This text was taken from a small
booklet printed by the Herald-Democrat in Beaver. It is written by a
reporter for the New York Sun in the late 1880's, a fact that is best kept in
mind as it is read.
NO MANíS LAND
Forward: The following story was written by a
reporter sent by the New York Sun in 1888 and 1889. It was resented by
many of the early settlers as being far-fetched and full of prejudicial
material. However it is nevertheless interesting and characteristic of the day
and time of its appearance. We do not know as to the matter of its reliability,
as to all of the incidents contained therein, but he chapters dealing with the
purely historical end of the narrative are, so far as we can ascertain, been
verified by old-timers of this area.
The Origin of No
Time was when No Manís Land was a part of Mexico. Afterward it was a part of
the Republic of Texas, but it was never any part of Texas. Let the reader take a
good map of the United States, and then while looking at it, call to mind the
fact that when, in 1803, the United States purchased what was at the time known
as the Louisiana Territory, the boundary line of this Territory followed the Red
River west from the 95th to the 100th Meridian and thence it followed the 100th
meridian north to the Arkansas River. South and west to the line, as here
traced, the land belonged to Mexico, and it remained Mexican Territory until
after the War between the United States and that country.
But before coming down as far in United States history as the Mexican war,
the reader should recall the fact the Indian Territory was organized between the
years 1835 and 1837, and that the western boundary of the Territory was the
100th meridian, for the very good reason, if no other were to be had, that the
meridian was then the western boundary of the United States, and so continued
until the Mexican war. This fact is important, because it settles the claim of
the Cherokee Indians to No Manís Land adversely to the Indians. When the
Cherokees were moved from Georgia to the Indian Territory they were given a
treaty, "a perpetual outlet west, and a free and unmolested use of all the
country lying west of the western boundary of the above described limits, and as
far west as sovereignty of the United States and their right of soil extended,
the sovereignty of the United States, as already stated, extended only to the
100th meridian, and there is necessarily the western limit of the Indian
Territory and the Cherokee outlet. "No subsequent acquisition of the Territory
by the United States, says Land Commissioner Wm. A. J. Sparks could extend the
rights of the Cherokee Nation beyond this limit," and Secretary Lamar approved.
The 100th meridian is the eastern boundary of No Manís Land.
After the Mexican war as the reader will remember, Texas became a part of the
United States. In fixing the boundary of the new state the negotiators for the
State and for the United States ran against a snag. The snag was Mason and
Dixonís line, or the parallel of latitude 36 degrees north of the equator.
Texas, as a republic had claimed that land between the 100th and the 103rd
meridians north as far as the Arkansas River, and the claim had perforce been
allowed by Mexico. But by a compromise of the slave holders and the free soilers
in the United States Congress, it had been agreed that no slave state should be
created north of the Mason Dixonís line, and here was Texas, a slave state,
coming in with slave territory extending north of the Arkansas River. To get rid
of the obstacle the Texas Statesmen ceded to the United States so much of her
territory as lay north of the dividing line between the slave and free soil. We
thus have the parallel of latitude 36-30 north of the equator fixed as the
northern boundary of Texas and the southern boundary of what is now No Manís
Land. No Manís Land was then an unimportant part of a very wide area or
Along in 1854 came the Kansas and Nebraska bill, by which Kansas was to be
organized. The bill provided that the southern boundary of Kansas should be the
parallel of 36-30 north until the Hon. Stephen H. Douglas called the attention
of the House of Representatives to the fact that this would deprive the
Cherokees a large part of their lands in the Indian Territory as given them by
treaty and the bill was therefore amended so that the thirty-seventh parallel
was made the southern boundary of Kansas. The northern boundary of a part of No
Manís Land was thus fixed.
Subsequently the organization of Colorado with its southern boundary in the
37th parallel completed the northern boundary of No Manís Land, while the
organization of New Mexico, with the 103rd meridian as it eastern boundary, left
the strip of land between the 100th and 103rd meridians of longitude and the
parallels of the latitude as 36 30 and 37 wholly unorganized, and beyond the
pale of any Territory or State. It was simply the property of Uncle Sam, a waste
bit of pasture that he had overlooked, in laying out the rest of his farm in
patches for cultivation.
That it should have been overlooked in the course of legislation is not very
surprising, but that it should be a part of the United States and yet be beyond
the reach of the United States courts and court officers is a matter needing
explanation. The jurisdiction of each United States Court sitting in the States
and Territories around No Manís Land is definitely fixed by the bill that
created the judicial district in which the court sits. No court takes cognizance
of any crime committed beyond it jurisdiction. Because No Manís land was not
within the limits of any of the surrounding States and Territories, it was
naturally enough overlooked in defining the limits of the judicial districts.
Now, it is proposed by the United States Constitution of a speedy and public
impartial trial by jury in the State of District wherein the crime was
committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law.
Before what court, therefore shall the agent of the post office department,
for instance, hale the road agent whom he has arrested for holding up the mail
service? Will not the road agent escape on the technical plea that the court no
matter which one it may be, has no jurisdiction?
Nevertheless, during the intervals of over two years in which Beaver City has
had at least a tri-weekly mail, no road agent has ever tried to hold up the mail
carrier. But this immunity from danger which registered letters have enjoyed is
simply a flattering tribute to the excellence of American firearms and to the
marksmanship of American frontiersmen. As a complement to American legislators
it comes in vernacular of the country, left handed.
EARLY SETTLERS IN NO MANíS LAND
From the time that the Atchinson, Topeka and Sante Fe railroad was built
through western Kansas until the completing of the Forth Worth & Denver City
Road across the Panhandle of Texas, there was no trail in the west over which
more freight passed that than leading from Dodge City in Ford County Kansas,
south and a little west through Meade County, across No Manís Land and down into
the Panhandle of Texas to Tascosa, Monita, and other points. It was knows as the
Jones and Plummer Trail because of a ranch which a firm of that name had about
160 miles south of Dodge City.
All sorts of goods and merchandise and government stores were carried over
this trail in trains of covered wagons -- the prairie Schooners of which
everyone has heard. The wagons were hitched together in trains of three or four,
and then from ten to twenty mules were hitched to the front end of the train,
while drivers with long whips and much profanity kept the mules in motion.
