penetrates—these are the Creeks, Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, and Seminoles. These are united under one agent, and are known as the "Union Agency," or "the Tribes of Five Nations," and number collectively a little over twenty-seven thousand. All tribes are, as a rule, represented by an agent, who receives his appointment from the United States Government. This is not unfrequently a much-abused office, the man appointed to fill it being often both mercenary and unprincipled, thinking more of feathering his own nest than of caring for the interests of the red man. The days of the much-persecuted Indians are, alas numbered. Driven far from the happy hunting-grounds of their fathers by the advent of white men, almost deprived of the means of existence from the scarcity of game, they have acquired all the vices and debaucheries of the so-called civilised people with whom they have come into contact, acquiring few of the virtues of civilisation, whilst the many noble qualities that adorn the character of the savage are sunk and forgotten in their attempts to imitate their white conquerors. It can only be a work of time—and that time I fear is at no distant date—when the red man, with the buffalo and other animals that used to range the boundless prairies in numbers innumerable, will become as extinct as the dodo, the moa, and the great auk.
At present the Indians look down upon and despise all white men (not soldiers) and negroes, considering themselves vastly superior to both races. This is not to be wondered at in the case of the former, for the specimens that are met are of a very rough and poor description, whilst with regard to the latter it must be remembered that it is not many years since they were owned by the Indians as slaves! Spirits and strong liquors of all descriptions are contraband in the Indian Territory, and rigorous measures are taken to carry out the prohibition; but, in spite of the law, tit is not impossible to obtain liquor at the settlements situated in the vicinity of the railway; at those places, however, that are under the immediate control and supervision of the military authorities, the execution of' the law is strictly enforced.
There appear to be few missionaries, if any, distributed amongst the Indians. This omission surely seems very remiss on the part of the United States Government, who, in other things, are excessively liberal to their wild and untutored children of the West.
A small Congregational church was in course of construction at Caddo, but I was unable to learn whether any minister had been assigned to it. The funds towards its completion having been expended before the necessary fittings of the interior had been finished, an amateur theatrical entertainment was announced to take place in a few days for the purpose of raising a sufficient sum of money to defray the expenses, and I was solicited to prolong my visit in Caddo in order to attend. On inquiring where this dramatic entertainment was to be held, I was answered, "Oh, in the church, of course; we could not have a better place; the admission will only be 25 cents, and then there will be a supper after, also in the church, for
which each person will have to pay another 25 cents; and as everybody will go, we hope to get quite a sum!"
From my experience in various parts of other Western States, I find that it is by no means unusual for lecturers, dramatic companies, concert singers, and others, to borrow, and even to hire, the use of the houses of worship in order to give their entertainments. So commonly and frequently are these churches, principally those of the Methodist and Baptist persuasions, used for secular purposes, that out of curiosity I asked if "balls and dances were ever given in them?" but at this the line appears to be drawn, for I was answered in the negative in rather an indignant manner.
The forty-eight hours that I was doomed to spend in Caddo having at length expired, I found myself, at half-past four o'clock on a fine but sultry afternoon, seated in the stage and starting for Fort Sill. The vehicle in which I was established as the sole occupant was simply a rickety, tumble-down military ambulance that had long seen its best day, and was now working out its latter ones in the transportation of mails between Caddo and Fort Sill. It had a slight duck covering stretched over a wooden framework on the top, but was open in front and at the two sides. It was dragged by a couple of horses, driven by a "citizen" who sat immediately in my front. Provided nothing else was placed inside, the conveyance was capable of carrying four passengers, but with three heavy leathern mail bags, each as bulky as, and equal in weight to, a full-grown man, with other miscellaneous packages besides my own luggage, I found I had but little room wherein to stretch my legs. The crickets and grasshoppers chirped noisily as we proceeded, and as the darkness increased numberless fireflies hovered round our carriage lamps, looking like bright sparks emanating from the flame. In consequence of the recent fall of rain the roads were rendered so heavy as to make our progress slow. During the first two or three hours our route led over a level prairie, after which, as night settled upon us, we journeyed through dense thickets of timber composed of cotton-wood, oak, elm, hackberry, and willow.
Caddo Free Press
Friday, January 24, 1879
Rev. R. J. Hogue preached in Caddo last Wednesday evening.
There will be preaching in the Congregational Church next Sunday morning and evening.
R. S. Weil has fitted up his new beer hall and gentlemen will find it a pleasant place to visit.
Why don’t somebody get killed or do something to give us an item? It’s getting awful dull for ye local.
Early Harris has arrived with Cye Beard’s train from Wichita, Kansas, and will load for Fort Sill.
The rate at which people are at present marrying and dying in this Nation was not equaled even before the war.
Another large lot of hay has been received this week for Ft. Sill. This makes one hundred tons shipped to replace that burned last fall.
Deputy Marshal Smith put in an appearance Monday. Boys, give us a rest. You are getting too thick. A fellow can’t even get a drink any more.
The Department have shipped several gun carriages and limbers to Fort Sill, to mount the guns at that Fort, preparing them for field service.
J. H. Mershon, deputy U. S. Marshal, came in Monday and relieved Deputy Marshal Clay of two prisoners he had secured –one for larceny, the other for introducing whisky.
Owing to the bad condition of the roads, Col. Hough, who carries the eastern mail, had to abandon the use of a vehicle last Wednesday and bring the mail in on a horse. He arrived on time.
Gen. Bacon Montgomery and party have returned from their trip to the Eastern part of the Choctaw Nation. “Bake” has kept the object of this trip a profound secret. We surmise the rich silver mines of that part of the Nation has been the object, and shall look for machinery and a force of workmen to follow his return North.
Col. W. R. Gibson, Pay Master U. S. A., and W. A. Taylor, son of Maj. Taylor, arrived in town from Fort Sill, Thursday morning and took the train North for Leavenworth. Col. Gibson reports everything quiet at Sill. The Indians who are out on a hunt in charge of two companies of the 4th Cavalry are quiet and peaceful attending to their business, committing no depredations at all and will soon return to that Post.
We have received the January number of the Domestic Monthly, a journal of fashion, published by Blake & Co. , 849 Broadway, New York, at $1.50 per year. This is a very choice magazine, filled with the latest fashion plates, choice literary matter, and withal, well worth the subscription price.
A very difficult operation in surgery- the amputation of a toe- was performed in Caddo Wednesday by Drs. Thompson and McCoy. The toe was the”property” of a young man and had become so badly crushed by a barrel of water falling on it that amputation was necessary.
Our streets are in a much better condition just now than for several weeks past. Our country friends can now enter Caddo with some assurance that they can “get out” again.