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
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:
Of Settlement Known As Irish flats
story is the one submitted by Mrs. O.E. (Agnes) Davidson of
Meade in the historical manuscript contest recently
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
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.
much higher than now as Dodge
the nearest railroad point and could command its own prices.
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.
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
the stage man changed horses
when they carried mail from Dodge
Tascosa. A man named “Roller” carried the mail at first.
Several Large Ranches
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
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
in, in the morning. When they
cattle and started to where
different cattlemen met at the
of the Cimarron
Crooked Creek, it
was necessary to watch the cattle during the
They changed men every two
hours; and there were two or more such
the size of
the cattle to keep
scattering and sang
and whistled to
When all the
cattle were rounded up at the junction, each
cut out its own, which they
by the brand, and took them
home. Every rancher divided his
into groups and
they intended to ship were taken
to the nearest railroad station.
the others turned
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
several good size towns. Irish Flats has also undergone many
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.
be hauled so far that
was available. Early residents
had many trials. Water
was obtained with difficulty.
first the wells
were hand dug,
from 160 to
Later Nin Ellis,
in that vicinity.
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
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
not be hauled from town. Several
people died. The doctor was unable to get out to attend them
Dr. Dickerson who lived in the
neighborhood had moved a way to Missouri sometime before. He
had cared for the
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
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.
The folks told of
an Indian scare.
Some ranchers dressed
Indians came yelling wildly on
trying to frighten the “nesters”
they called the claim holders.
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.
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
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
leaves memories of Fairview, Stone, Kyger,
Atwater, and many
this county. Several miles south
Meade at the edge of the first Flats was the school house
Black school house, named for early
settlers of that name.
I recall now
I pondered over
the school having the
it was not that color.
walls of the old Stone school
stand just north of
Crooked Creek, thirteen
miles due south of Meade.
Henry Eckhoff was the first
at that school. He, and many
of the other old
settlers, lie at rest
old cemetery nearby. Stone
school was later replaced by a new
building a short distance
too has been closed, sold and
Another well remembered Meade
county teacher was Lulu Bodle McCrellis, who came as a
lady from Ohio. She loved
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
They had perhaps the first
Edison phonograph in the neighborhood
and shared it with the
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.
several post offices in South Meade County. Byers was one,
of which Mrs. Mary Martin was postmistress. Mrs. Martin a
native of Ireland, was
mother. Her husband died;
leaving her with a family of
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
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
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
Dickey home across
the line in Kansas, where
Dickey was postmistress.
All of these are now
history but the
played will be well remembered.
country was plowed,
prairie fires had been a
hazard. Many fire guards were plowed
homes. Farming methods have
changed and improved. Our county ranks high in agriculture.
Wheat is no doubt the
crop. Alfalfa, maize and
sorghums do well but many other crops have had their trial.
quite often raised
Kimber raised some flax,
although I believe it is not often