The half way stopping place on this trail was on the Beaver River, in No
manís Land. It was a hundred miles from Dodge City and from Tascosa. The valley
of the Beaver was a very attractive location. The water of the Beaver is pure
and sweet. The grass on the bottom land was long and nutritious. There were
hundreds of trees along the stream. Buffalo, deer, antelope, and smaller game
were to be had in any quantity. On this account the country had always been a
favorite hunting ground of the Indians. The drivers of the mules invariably
rested their teams here two days and not infrequently a week.
Early in March, 1880, came James Lane to Beaver. He had often crossed it on
the trail, but this time he brought his wife and family. He came come to
establish a ranch for the accommodation of the freighters and his own profit.
The house that he built is still standing in excellent condition. It is a
monument to the skill of the frontiers-man in adapting himself to his
surroundings. It was built of prairie sod 14x30 feet large, with an L 18x14 at
one end. Itís rafters are made of poles cut from the woods that then stood along
the streams; brush served in place of the ordinary sheeting over the rafters,
and layers of prairies sod took the place of shingles on the brush sheeting. The
walls within were plastered with a mixture of sand and gypsum dug from the hills
along the stream. The prairie sod served admirable for a time as the floor,
though a wooden one has since been added. Except for a few panes of glass and
door and window frame and two doors, Jim, as he was familiarly called depended
not at all on the products of civilized communities for his shelter. He
might have lived independent of civilized products in the matter of heating his
house by building fire places and chimneys of sod, but he preferred smoke. It is
not a little singular that in spite of the weight of the stove and a difficulty
of transporting it long distances across the frontier, the people of this
country are all like Jim in the matter of heating and cooking appliances. They
all use stoves. The Sun reporter, during an extended visit among them,
did not see a fire place.
Besides his home Jim built a corral which was nothing more than a patch of
ground about 75 feet square, with a sod wall four or five feet high around it,
and a low shed with a sod roof on one side, beneath which horses, mules and
cattle could find shelter in a blizzard. This shed was one of the comforts which
he had come here to provide for the freighters. Among the other comforts were
whiskey, tobacco and cartridges.
For years Lane had almost a monopoly of the trade in freighters comforts at
this point, the monopoly being broken only by an occasional traveling dealer in
similar supplies for cowboys. In those days cattle were just beginning to crowd
the buffalo off the flats, as the table lands between the streams were called.
Cowboys as well as freighters came to the ranch, and not a few people enroute
over the trail for Texas stopped there to rest.
Although many of these people noticed the fertility of the soil and the
favorable lay of the land for farming purposes, very few thought of settling
there, because every one supposed that the "Strip", as it was sometimes called,
was a part of the Indian Territory, and therefore not subject to entry as
homesteads. It remained for some of the restless boomers living in what was then
the "Boomingist of Boom Towns." Wichita, Kansas, to discover that the Strip was
really No Manís Land, to name it accordingly, and to let the world know the
facts. Just how they learned this is not known here, but as long as 1882, Mr. W.
A. Starr, then of Oswego, Kansas, got an official statement from the department
of the interior confirming this view at which he arrived after a study of the
history of the case.
The immense profits made in real estate speculations while the "boom" was on
at Wichita stimulated many of her citizens to start booms elsewhere. Out of this
stimulation grew the Beaver City Town company, of which N. McClease, was
president; C. R. Miller, Treasurer; Wm. Waddle, Local Agent and Ernest A. Reiman,
civil engineer. The company was formed to lay out and boom a city of the Beaver
River, No Manís Land. On March the 6th, 1886, Agent Wm. Waddle, and Civil
Engineer E. A. Reiman, with four assistants, arrived at Jim Laneís ranch and
announced that they had come to survey a town site, because it had been
definitely determined that the Strip was public land and there was nothing to
prevent its settlement. A comprise was necessarily affected with Lane, because
as the first settler there he could hold 160 acres of the land they wanted. Lane
agreed orally to waive his right in consideration of having two blocks in the
coming city reserved for him, and in the map of the city as a part of a history
of what must eventually become a part of a rich and populous State of the
Southwest, the following certificate of Engineer Reiman, made when his work of
surveying was done, is of interest.
I, Ernest A. Reiman, civil engineer hereby certify that I have surveyed and
platted the town of Beaver City, Neutral Strip. I. T., and that the same is
surveyed on the following described lands:
S 1/2 of the SE 1/4 T. 4, N. of R. 23 E. 80 acres; also the NE 1/4 of sec. 13
and the N 1/2 of the SE 1/4 of sec. 13T, 4, N of R 23 E., 240 acres; also lot 7
and the SE 1/4 of the SW 1/4 of sec 7, T4, N of R 24 E., 70 acres; also lots 12
and 13 of the NW 1/4 and the NE 1/4 of the NW 1/4 and the NE 1/4 of the SW 1/4
sec. 12, T 4 N of R 24 E 224 1/2 acres. Total (more or less) 620 1/4 acres.
Having completed their survey, the Beaver City Town Company went to
Washington to get the town site lawfully entered, and at the same time began to
let the world know all about the advantages of the new city and of the
surrounding country. In the way of advertising they made the success which all
such enterprising men make, but in getting titles to the town site they were
less fortunate. To advertise the place they filled the Wichita paper with
glowing descriptive articles about the town, and scattered handsomely printed
circulars broadcast throughout the mails.
Agent Waddle built in Beaver a sod house of two rooms, one as a grocery, and
the other as a home for himself and family, and here he remained waiting for the
population to come and fill the city he had to sell.
The population came right along. It began to arrive and select lots before M.
Waddle got his plat from the civil engineer, but when it came to selling the
lots to the new arrivals, one essential transfer of title. He, Mr. Waddle found
himself lacking in he hadnít any title.
The Beaver City Town Company had been unable to get a patent for the land for
two reasons. The strip had not been fully surveyed, and there was no government
land office of United States court that had any control over that territory. The
town companyís money had been spent in surveys and improvements, almost for
nothing. They could hold as "squatters" only such lots as they built on, and if
they continued to hold these lots (two in number) until the survey of this Strip
was completed, and a land office and a United States court were established for
the territory, then they could get title, and thus perhaps, get enough property
to pay for the survey of the town site perhaps, get enough property to pay for
the survey of the town site.
