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Old Fort Supply - Woodward County

Stirring Days of Indian War Times Recalled

[written for Woodward newspaper, June 30, 1934.]

In her tiny white cottage of doll house proportions in the edge of the town of Supply lives one of the last women survivors of the colorful days of old camp Supply. She is Mrs. Lizzie Mason, now nearing her seventy-ninth birhday.

Mrs. Mason was a 17 year-old girl living with her mother and soldier step-father in Fort Lyon, Col. (sic), when her step-father's company was ordered to Camp Supply in 1872. When the company got ready to leave it was found a number of the soldiers were ill and could not make the trip at that time, so some of the women had to stay behind and nurse them. Mrs. Mason and her mother were two of these women.

Saw Bodies On Way

As soon as the soldiers were sufficiently recovered the party set out in ambulances escorted by a company of cavalrymen to keep off marauding Indians. The trip to Supply was made in about three days. The ambulance train encountered no Inidans, Mrs. Mason says, but they passed bodies of dead Indians on the trail, reminders of encounters with other whites.

Taking up life at the camp, Mrs. Mason assisted her mother in doing laundry for the camp hospital. For this service, Mrs. Mason said her mother received $10 a month and rations. In addition they nursed the sick soldiers.

Stockade Made of Posts

The camp, composed of log barracks in which soldiers wre quartered, and the clapboard buildings that were the commanding officer's dwelling, was surrounded by a high stockade most of posts. These posts were cut from cottonwood and cedar trees obtained along nearby streams and in the canyons.

Logs of the buildings were chinked together with native gyp and sand. The clapboard buildings were made of lumber hauled in from Kansas. Fort Dodge and Hayes City were the closest towns to the frontier camp.

Mrs. Mason sniffs and shakes a knowing head when the story of the old "Custer House" still standing at Supply, is mentioned. Custer never once lived in the house, she says. It was always occupied by the commanding officer, Custer quartering with the soldiers and other officers in the barracks when he was there. Custer was away in the Black Hills when the house was built, she declares.

She Knew Custer Family

She knew General Custer and his wife well. Also Custer's brother, Tom, who, she says, resembled the general so much that strangers could not tell them apart. Talking of Custer, Mrs. Mason recalls his fondness for dogs.

He always had a pack of hounds about. Why, whenever he and his soldiers went on a scouting trip, he loaded all his hounds into an ambulance and took them along. To chase deer, wolves and other wild animals, he said."

Questioned about the Indians, Mrs. Mason said she was never afraid while living at the camp. "I remember on Sunday morning when a bank of 700 redskins came to the camp bent on making trouble. They tore up the gardens outside the stockade and destroyed everything in sight. The commanding officer signaled the Indian chief and rode out to talk to him. Showing him two canons planted in a redoubt just back of the stockade, the officer told the chief that if he didn't get his warriors away immediately he would mow them down like weeds. Within an hour, there wasn't an Indian in sight."

Young people these days don't appreciate the good times and pleasures they have, Mrs. Mason believes. In her girlhood days there was little time for pleasures. Everybody had to work.

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