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Old Fort Supply - Woodward County

Oklahomans Neglect Historic Fort Supply

[from the Wichita Beacon Sunday Magazine - 3 August 1924]

Wooden Leg Used To Stir Soup

D. W. Kygar, 122 South Grove, who formerly lived in Day County, Oklahoma, has brought in a new story of Amos Chapman, one of the veterans of Fort Supply, who is now living at Seiling, Okla. Chapman's right leg from the knee down is artificial, he having lost his good leg at the Buffalo Wallow fight.

Twenty years ago Chapman attended a big Indian Powwow which was attended by many Cheyenne Indians, young men, who did not know the intrepid Amos. As Chapman approached their camp where they were making dog soup in a great kettle, none of the Indians appeared to want him around. They cared nothing for white folks. Chapman to impress them stepped alongside the kettle and thrust his right leg into the boiling soup, stirring it vigorously. His trouser leg covered the artificial limb and the Indians did not know they were dealing with a man whose leg had no sensation of pain. After he had given the soup a good stir Chapman withdrew the leg, wiped off the soup and sat down in the circle with the bravest warriors.

"Big medicine," grunted the Cheyennes, "no burn leg."

-- written by Bliss Isely

In a log house at Fort Supply odorous of men who curry mules, sat Jim Quinlan, teamster for the United States army. Before him was a large rough table and across the table were other teamsters, soldiers, Indians, and freighters. The kerosene lantern lit up the eager features of all; only Jim Quinlan's features showed no eagerness or expectancy. Quinlan was always cool. He pulled down $35.00 a month and government rations teaming for the government. It was not much money but he saved it until he had enough to operate a Mexican monte bank.

And that is why Jim Quinlan was sitting in the old log house at Fort Supply and facing the teamsters who smelled as tho they had been curring mules.

Jim Quinlan ran a square game, according to William C. Peacock, scout and plainsman, who knew the keeper of the bank at Old Fort Supply. He was not a gambler in the sense of the word that he took chances at his own game. He let the others take the chances. All he did was to collect his percentages. Peacock's testimony that the game was run by Quinlan was always on the square is backed up by Amos Chapman of Seiling, Okla., who spent many long evenings watching the monte game and sometimes engaging in it himself. It was a wonderfully popular game. Patrons came for miles as Supply was in those days the capitol not only of Northwest Indian Territory but of the Panhandle country as well. So well did Quinlan do with his game that in a few years he cleaned up $60,000, it is said.

Once he took a leave of absence to make a trip back east where he bought a fine farm for his father and mother, bought bonds for them and fixed them for life. Then he returned to Supply. Jim Quinlan had tuberculosis.

Monte Table Is Gone

He had gone out on the Plains to live or die. He lived a number of years, teaming and running the monte bank and then he died. The old log teamster's house where he ran the bank is still standing, but it has been boarded over. A few years ago somebody wanted the heavy old table where he dealt monte and it is gone. Present day people could see no romance, could see nothing of the historical value in an old table across which Jim Quinlan took $60,000 in Mexican monte percentages, so as to provide for his old father and mother before tuberculosis got him.

Finally it did get him. Quinlan had to lot of money in his teamster's bunk when he died. They took him to the Old Supply cemetery up on the hill, buried him in a fine coffin and put up a beautiful granite monument with his money.. The stone is still standing. On it is carved: "James Quinlan, age 32 years, died July 12, 1877."

The monument is surrounded with weeds. No one could see any romance in the monument and few who visit the neglected cemetery on the hill know anything about any of the old characters who lived in Oklahoma before there was any Oklahoma.

The writer visited the remains of Fort Supply in company with Peacock and Glenn douglas, trail marker for F. Woody Hockaday. Aside from the teamster's cabin and the neglected weed grown cemetery there remains but two remnants of the day when General custer used Supply is a base of the sundial, the other is the "Powder monkey's house."

In the cemetery is one reminder of the tragic days when Custer fought a desperate battle on the Washita. It is the grave of an Indian beauty. A beautiful marble stone marks her resting place. On the stone are the words: "Toch-e-me-ah, wife of Ben Clarke, died October 5, 1875. Age 22 years."

A casual visitor can get no meaning from such an inscription on the tombstone. But the story of Toch-e-me-ah is one of the tragedies of Custer's fight on the Washita when he narrowly escaped the fate which befell him later on the litte big Horn.

Ben Clarke was one of Custer's scouts and there was none braver than he. General Sheridan had determined on a winter campaign against the Indians. Custer had been sent out in November during a driving snow stotrm to attack the Indians wherever he found them. Arriving at the Cheyenne village on the Washita near the present town of Cheyenne, Okla., Custer launched a daybreak attack while the band played "Garry Owen." In this firght Black Kettle and the flower of his band of warriors were killed. Years later when Oklahoma was settled bones of those who fell that day were plowed up by settlers.

Toch-E-Me-Ah Captured

Fifty women and children were captured and taken back to Fort Supply in the retreat which Custer staged that night to excape the wrath of the gathering Cheyennes, Kiowas, comanches, and Arapahoes, who would have surrounded him and annihilated his party but for the timely retreat.