The matter of incomplete survey is worth a word of explanation, because on
account of a swindle on the people here was subsequently attempted by some
professedly pious Kansas statesman, the story of which will be told further on.
The land in No Manís Land has been surveyed into townships and sections. The law
provides that lands cannot be entered and patents issued for homesteads until it
has been further divided into quarter sections; but owners of land scrip can
spread their script over it and take title with the present survey just as soon
as the land office and a United States court are provided.
The news of the misfortunes of the Town Company was received by the incoming
settlers and speculators without a sigh. It enabled them to locate on lots and
improve them, and thus obtain the first right to a title whenever the "Strip"
came in as they designated the extending of the laws of the country over the
Four new sod houses were completed by the end of four weeks from the date of
the completing of the platting of the town, and within four weeks more there
were twenty under way or wholly completed. One of the first men to come in was
D. R. Healy. He built the first livery stable in the "Strip," and a livery
stable is erected about as soon as any building when a town is to be boomed in
The stable was what is termed a dug-out. It was built with a log front, but
had an almost perpendicular bank of earth for the sides and back. It was roofed,
as is commonly done there with sod.
The next building erected in Beaver was a saloon with sod walls and a wooden
roof, and kept by Jim Donnely. This was followed by a number of sod house
dwellings, and then, in May, Addison Mundell, who subsequently became the cityís
first marshal, built the first wood houses for business purposes, while L. E.
Harlan, who now serves as sheriff in the provisional county government that has
been established, built the first wooden dwelling. Mundellís building was about
10x14 feet large. It was occupied by Frank Palmer and Rube Chilcott, who had a
large stock of dry goods and cowboy furnishings which they had brought there in
a prairie schooner as traveling salesmen to meet the cowboys who were in charge
of a bunch of cattle not far away. Another building erected about this time,
which should be mentioned, was about 24x50 feet large, with an extension 12x24
feet roof, and was owned by O. P. Bennett and Charley and Capt. Tracy. It was
the first dance house in the Strip, and Bennett was the second (possibly first)
man executed by the first irregular government that was established by the
citizens of Beaver City. The story of the killing forms an interesting chapter
in the history of No Manís Land which will be told further on. (The Tracyís
mentioned in this story were no relation of any person of that name now living
in Beaver County -Ed.)
THE JAW WAS SHOT
Although during the first summer of its existence Beaver City had no more
houses than would in the east, constitute a cross road village, there was enough
of what the cowboys called life about it to satisfy the cravings of an Eastern
metropolis. The trains of freighters had passed up and down the old trail which
formed Douglas Avenue, the main street of the city, in undiminished numbers,
while the drivers tarried to rest their teams, but not themselves, longer than
before. The news that a new city had been formed brought the cow boys from every
ranch and range within 100 miles and thus, while the population numbered not
more than twenty-five or thirty souls, there was not infrequently a floating
population of 100 or upward, chiefly men. Floating is scarcely the word to
describe the population temporarily there, but the English language contains no
word fit for the occasion. If they floated it was on a sea of alcohol. If they
sailed or flew the breeze that wafted them on was heavy with the fumes of
tobacco and the smoke of gun powder. If they drifted they were stranded at the
shortest of intervals on bars not built of sand.
The cowboy as he reached the brow of a low hill to the south of the town or
crossed the Beaver to the north, spurred his horse into his wildest gallop, drew
his six shooter and with screams and yells fired his weapon. Scarce checking the
speed of his horse the cowboy rode thru the open door followed by the group of
loiterers about the door and not infrequently by larger groups from about other
doors and thereupon the new arrival ordered and generally paid for enough liquor
to irrigate the crowd. Irrigation in this kind of climate makes a wonderful
growth of vegetation on the farm and the hilarity in the saloon. Having no more
pleasing method of working off their hilarity, the cowboy generally went out on
the street and drove everybody inside to shelter by shooting their revolvers in
all directions about the street. Hundreds of bullets were sent flying about the
streets every day and night, and the front of all the buildings that were
standing in these days are cut and bored through in many places by the deadly
missels It is a matter of which, the Beaver City man always boasts, however,
that nobody was accidentally shot in the town.
It was not until August than any one was purposely shot. The victimís name
was Richard Roberts, though he was called Dick Davis. Roberts drove up from
Tascosa, Texas, bringing two young women for the dance house. He was one of the
wild west show cowboys, with long hair and no end of fancy trimmings to his
clothes and swagger to his gait. He was around town for two or three weeks, and
began to think he owned it. However, while standing on the west side of the
street opposite the dance house telling how great he was, some of his audience,
disgusted with his bragging, said "Shoot the Jaw."
There upon a man literally shot his jaw, there was a flash of a revolver held
by Soap Read, also of Tascosa, and a 44 calibre bullet crushed through both
sides of Roberts lower jaw. The bone was splintered into nearly a hundred
pieces, and every tooth but one on each side was knocked out of his mouth and
fell on the ground.
Roberts clasped his hands to his face mumbling, "God, Iím shot", and fell
fainting. The by standers caught him and carried him into Jim Donnellyís saloon,
where Dr. J. A. Overstreet, the first physician who located in No Manís Land,
picked over seventy small splinters of bone out of the wound and bandaged him up
as well as possible. Roberts was kept at the expense of citizens for three
months and then he was able to leave town. His only reward for those who cared
for him was a return to the town where he jumped a claim of Widow Poggenberg.
When notified to "let out that job" he stole a couple of horses and escaped the
committee that followed. He is now with a gang of horse thieves and said to have
their headquarters in Squaw Canyon, near Rabbit Ear Mountain in the west end of
No Manís Land.
AN ATTEMPT TO ORGANIZE GOVERNMENT
Such incidents as the jumping of the widow Poggonbergís claim by Dick Roberts
occurred on several occasions that summer, the number increasing as the time
went on until those people who desired to live in Beaver City and do business
there it became necessary to afford some sort of protection to the weak
Ďphysicallyí against the strong, for with the growth of population not a few had
come without firearms.
