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The Irish Flats

By Nancy Ohnick

All my life I had heard the term, “Irish Flats,” describing the area in which my family’s farm was located in Meade County, south and east of Meade State Lake, and just north of the Oklahoma state line. It seem a little odd because I always thought of the people in that area to be (like my grandparents) of the German Lutheran heritage. A little research has really opened my eyes.

It turns out, there were many Irish settlers in Meade County. I first acquired a list of Irish surnames, then compared it to the list of surnames in the Meade County homestead book from the library of the Meade County Historical Museum. I will list these surnames below… well over 200 of them.

I don’t think the “Flats” really has a border, but I was very interested to learn that the Delorme’s Kansas Atlas still has it labeled in Odee Township in T34-R28.

The article below was in the Meade Globe News, in 1948, written by Agnes Davidson, who had submitted the article in an historical manuscript contest. We got many good stories out of that contest, and this one tells how it was… growing up on the Irish Flats. At one point she references the "first flats," which suggests there might have been more than one, but in general... the flat, rich, farmland south and west of the town of Meade.


Meade Globe News: Sunday, October 17, 1948:

Tells Story Of Settlement Known As Irish flats

(The following story is the one submitted by Mrs. O.E. (Agnes) Davidson of Meade in the historical manuscript contest recently completed).

About the year 1884, a small army of home seekers arrived and made settlement on the flats twenty miles southwest of Meade. The settlement was called “Irish Flats,” because most of its settlers were of that nationality.

There was a good level stretch of country where people could get homesteads, preemptions and timber claims, which made a total of three-quarters of land for each settler if he had not used his right to file at some other time. Each tried farming, but it was very dry here those first years, and many became discouraged, gave up the struggle and returned to their old homes sadder but wiser, for they had tried to raise corn and such crops that were too easily burned by the hot wind. 

Meade County had not yet been organized and trading had to be done at Dodge City. It took four days to make the trip, two days to get to the city where they would load their goods and drive as far as possible before nightfall, as they were afraid they would be robbed of what few dollars they had. Robberies were not uncommon then, and prices for machinery, etc. were much higher than now as Dodge was the nearest railroad point and could command its own prices. Regular freight wagons went from there to Tascosa, Texas, with a few post offices between. The nearest post office to this neighborhood was Odee and afterwards Byers post office was established on the Flats. The road traveled from Dodge City to Tascosa was known as the Jones and Plummer trail. It went southwest through Meade County and passed just a little west of the p1ace where the Harry Fords now live, some twenty miles southwest of Meade and on to the XI's north wooden gate where the same route is still followed to the river. A little way north of the river was a sod house and a corral made of cottonwood poles where the stage man changed horses when they carried mail from Dodge to Tascosa. A man named “Roller” carried the mail at first.

Several Large Ranches

There were several large ranches. Some of them are still here today but now the ranch owners own nearly all of their grazing land, while before they pastured thousands of cattle on government land, and what is now Beaver, Woodward and Texas Counties in Oklahoma; but was then known as the “Neutral Strip” or “No Man’s Land.” All the settlers were squatters and could offer no resistance when the cattle ran over their crops, for the land did not belong to them, any more than to the cattlemen. The large ranches of the southwest had what was known as the “drift fence” built along the Canadian River, to keep the cattle from going farther south, and about the first of June they would rig up their chuck wagon, which was a covered lumber wagon with a large cupboard built in the back, and a good supply of provisions to last several weeks. The cook drove the team to this wagon and when he came to a place where there was water to camp be built his fire around the Dutch oven and put his sour dough biscuits in to bake. Beans and bacon were always on the bill of fare. Each cowboy bad several horses, one of which had to be a pack horse and carry his bed. One man acted as horse wrangler and it was his duty to take care of all the extra horses and bring them in, in the morning. When they got their cattle and started to where the different cattlemen met at the junction of the Cimarron and

Crooked Creek, it was necessary to watch the cattle during the night. They changed men every two hours; and there were two or more such guards according to the size of the herd. They circled around the cattle to keep them from scattering and sang and whistled to keep themselves awake.