Among the captives was a 16 year-old girl, Toch-e-me-ah. clarke made her his wife. For six years they lived at Fort Supply where she became well acquainted with the white people of the place and was well liked by the white women. The Clarkes had one child, a girl.

In 1874 a bank of Cheyennes was encamped a few miles below Fort Supply and she went there to visit. While in a teepe with her people a drunken Arapahoe rode thru the cdamp firing his pisto. One bullet lodging in her lung. She recovered from the wound in part, but from that time she took cold easily. In 1875 she died of pneumonia. Her brothers, however, took vengeance. They followed the Arapahoe up and killed him. Ben Clarke bought her a fine monument and it still stands on the hill top surrounded with weeds.

Ben Clarke's daughter went to school at Haskell weher she was educated. She married the mayor of Lawrence when she was 19 years old, according to a story which is told. She died within the year.

Another grave in the weeds on the hill top is that of one of Oklahoma's greatest old time citizens, Dick Curtis, said to be an uncle of Senator Charles Curtis.

The claims that Dick Curtis was the uncle of the Senator Curtis is made by the sons and grandsons of the old plainsman, who are now living in Oklahoma. The story they have is from the Sioux wife of Dick Curtis. Once Dick Curtis took her and the children back to the old home in New York. When they returned they stopped and visited amongst the Kaws, according to the story of Mother Curtis. Charles Curtis is the grandson of a Kaw. And on that fact the descendants of Dick Curtis base their claim that they are relatives of Charles Curtis, United States senator from Kansas.

The children of Dick Curtis married among the Cheyennes.

Dick Curtis was interpreter for the government at Supply. He also was a trader, having been associated at times with Colonel Bent and St. Vrain. He died at Supply in 1872.

Burned Pickets Left

When the Wichita party visited the remains of Fort Supply Peacock was interested in visiting the grave of Dick Curtis. Peacock had been there in 1878 when Mrs. Curtis had a picket fence built around the grave of her husband. However, she had not put up a stone marker and once when the weeds on the graveyard caught fire the picket fence was burned., Because he knew the lcoation of the grave on the brow of the hill Peacock was able to find it. A few burned pickets verified the location of the grave.

Some day, perhaps, the state of Oklahoma will become appreciative of Dick Curtis and will want to make the grave in a fitting way, but by that time even the burned remnants of pickets may be gone.

After the establishment of Camp Supply in 1868, the army dtermined to maintain troops there and changed the camp into Fort Supply. Cedar logs were brought in and permanent lodges were constructed.

The place was well located for defense. It was situated on Beaver Creek on the south side a short distance from the junction of the Beaver and Wolf Creek which unite to form the North Candadian. It is only a little more than half hour's drive to Supply by automobile from Woodward. The fort remained until the opening of Oklahoma. For ten years after that it remained in care of a caretaker. In 1905 it was given to the State of Oklahoma for an insane asylum.

Many beautifull new buildings have been erected. The commanding officer's house is now the house of the superintendent. This house of course is not the log house which was occupied in the days of Custer but was built later. Visitors are told that the superintendent's house is the one where Custer lived before and after going on his campaign to the Wshita. Peacock denies this. So does Mrs. Lizzie Mason of the town of Supply which is a mile west of Fort Supply.

Mrs. Mason is a sister of Mrs. W. D. Curtis, 223 North Washington, Wichita. Mrs. Curtis married a soldier and later came to Wichita but Mrs. Mason has maintained her residence at Fort Supply and at Supply, Okla., ever since her parents took her there more than fifty years ago when she was but a girl. She has watched the graveyard fall into decay, has seen the destruction of buildings, but has been unable to arouse any interest in keeping the historic spot from ruin.

At the junction of the rivers was the ancient "burying' ground of the Cheyennes. In "Burying" their dead the Indians put them on scaffolding in trees. The body was first sewed up tightly in rawhide. This custom has been abandoned, but for many years the remains of bodies dried in rawhides were in trees near Fort Supply. Finally the weathering process destroyed the rawhide and the bones fell to the ground. Later curiosity seekers gathered up the bones.

The curiosity seeker has carried away much of Fort Supply. Even the dial by which time was told by the sun has been stolen. It was carried away between the time Supply ceased to be a fort and when it became an asylum, according to E. L. Bagby, Superintendent of the asylum. The stone block on which the dial stood is still there.

In a few years the most famous landmark of all Oklahoma will be nothing. The house built of cedar logs, known as the powder monkey's house, because it was the residence of Sergeant William Scully, ordance Sergeant, who fired the salutes, will soon give way to the new order, as will also the old teamster's log house unless the people of northwestern Oklahoma or the Oklahoma historical society awake to the importance of keeping these remnants of the old order.

As for the cemetery, the government removed its dead soldiers when it abandoned the fort, but the civilian dead, the famous old Indian Scouts, such as Bad Face of the Cheyennes, their bodies still lie in the neglected graveyard.

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