Old Fort Supply
Chapter IV - The Later Years
Chapter IV - The Later Years
It would seem that, following the chastisement given them in 1874-75 and the subsequent imprisonment of their leaders, that the Indians might settle down and endeavor to make the best of an undesirable situation. There was some feeling that it might be possible to abandon Camp Supply in the not too far distant future. Such anticipations were soon foreshadowed by the development of new difficulties and before many years Camp Supply became Fort Supply and a large reservation was set aside for its use.
Even when there were no disturbances in the immediate vicinity of the post, the troops might be called to duty in another section of the department. General Sherman, in his November report to the Secretary of War, in 1876, stated that the Fourth Cavalry from Fort Sill, Camp Supply, Fort Dodge and Fort Elliott were withdrawn to assist in suppressing the uprising in the northern plains region, in which General Cuaster and his men lost their lives at the Battle of the Little Bighorn.
One new source of friction originated as a result of the effort to place the Northern Cheyennes on the reservation with the Southern Cheyennes to the south of Camp Supply. General Pope reported the arrival of "about a thousand northern Cheyennes" in 1877. There was some dissension due to insufficient rations. Both the military and the agent endeavored to interest the Indians in sheep-raising but with little success. Cattle-raising was then introduced and the results were more satisfactory. It is interesting to note, that by the year 1877, the importance of maintaining military posts in the Kansas area was greatly diminished. General Pope stated that "The only important posts ... are ... Forts Sill, Reno, Elliott, and Camp Supply."
Many of the northern Cheyennes were displeased with their new location. The climate did not agree with them. They had been given arms, ammunition and horses in the Department of the Platte and now there was an effort to take these from them. Finally, the northern Cheyennes ran away to the north and the Cavalry at Camp Supply and Fort Reno were sent in pursuit but after several skirmishes gave up the chase. General Pope urged that the Indians must be completely disarmed and dismounted and fully fed.
There now developed another new responsibility of the military. Numerous outlaws and horse thieves had been taking refuge in the Indian Territory. These were now greatly increased in numbers and the men at Camp Supply were called upon to hunt them out. In addition to this problem, another of even greater consequence, developed in the spring of 1879. A group of white people under a man by the name of Carpenter, organzied for the purpose of occupying and settling in the territory and forces were called out to protect the Indian lands from the invasion of white settlers.
Although the need for military posts in western Kansas had very greatly diminished, their importance in the Indian Territory became greater than ever. General Pope urgently requested the establishment of a contonment on the North Canadian river between Fort Supply and Fort Reno and asked an appropriation of $50,000.00 for this purpose. In the report of the Quartermaster-General for the year 1879, $4,600.00 was authorized for shelter at this cantonment. During the year following the establishment of this cantonment, there were 192 men stationed there under Lieutenant Colonel R. I. Dodge. At the same time there were 227 men at Fort Supply.
On the12th of February, 1880, the President of the United States issued a proclamation forbidding the intrusion of whites into the Indian territory and thereafter until the opening of Oklahoma in 1889, the troops from Fort Supply were called constantly to police the northern boundary.
The dissatisfaction among the remaining northern Cheyennes and the unusual amount of sickness eventually aroused the military commanders to urge that they be allowed to return to their former home in the north and by the fall of 1883, this transfer had been completed.
The troops were called out from Fort Supply to protect the rights of the Indians on several occasions in 1882. Large herds of cattle were being driven through from Texas. Some of the owners paid a herd tax while others paid nothing. This mixed condition of affairs made it necessary to call out the military to quell the difficulties.
For some reason, the importance of the new cantonment between Fort Supply and Fort Reno was not as great as was anticipated and by 1882, the post had been abandoned and was turned over to the Indian Bureau to be used as a school.
By 1882, most of the wild game had disappeared from the reservations and trouble resulted on account of the short rations distributed by the government. More and more cattle were being driven through the Indian lands. In addition, cattlemen from Kansas and even St. Louis and Chicago, were not introducing herds to pasture, offering the Indians live beef in payment for the leases. Permission to do this had been refused by the Indian Bureau but General Pope reported that "The herds were nevertheless there, and unless the military forces are converted into herders of cattle, it is not practicable to keep them out."