 After The Roundup

When all the cattle were rounded up at the junction, each ranch cut out its own, which they knew by the brand, and took them home. Every rancher divided his cattle into groups and those they intended to ship were taken to the nearest railroad station. The calves were branded and the others turned back on the range. They did not feed the cattle in those days. They were the long-horned, light-bodied Texas and Arizona cattle. The cows averaged eight hundred pounds in weight and were very unlike the Herefords and Shorthorns found on Meade County ranches now. Many changes have taken place since those days and No Man's Land is a part of the great state of Oklahoma. It has a railroad and several good size towns. Irish Flats has also undergone many changes.

The foregoing part of my story was written about the year 1912, and is just as it was told to me by my parents, Mr. and Mrs. Ernest Senger. I was then a pupil at the Fairview School just three miles north of the Oklahoma line so our neighbors were in both Kansas and Oklahoma. Anyone who lived within a radius of ten or fifteen miles was a neighbor. Homes were dugouts, sod shanties and some stone houses. Lumber had to be hauled so far that not much of it was available. Early residents had many trials. Water was obtained with difficulty. At first the wells were hand dug, not so easily done when the depth was from 160 to 180 feet. Later Nin Ellis, Martin Buck, and others drilled wells in that vicinity.

 Rough Winter

The winter 1903-04 was a severe one. During one storm, which lasted several days, cattle were frozen stiff. Many people were low on cow chips for fuel and my folks were without kerosene for lights and had but little fuel. They cut green tamarack wood to burn. They dried more of this in the oven for the next fire. This sent up a pleasant aroma equal to pine. They made candles of tallow molded in galvanized pipe and used several strands of twisted string for wicks. Then there was the terrible winter of 1911-12, with its deep · snow that lay on the ground for weeks. It was impossible to get around except horseback or with improvised sleighs. No school was held for over a month in our school because coal could not be hauled from town. Several people died. The doctor was unable to get out to attend them when needed. Dr. Dickerson who lived in the old Nye neighborhood had moved a way to Missouri sometime before. He had cared for the settlers untiringly. His good wife usually went with him on the long cross-country drives.

Foods that we had then were simple and hard to obtain, I am quite sure. That I did not realize then but there were droughts and hot winds, to say nothing of grasshoppers and other pests. Food consisted of some beef and pork, beans, potatoes, no canned goods to speak of. For fruits, there were dried fruits and sand hill plums. Sometimes even the plums failed due to late freezes, but often there were some left from another year. They do keep for several seasons when sealed well. Once for a special treat there was wild grape jam made from the grapes from the Beaver hills. Older folks went for these. I did not see those hills until I was grown. We did not travel much, only a trip to town now and then for provisions. The men folks went to town alone as a rule. Travel was by wagon. Some owned buggies and everyone rode horseback if at all able.

Indian Scare

The folks told of an Indian scare. Some ranchers dressed like Indians came yelling wildly on horseback, trying to frighten the “nesters” as they called the claim holders. This seemed to pass over and be taken in a friendly spirit. No one was injured. Folks were eager for friendship and would drive for miles to visit with their neighbors. Women exchanged ideas for needlework, patterns for quilts and clothing, bread starter as well as gossip. Houses were not locked so if someone came in need of a meal or shelter they could avail themselves of such in case the home owner was absent. There were no country churches but services were held wherever possible, sometimes in the homes, then in the school houses. Later small churches were built until better means of travel caused a trend toward town.

One early-day recreation was dancing, music being furnished by old-time fiddlers with an occasional accordion player. People came to the dances from all over the county, and from Beaver, some thirty miles to the south. Literares, baseball games, and a picnic now and then, rounded out the social activities.

Fond Memories

The closing of the rural schools leaves memories of Fairview, Stone, Kyger, Atwater, and many others over this county. Several miles south of Meade at the edge of the first Flats was the school house called the Black school house, named for early settlers of that name. I recall now that I pondered over the school having the name “Black” schoolhouse when it was not that color. The stone walls of the old Stone school still stand just north of Crooked Creek, thirteen miles due south of Meade. Henry Eckhoff was the first teacher at that school. He, and many of the other old settlers, lie at rest in the old cemetery nearby. Stone school was later replaced by a new frame building a short distance east, but it too has been closed, sold and moved away, Another well remembered Meade county teacher was Lulu Bodle McCrellis, who came as a young lady from Ohio. She loved the teaching profession and her ideals were high. She and her husband, Charles, lived on their place on the north bank of the Cimarron. They called this home the Wish Bone ranch. They had perhaps the first Edison phonograph in the neighborhood and shared it with the young folks near them. They were owners of one of the first automobiles in that end of the county also. Mrs. McCrellis later taught school in Englewood for a number of years before her death in 1923.