At first there were conferences between twoís and threeís of the business
men. These were followed by conferences of a half dozen or more in various
private houses, the men in all cases being personal friends who could trust each
other. Finally they called a public meeting for the evening of October 26, 1886,
and at this meeting a set of rules were adopted by oral vote for the governing
of Squatters and the settling of disputes over claims. These rules make
interesting reading because they were written to cover a neat swindle which one
of the early residents worked, according to report subsequently made in Congress
on some innocents in Ohio. The rules were as follows:
Article 1. We, the undersigned, do agree to support and assist in carrying
out the following regulations and requirements in regards to holding claims in
the Neutral Strip of the Indian Territory.
Article 2. That any person of legal age shall be allowed to hold one claim
and one claim only, of 160 acres of land until April 1st, 1887, provided that he
shall by this time have broken at least five (5) acres or put other improvements
thereon equivalent thereto.
Article 3. Any person may be allowed to take and hold claim for each member
of his immediate family, to consist of father and mother, brother and sisters,
sons and daughters who are of the required age, provided, he will make
improvements on each claim as provided for in Article two.
Article 4. That each signer of these rules and Regulations and all others
taking land when required shall furnish in writing to _____________________or
committee of proper description of his claim, also a proper description of each
claim which he may be holding for each member of his family.
Article 5. That all persons who have heretofore or hereafter come in person
to take, select, or purchase claims and go away with a bona-fide intention of
returning, shall be entitled to all the benefits of these rules and regulations,
and all non-residents who have claims surveyed and other bona-fide improvements
made shall have four months from this date to come upon their claims, as
required by these rules and regulations, otherwise, their claims shall be
Article 6. That in case any person shall jump or trespass, or in any way
damage a claim or claims of any of the signers of these rules and regulations,
or of anybody entitled to the benefits of these rules and regulations said
person or persons shall be politely solicited to get off said claim, stop
trespassing, and make good any damage done thereon; and if, after twenty-four
hours, no attention shall be paid to said notice, measures sufficiently severe
shall be resorted to compel such person or persons to comply with said
"Measures sufficiently severe meant shooting to death, as was afterwards
demonstrated in practice." It was the third article that proved unsatisfactory
to the squatters, however, and furnished the opportunity to swindle outsiders.
One George Scrange had marked out a large number of claims for one hundred and
sixty acres each by plowing a furrow around it. They were all well located, and
will be very valuable when title can be obtained. He had taken them on the plea
that they were for various relatives. Then he had gone east and had inserted the
following advertisements in the Portsmouth, Ohio, Blade and other papers:
CHEAP HOMES: McAllister & Scrange locators of land in Neutral Strip, Indian
Territory, can give you the best situation and figures on land. See Capt. A. J.
McAllister, on board steamer Louise. Finest climate, best farm, purest water in
the country. Titles clear and terms Easy. McALLISTER & SCRANGE, Portsmouth,
In the language of Congressman Payson, when No Manís Land was before Congress
for legislation (see Record July 25, 1888, Page 7,546) "every man who published
of that kind, or is in any way connected with them, is a thief and a robber. It
is an attempt on their part of secure from the honest people of the country
under false pretenses their money."
The people of Beaver City say that Scrange is not at all abashed by his
exposure. Certainly he has not lost prestege here, for the village paper makes
not of his coming and going as respectfully as it does those of other people,
while Addison Mundell, the first city marshal, and at present the locator of
claims, "told the reporter than Scrange is interested in a number of town sites
that had been surveyed in the strip, and added that if the reporter wanted to
get in on the ground floor, he would write to Mr. Geo. Scrange, care of J. V.
Ellison, Cincinnati, Ohio. Ellison according to Mundell, being a capitalist who
is furnishing Scrange (perhaps unwittingly) with money for his operations.
It was not so much on account of a swindle on far away people that the
squatters here objected to the rules written by Mr. Scrange, however. They did
not like the idea of helping to protect him in gobbling up large breadths of
land to which they as actually settlers had a better right. Accordingly half a
dozen meetings were held to consider the position of the public and Strip, and
as a result a call for a meeting was issued, "to proceed at once and prepare a
code of bylaws for our future adoption also to prepare a form of quit-claim
deeds for our common use in the transfer of claims from one part to another."
This call was signed by thirty-four men and one woman. The meeting was called
for and held on November 9th, 1996, and was presided over by Dr. O. G. Chase. It
was at this time that first steps were taken which resulted in one of the most
unique governments every organized by civilized men.
It is interesting to note that this meeting was "called by the aforesaid
subscribers, at 7 oíclock in the school house" according to the minutes now in
possession of Dr. Chase. Although there had as yet been no form of government
established, the citizens had got together early in September and built a sod
walled house in which their children could attend school, the teacher being paid
by volunteer subscription.
At this meeting two resolutions historically important, were adopted, they
read as follows:
Section 3. To enable us to consolidate our strength, and to know the wants of
the whole territory, it is also suggested and hereby agreed upon that the entire
population of Cimarron Territory turn out on February 22, 1887, and hold
election in their respective neighborhoods as near in conformity to law as
possible, electing in each representing district three representatives who shall
meet in Beaver City on the 4th day of March, 1887, as a territorial council.
To carry out the objects set forth in preceding section as president, vice
president, secretary and treasurer is hereby elected and authorized to act as a
local council, constituting a Board to be known as the respective Claim Board.
The phrase in section 3 which reads "It is also suggested and hereby agreed
upon" is characteristic of the suggesting and in the same breath come down with
a thumping agreement to carry out the suggestion. It will be observed, too, that
they have decided on a name for their Territory. It was called Cimarron, from
the River of that name that flows across the northeast corner of the Strip, the
Territory was divided into districts. To make a government at all good, it was
necessary to have the whole territory represented, for settlement had been
formed and claims located throughout the whole 167 miles of its length, Beaver
being only a much envied metropolis.
At this meeting also the first attempt to levy a tax was made. Few ever paid
the taxes provided for but the resolution which referred to the subject is
interesting because it defined some of the powers of the respective Claim Board,
the first government of the Strip.