General Pope also reported that the "Nortorious (sic) Captain Payne" had made another attempt to settle in Oklahoma but had been arrested and taken to Fort Reno and later to Fort Smith for trial.
The reservation for Fort Supply was declared by the President of the United States on April 18, 1882, and was later enlarged by Executive order on January 17, 1883. In the annual report of the Department of the Interior of 1899, it was described in the following words:
General Pope reported in 1883, that Forts Reno, Sill, Supply and Elliott would need to be maintained for some years to come. Captain Payne continued to be very active and on August 7, 1884, was arrested by the military again, taken to Fort Smith where he was later released and by October was again making an attempt to enter Oklahoma.
In the meantime, many of the Cheyenne Indians had become very displeased concerning the occupation of their reservation by herds of cattle. The agent at Darlington, Jno. D. Miles, had gone so far as to secure permission from some members of the tribes to lease their lands to cattlemen. A total of 3,177,880 acres were leased to E. Fenlon, W. E. Malaley, H. B. Denman, J. S. Morrison, L.M. Briggs, A. G. Evans and R. D. Hunter at two cents per acre making a total of $62,357.60.
In a letter dated July 18, 1883, Colonel J. H. Potter, commanding Fort Supply, states that a party of Cheyenne Indians arrived at the post and through the guide and interpreter, Amos Chapman, requested permission to make some statements regarding their affairs. Colonel Potter refused the request at first but after two or three days had passed, he eventually received them in his office. A few minutes after they had left, Colonel Potter received a telegram from agent Miles who was at Lawrence, Kansas. Miles had learned that the Indians were intent on leaving the reservation and asked Colonel Potter to arrest them. The commanding officer read this message to the Indians who then agreed to return to the reservation on the 17th. Colonel Potter then reported the entire affair to the Department of Missouri and included the statements made by the various Indian Chiefs present. The feelings of this particular group of Indians were expressed in the following words...
The dispute became very serious and General Sheridan was ordered to investigate the situation. He arrived at Fort Reno on July 15, 1885, and after interviewing many of the Indians who had agreed to the leases, he concluded that practically all of these were sick of their bargain. While General Sheridan was engaged in making the investigation, an order was issued by the President cancelling the leases and ordering the cattle and fences removed entirely from the reservations. Immediately, the Indians became more peaceful and the crisis passed.
On December 26, 1884, a telegraphic report from Fort Reno stated that "225 intruders, armed with shotguns and Winchester rifles, had effected their entrance into Oklahoma." Colonel Hatch, who was in command of the area desired by these white people, called for more troops. These were furnished from Forts Elliott, Riley and Supply. The Okahoma country proved a constant temptation to the adventurous population of the frontier thereby requiring constant alertness on the part of the military to prevent their intrusion. A permanent camp was established about sixteen miles south of Arkansas City, Kansas, and was known as Camp Martin.
The report of General W. Merritt, dated September 12, 1888, stated that the cattle traffic with the north was immense requiring the maintenance of Forts Supply, Reno and Sill and possibly Elliott.
When the Oklahoma country was finally opened to settlement in the spring of 1889, troops were sent from Fort Supply to assist in enforcing the regulations relative to the opening. General Merritt reported that the event proceeded very smoothly in so far as any friction was concerned. In the same report, he recommended that it was decided that the time had arrived when the expenditure required to improve Fort Elliott was hardly justifiable and on October 14, 1890, it was relinquished to the Department of the Inerior.
Gradually, the various duties and responsibilities of the military in the area were considerably reduced. The Indians had, as a whole, settled down on their reservations, the cattle drives had been greatly diminished by the extension of railroads and the Oklahoma country had been opened to settlement. The Cherokee Outlet, however, was under lease to the Cherokee Strip Livestock Association and in 1890, the troops were called upon to enforce regulations there. This country was opened to settlement in the Fall of 1893. In 1894, General Nelson A. Miles reported the activity of the troops in the area in these words:
Following the opening of the Cherokee Outlet, the importance of Fort Supply as a military post was greatly diminished and on November 5, 1894, the military reservation was relinquished to the Department of the Inerior. There were ninety-two buildings, whose value was unknown, and a land area of 39,356.63 acres.
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