A Pioneer Mother

There were several post offices in South Meade County. Byers was one, of which Mrs. Mary Martin was postmistress. Mrs. Martin a native of Ireland, was indeed a pioneer mother. Her husband died; leaving her with a family of small children to rear. Odee post office was handled by the Petefishes. The Miles post office was about six miles east of the main XI ranch house on the Cimarron River and about twenty-six miles southwest of Meade, was conducted by Mr. and Mrs. H. A. Busing who also ran a general store. They were kind and courteous to all comers. Uneeda post office and store managed by Mr. and Mrs. Sterling E. Mathews was a general meeting place for people from all around for years. The Nye post office was established in Oklahoma by the Free sisters, known as Aunt Lib and Aunt Mary, then later moved to the R. R. Dickey home across the line in Kansas, where Mrs. Dickey was postmistress. All of these are now history but the part they played will be well remembered.

Before the country was plowed, prairie fires had been a hazard.  Many fire guards were plowed to safeguard homes. Farming methods have changed and improved. Our county ranks high in agriculture. Wheat is no doubt the main grain crop. Alfalfa, maize and sorghums do well but many other crops have had their trial. Broomcorn was quite often raised and around 1910, H. S. Kimber raised some flax, although I believe it is not often grown here. 


List of Meade County Patents by Irish Surnames:

Agan

Athey

Bane

Barnes

Barr

Berry

Bird

Blake

Bowen

Boyle

Braden

Brady

Brannan

Brennan

Burke

Burns

Byrns

Calkins

Callaghan

Callahan

Carey

Carr

Carrell

Carroll

Cary

Casey

Caughlin

Cokeley

Coleman

Colgan

Collins

Cone

Conn

Connelly

Cook

Coon

Corbett

Coughlin

Covey

Cox

Coyne

Cranor

Creedan

Crotty

Cully

Cumings

Cummins

Cunnyngham

Currey

Daily

Dale

Daniel

Darby

Daugherty

Davenport

Davidson

Delaney

Delay

Denney

Denny

Dever

Dillon

Dodd

Donnelly

Dowell

Dowling

Downey

Dunlop

Dunn

Dunning

Dwyer

Dyer

Farley

Farmer

Fisher

Fitzgerald

Fitzgeralds

Ford

Fox

Frizzell

Furry

Gee

Givler

Glancy

Glass

Glynn

Hardy

Hare

Harmon

Harnett

Harrington

Hart

Harvey

Haskins

Haver

Hawkins

Hayden

Haydon

Haynes

Hays

Hearn

Henry

Herrick

Hines

Hopkins

Howard

Howey

Hughes

Hunt

Ivers

Kearn

Kearns

Keefe

Keeling

Keller

Kelley

Kern

Kerns

Kerr

Key

Knight

Lamb

Law

Lawler

Lee

Leonard

Lewis

Lindsay

Lindsey

Little

Livingston

Lowry

Lynn

Macdonald

Mahan

Mahoney

Malone

Maloney

Manly

Markey

Matthews

Maxwell

McAuliffe

McBride

McCall

McCaslin

McConnell

McCoy

McElroy

McEveela

McGee

McGinnis

McGinniss

Mcgonigle

McGuffin

McGuinn

McGuire

McKibben

McLean

McMahan

McNairy

McNamara

McNeely

McNeill

McQuinn

McWilliam

McWilliams

Means

Meloy

Melvin

Meyer

Meyers

Miles

Milligan

Mills

Minnis

Moon

Moore

Morgan

Morris

Moss

Mullen

Murphy

Myers

Neese

Neil

Nevins

Nolan

Noland

North

Paden

Palmer

Parsons

Paul

Peery

Powell

Powers

Rainey

Riley

Rush

Ryan

Seward

Sexton

Shannon

Sharp

Shirley

Sinnott

Slavens

Sloan

Somers

Stout

Sullivan

Summers

Sword

Talley

Tally

Thornberry

Tinney

Tooley

Turley

Ward

Warren

Waters

Wolf

Wolfe

Woods

 

Below is a excerpt from the Meade County page in the Delorme’s Kansas Atlas showing the Irish Flats just south and a little east of the Meade State Lake.

 

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