Section 5. The Respective Claim Board is authorized to proceed at once to
have printed for squatter claimants use blank quit claim deeds and for each
parcel of land or town lot the president and secretary shall execute a deed to
the original re-claimant when called upon to do so; but if any contest appears
to exist; or doubt to the priority of right existing in the claimant, then the
matter shall rest and no deed issue until all parties interested shall have a
change for hearing, and evidence filed in writing, if demanded, and the decision
rendered by the board of three disinterested citizen arbitrators, selected in
the usual way by parties interested. Either party feeling themselves aggrieved
may appeal to the new Board of five arbitrators, selected as above but must
state such appeal within five days, and pay to the secretary of the company the
sum of five dollars.
The election came on in due course of time and there was a spirited contest
in Beaver City, but it is doubtful whether settlers in the west end of the Strip
ever heard there was to be an election. If they did they paid no attention to
it. Nevertheless, three delegates to represent three districts were declared
elected, although they all lived within a few miles of Beaver City. The election
returns were made to Dr. J. A. Overstreet, the secretary of the respective Claim
Board and in his report the nine delegates who had been elected gathered in the
school house on March 4th as the first legislative body in No Manís land. Their
names are attached to the following oath to which they subscribed.
We, the undersigned members of the Territorial Council of Cimarron Territory
and officers of the same do hereby solemnly swear that we will support the
Constitution of the United States, and faithfully execute and enforce the laws
of said United States and also laws adopted by Territorial Council for the
government of said Cimarron Territory, to the best of our ability. O. G. Chase,
President; Merritt Magann, Clerk; Rm M. Overstreet; J. G. Snode; James Lane;
Robert A. Allen; Elmer Tompkins; Thomas Waters; W. J. Kline.
R. M. Overstreet was a Presbyterian preacher, and Robt. A. Allen a Methodist
preacher. The first business attended to after organizing was passing a
resolution at the request of Re. Overstreet, he said that there was a grave
defect in the Constitution of the United States, and he hoped that in the
documentary organization of the new territory the mistake of the fathers of the
American republic would not be repeated. He therefore moved the adoption of the
following measure which, as printed is the verbatim copy of the record;
Whereas, the residents of Cimarron Territory are without the protection of
law of any state or recognized territorial government, and recognizing the
urgent need thereof, and desiring to adopt and establish rule and law for our
protection, safety and government, do hereby recognize Allí Mighty God, to be
the supreme ruler of the universe, the creator and preserver, and governor of
individuals, communities, State Nations, and recognize the laws of the United
States as our organic law and adopt the same with the constitution of the United
States as the foundation and basis of all laws and rules for our government and
so far as may be to execute and enforce the same.
Therefore be it resolved by the representatives of Cimarron Territorial
Council Assembled, that we do hereby declare ourselves the Territorial Council
of said Cimarron Territory, and do hereby adopt the constitution of the United
States and the laws thereof, as the ground work and foundation for all our laws
or rules to be adopted for our government.
Another resolution which looked toward the dividing of the Territory into
seven representative districts, or counties of four rows of townships each,
taken vertically across the territory was passed; also one providing for a
general election, to be held on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in
November, "for the purpose of electing nine senators and fourteen delegates, who
shall meet in Beaver on the first Monday in December, A.M., as Territorial
This was the end of their work on the constitution of Cimarron territory.
They then turned to making laws under that constitution and here is the first
one passed. It was introduced by delegate Elmer Tompkins and was unanimously
"Be it resolved by the Territorial council of the Cimarron territory "That
regularly ordained ministers of the gospel are hereby authorized and empowered
to solemnize the rights of matrimony for parties having first procured from the
secretary of any auxiliary Council or from the secretary of the Territorial
Council a certificate authorizing such ceremony between the parties therein
named which certificate with the return of the officiating minister endorsed
thereon be returned to the secretary having issued the same within 30 days from
the performance of such ceremony.
A fee of $1.00 shall be charged by the secretary issuing such certificate,
and he shall keep a true record of all certificates issued and returned to him
of marriages solemnized, and local secretary shall make semi-annual returns
thereof to the Territorial secretary. Such certificates shall only be issued by
the secretary to parties that he is satisfied are of legal age and able to make
a civil contract."
The term auxiliary council refers to the governing body which it was hoped
would be organized in each county district.
THE FIRST EXECUTION
There is no way of learning who was the first man killed in No Manís Land,
for no doubt a great many died here by violence at the hands of the Indians
before Beaver City was through of. Very likely a number were killed in the Strip
by white men, but the first two who were killed as a punishment for crime, and
as a warning to evil doers that the people of Beaver city might dwell in peace
were O. P. Bennett and Frank Thompson. They were, as the people here say,
executed. To one who hears the story from the executioner it seems as though
they were murdered and in a brutal and cowardly fashion, whatever their previous
crimes may have been, and that some other motive other than the desire to
preserve the peace of the community animated the people who were dead.
As has already been told Bennett was on of the proprietors of the first dance
house in No Manís Land. The business died out before Christmas, in 1886 Bennett
and Charley Tracy put in a stock of dry goods, groceries, etc., in the building
which has been used as a dance house. The change of business did not increase
the popularity of the proprietors with the young men, who had recently
remembered the old business with sorrow, nor did it improve the morals of the
proprietors. The first grievance against Bennett grew out of his old business.
The first against Thompson was the stealing of a rifle. Thompson broke into a
room occupied by Addison Mundell and took a Winchester. Mundell had Thompsonís
house search for it without success, and Thompson swore he would shoot Mundell
for making the search. He met Mundell in front of the post office one day and
got the drop on him, But Rube Chilcott, a stalwart frontiersman, grabbed
Thompsonís six shooter before it was discharged. Rube was anxious only for the
lives of innocent bystanders of whom there were a number including two or three
The next of which Bennett was guilty was an attempt to steal a pair of mules.
The mules were brought down the trail from Kansas with the harness on, and
stopped at the livery stable for feed. Tracy saw them and concluded they were
stolen and determined to "round them up." They let the man ride away with the
mules and an hour later got on their horses and with six shooters loaded started
after the outfit. They followed the trail to the farm of Thomas Pemberton. The
mules were in the corral there. "Is the owner of them mules here?" asked
"Yes," said Pemberton, as he was standing in the door of his house. "Well, we
want him" "What for," "The mules are supposed to be stolen and we want the man
and the mules."
Pemberton disappeared in the house. When he came out again he a Winchester
rifle at his shoulder. "You can have the man or anything else you want," said
They didnít want the many or anything else except to bet back to town as soon
as possible. The man was a friend of Pemberton and had come down after a wagon
he had borrowed.
Some weeks later Bennett and Tracy drove Mr. Hinton off a couple of lots on
which he was building a house because Hinton would not be blackmailed.
Bennettís last act of this kind was after Thompson stole Mundellís rifle. He
went upon a claim adjoining town of the south side which George Scranage had
plowed around. Bennett furnished Thomason with such lumber as necessary to the
building of a small dug-out, and in this age had no right to any claim save the
one he was living on elsewhere. Thompson had a perfect right to improve and live
on this one, but Scranage wanted it for a brother-in-law named W. J. Kline. As a
matter of fact, Thompson wanted merely to make Kline pay blackmail for he did
not move on the claim until he heard Kline was coming.
Kline and Scranage took the matter before the respective Claim Board,
nominally, but really before the business men of the place. The meeting was
public, was well attended, and everyone was free to make speeches, a privilege
of which many availed themselves. Thompson pleaded his right to take up any
unoccupied claim. Scranage argued that Kline was a settler in goof faith, and
Thompson a boomer. Thompson said (Truthfully too) that Kline had come merely to
get hold of a claim and would never work the land. Bennett and the two Tracys
were there to side in with Thompson, but the citizens were almost unanimously
against the four and for Kline and Scranage. The previous misdeeds of Thompson
and his friends were retold with marked effect.
At the fifth meeting which was held on the night of March the 1st, 1887, it
was determined to oust Thompson form the claim the next day and the
determinations were carried into effect by those who had rendered the decision
against Thompson. About 11 oíclock on the morning of the second Scranage and
Kline and a chum of theirs names L. N. McIntosh, who had helped Scranage in
taking up claims to which he was not entitled, got a gang together, which
include Addison Mundell and a tough of the toughest character named W. P. or
Billie Olive. Bill as a matter of fact, himself executed some months later.
Armed with rifles, shot guns and six shooters, the gang started up the trail
to go to the dug-out and drive Thompson out. Mundell was the last man to start
up the trail and was some two hundred yards behind the rest.
He says when going along the trail he heard his name called, and on looking
around he saw Thompson over at the house west of the trail, where he got his
meals. Thompson had come down for an early dinner, had put his pony in the
stable and was on his way to the house. Mundell said that Thompson said:
"You --------- -------- ---, are you going to that claim? Iíll stop you now,"
and raised the Winchester.
No one else heart Thompson say that or anything else; and it is not likely
that a man of Thompsonís experience would have been so slow with his rifle as he
must have been to enable Mundell to get in the first shot. Mundell said he
whirled around as he heard the words brought his rifle to his shoulder and
fired, shot Thompson through the right knee, all while Thompson was trying to
"I throwed my gun down and pulled as a man would shot a bow and arrow," said
Mundell in telling about it.
Two eye witnesses told the Sun reporter that when Mundell saw Thompson come
from the stable door he ran behind a low sod wall at the side of the trail, and
thence shot Thompson, who was walking unsuspiciously homeward.
When Thompson was shot he fill to the ground but managed to crawl into his
house. The woman who was living with him called Dr. O. G. Chase. The doctor
found the knee completely ruined and amputation necessary. He therefore
temporarily bandaged the wound, intending to get Dr. J. A. Overstreet to assist
in cutting off the limb during the afternoon. He left the wounded man lying on
the bed placed on the floor, and went home to dinner.
Meantime, the report of Mundellís rifle had brought Kline, McIntosh and
Billie Olive, and the rest back down the trail. They had started out to run one
man out of the country; they came back determined to kill three men. The
wounding of Thompson, instead of exciting their pity, whetted their thirst for
blood. They went down to the store of Bennett and Tracy, but found only O. P.
Bennett there. They wanted Charley Tracy very badly, but were too eager to kill
somebody to stop and hunt him up. Bennett saw that danger was ahead but he was
taken by surprise and could make no defense. He did not even have his six
shooter with him.
"Yer partner, Thompson, wants to see you," said Mundell to Bennett. "Heís
been hurt, I want you to take care of him"
They escorted Bennett out to the house where Thompson lay on the floor
groaning with pain. The door was open and Bennett walked in ahead of the rest.
He was smoking a big meershaum pipe, and had just put his right hand to it to
take it from his mouth that he might speak to Thompson, where he heart the
clicking of the hammers of the guns in the hands of his executioners. Whirling
partly around he threw up his left hand as if to ward off the bullet. Thompson
stopped groaning and began to beg for mercy. Then the posse fired. One bullet
pierced the hand that Bennett had raised and passed through his head. He fell
headlong with his pipe in one hand and the other still raised. Thompson was shot
full of bullets as he laid there on his bed. The two were killed very much like
wolves in a den.
There is but one man of the posse who will talk about the killing. Mundell
justified his killing of Thompson even when helpless, on the plea that Thompson
had already tried to shoot him at the post office. As for the others, Billie
Olive is dead and the rest say nothing.
The posse then went back to the store for Charley Tracy, but Charley had
jumped on a pony and fled for his life. Pat Tracy was then told he might close
out the business. This he did inside of two weeks. No one here knows where he is
An inquest followed: Here is the verdict of the jurymen:
"We the jury appointed to view the remains of O. P. Bennett and Frank
Thompson, find that they came to their death from gunshot wounds received at the
hands of many law abiding citizens, thereby inflicting as near as possible the
extreme penalty of law as it should be in such cases. The deceased were bad
citizens - one having run a house of prostitution and the other living in open
adultery in our town. Each was accused of stealing and receiving stolen
property, some of which was found on their premises after they were killed. They
had each been firing into houses, holding a dozen or more claims and driving
honest settlers away from the country and their untimely end is but the results
of their own many wrong doings. (Signed) J. A. Overstreet, M.D., Laf Wells,
James Deveris, Joseph Hunter. H. D. Wright, G. E. Myers, Jury. O. G. Chase,
While the charges against the deceased were all doubtless true, it is also
true that Beaver City at this minute knew several of its most prominent citizens
were doomed, were the death penalty inflicted on all who have guilty of the same
After the inquest came the funeral. It was the first funeral service in No
Manís Land. The R. R. M. Overstreet officiated. His text was taken from the 8th
and 23rd verses of the 94th Psalm, as follows: Understand, ye brutish among the
people; and ye fools when will ye be wise? And He shall bring upon them their
own iniquity, and shall put them off in their own wickedness: yea, the Lord or
God Shall cut them off.
The sermon was very comforting to the posse that had "cut them off." Dr. O. G
Chase says that after the ceremony the preacher came to him and said: :We will
mould public opinion, and let the young men to the work."
The people here say that there were goods worth five thousand dollars in the
store, and that Bennett was a third owner, that Pat Tracy made charges in the
book that deprived Bennettís heirs of the amount due. Bennett, however, had
other property, such as horses and buildings, which brought at auction $800
cash. The Rev. R. M. Overstreet, W. J. Kline and W. M. Dow took charge of the
estate as administrators. They have never made any public report of what they
did with the money. It is said that one of the items of the bill for funeral
expenses was $210,00 for hauling the corpse to the grave a mile and a half from
town. Mr. Dow says that the estate just paid the expenses of settling it.
Bennettís father is a man of wealth in California. He came as far on his way
to No Manís Land after the death of his son as Meade Center, in Kansas. He was
afraid to come further. Mr. Dow went up there and made a report on the settling
of the estate. There nothing left of the eight hundred dollars.
FURTHER ATTEMPT TO ORGANIZE A
Possibly the killing of Thompson and Bennett raised the standing of the
"Territorial Council of Cimarron Territory" in the estimation of the people; it
certainly raised the councillers in their own estimation, for at the next
meeting of the council which was held on April 15th, 1998, an astonishing number
of bills were introduced and passed. This meeting is noteworthy from the fact
that a Chaplain, a Rev. R. A. Allen, officiated for the firs time. President of
the Council O. G. Chase, read a long message, "On the State of the Territory"
thereby taking upon himself somewhat of the character of Chief Executive. The
message is preserved in full in the Journal.
A seal for stamping all bills was brought in use at this meeting also. It was
bought by the president.
The first two bills were introduced by the Rev. Overstreet. They related to
the public highways. A road overseer to be elected annually in each township was
provided for, and each claim of 160 acres and each male citizen between the ages
of 21 and 45 years who owned no claim was to be taxed three dollars a year for
the benefit of the highways. It was provided that "Improved but unoccupied
claims may be sold for the tax where the claimant is not known, but a protest
notice of such sales shall be given of the time and place of such sale, thereby
giving full notice to the public of the sale."
No one ever paid the tax and no road overseer was ever elected, but during
the past year the men of Beaver City turned out voluntarily on several occasions
and worked the trail through the sand hills north of the river, as well as the
main street of the village, and put the roads in excellent condition.
Council Bill No. 4 provided an enacting clause for all subsequent bills thus:
Be it enacted by the Territorial Council of Cimarron Territory in Council
To show just how this council tried to do the work of a lawful legislature
the following bill is given verbatim except the enacting clause:
COUNCIL BILL NO 6 -- An act concerning cattle mortgages.
That all personal property except growing crops is subject to mortgage. Such
mortgage is void until delivery to mortgagee or until the mortgage or copy
thereof shall have been filed with the clerk on the auxiliary council in the
vicinity of where the property is to remain. The mortgage may stipulate the
rights of the mortgagee, otherwise the property will be held by the mortgagor.
The time and manner of advertising to foreclose shall also be stipulated in the
mortgage, otherwise thirty days notice shall be given in writing to the
mortgagor giving time and place of sale.
Another bill providing for the division of the territory into several
counties of twenty-four townships each; also for the election in November of a
new legislative body of nineteen senators and 14 delegates. The Senate district
was formed by the meridian line, and the delegates were to represent the county.
But it was provided that seven of the delegates and six senators should be
elected at large, which meant from Beaver City, Beaver being the center of
population. The people who lived beyond the limits of Beaverís influence would
have objected to this but for the fact they didnít care a cent about the
legislature or its enactments. Although an election was held that provided no
one living over forty miles was elected and the vacancies were filled by those
who met on the first Monday in December as this bill said they could do.
Meantime the original council of nine held several meetings. They had
resolved to meet once a month, but could not get a quorum very often.
The meeting of August 2nd was interesting for two reasons. First in spite of
their utter lack of power to do anything lawful, this council passed a bill of
ten sections providing for the organization of corporations. Second, President
Chase forgot all about a little political deal he had made with the Rev.
Overstreet, and a split occurred. Here are the sample sections from the law
Section 4. Such articles of incorporation must state name of incorporation
and its place of business. The general nature of said business to be transacted.
The amount of its capital stock and the manner in which it is to be paid in. The
duration of the corporation. By what persons the affairs of the corporation are
to be conducted and the times they will be elected. The highest amount of
indebtedness to which corporation is at any time to subject itself. Whether
private property is to be except from corporate debts.
Section 5. The corporation may commence business as soon as articles are
filed with the territorial secretary, and their doing shall be valid if the
publication in newspaper is made.
Publication of what? Of course there was never any corporation that took
advantage of this bill.
The political deal what this: The Rev. Mr. Overstreet had agreed to support
chase for president of the council on condition that Chase should support him
for delegate to Washington, for it had early been determined to send a delegate
to work for legislation which should extend over this territory with protection
of United States laws. At the August meeting of the council the Rev. Overstreet
proposed that provisions for a delegate be made. President Chase forgetting that
deal ruled the matter out of order on the grounds for putting men in nomination
for election by ballot should be called. The Rev. Overstreet did not attend any
more Council meetings.
A convention to choose nominees was called at Rothwell on September 14th.
Fourteen delegates representing fourteen out of the 158 towns in the territory
were present. The preacher was not mentioned as a candidate. After twenty
ballots J. G. Snode of Paladora, had seven votes; J. E. Dale, five with two
scattered. So both Snode and Dale went before the people. Then Dr. Chase came
out as an independent and on the face of the returns beat the other two out of
sight. As the returns were made to the Doctorís son-in-law, who had previously
been elected secretary of the council and as the number of votes somewhat
outnumbered the voters in some localities, the opposition were suspicious of the
returns. Mr. Dale who led Mr. Snode in the returns, decided to go to Washington
also. He said Dr. Chase had been counted in "by the ring that wants to run the
whole country." Dr. Chase retorted by saying, that Mr. Dale was backed by the
thieves and land grabbers who had all along worked against the efforts of honest
citizens to establish law and order; and further, unfortunately, by the friends
of an honest but disappointed candidate. The stranger who talks to both sides
will conclude that both Chase and Dale told the truth.
Here is the copy of the ticket voted by the Chase faction:
Repudiating all other platforms, we ask for Territorial Government United
States District Court, and United States Land Office within the borders of the
Public Land Strip, as other territories have.
For Congress, O. G. CHASE - For Senatorial Congress Large
W. H. MILLER, Optima; S. S. ---
BAKER, Mineral City: JOSEPH HUNTER, Beaver City; J. R. LINLEY, Beaver City;
J. B. MORSE, Clear Creek; J. G. SNODE, Paladora. - For Senator First District,
THOS. P. BRAIDWOOD - For Delegates at Large, GEO. REEMER, JAMES LANE, R. R.
ALLEN, A. G. BENDER, E. T. BIRMINGHAM, ELMER TOMPKINS, ALEX WRIGHT - For
Delegate Seventh District, G. T. PEMBERTON - For Territorial Secretary. W. B.
OGDEN - N. B. Immediately after counting the ballot must be returned, with the
talley sheet and poll book to W. B. Ogden, territorial secretary at Beaver.
Candidates must see that each neighborhood appoints its own election officers,
and open the poles November 8, 1998.
THE SHOOTING OF BILLIE OLIVE
Among the thirty-four men who signed the call for the mass meeting at Beaver
City at which were made the first crude efforts to establish some sort of law
and order in the territory was W. P. Olive. It will be remembered that Mr. Olive
was one of the executioners of O. P. Bennett and Frank Thompson, and one of the
charged against Thompson; was that he was living with a woman unlawfully. Mr.
Olive had been all along one of Beaverís other citizens who were outraging good
morals as Thompson had been doing, but Olive had appeared among those who wanted
law and order, and thus had escaped the fate of Thompson. He had found safety,
as others did in hypocrisy. He had come from Smoky River in Nebraska, where he
had just killed a man just show that he was not afraid to kill one and has lived
with slight labor in Beaver City since early in the summer of 1886.
His means in getting a living consisted chiefly in stealing cattle on the
range and slaughtering them and selling the meat to citizens in Beaver City.
This was his occupation during the days when the good citizens were considering
the advisability of Killing Frank Thompson and O. P Bennett for stealing a rifle
or jumping a claim. There is, or was, a constant warfare prevailing between the
settlers and the Nomad cowboys. The cowboys not infrequently drove their herds
into settlers fields and destroyed their crops. The theft of a few steers was
looked upon as sort of providential retribution for the previous sins of the
Occasionally Billie went out with some friends, rounded up a few wild horses
that are still found on the plans west of here. Early in September, 1887, Billie
went away on such a trip as this and was gone a week. The woman he lived with
took advantage of his absence to flee from the country, for Billie, when drunk,
abused her shamefully. Billie came back, found her gone, and followed and
overtook her at Cimarron, a station on the Santa Fe railroad. The woman, to
escape Billieís wrath, told him a lie. She said that William Henderson, the
saloon keeper in Beaver City had told her that Billie was not coming back.
Billie took her home and spoke to Henderson about the womanís story. Henderson
denied it. That night - It was a night of September 14, 19\887 - Billie with
John, commonly called "Lengthy" Halford, another friend, went on a spree. They
gambled and drank all night and the next morning went to Hendersonís saloon.
Here Billie "drew down his six-shooter on Henderson" and said" "Set up the
drinks or Iíll kill you."
Henderson set them up without delay. While he did so Billie shot the lamps
and glassware to pieces about the saloon, and fired several shots into
Hendersonís trunk in one corner of the room. After drinking the crowd went out.
In few minutes Billie appeared through the back door of the saloon,
Winchester in hand he ordered Henderson to throw up his hands. With his hands
up, Henderson asked what was wanted.
"Go down town," said Billie, and thereupon Henderson marched out the door and
down the street, with his hands above his head, while Billie walked behind,
striking him in the back with the Winchester.
Pretty soon Lengthy Halford came along and both men pounded the helpless
saloon keeper. The business men and their customers gathered at the doors and
windows of the stores along the street and looked on but did nothing.
Then Olive got tired of pounding his victim, and aiming the rifle at him
pulled the trigger. The cartridge failed to explode and Henderson began to run.
Olive pumped a new cartridge into the chamber, and pulled again but neither this
one nor the third one exploded. People here regard Hendersonís escape as little,
if any short of miraculous. No other such failure of cartridge was ever knows.
Meantime Halford had fired several shots at Henderson from a six-shooter, but
he was not a dead shot as Olive was. Henderson fled across the Beaver river to
the sand hills.
Several hours later he returned. He was called on by about all of the
business men of the town and advised to bushwhack Olive. They determined that
Olive and Halford were bad citizens and should die. Henderson got a rifle and
with three other citizens started up town behind the buildings that lined the
west side of main street. He was told that Olive was prowling down the east side
of the street with Halford, pistol in hand looking into every saloon for he had
head of Hendersonís return. As Olive stopped to look into the building now
Frank Palmer, so Henderson, peeking around the back end of a building across
the street saw him, and drawing his rifle up behind the wall he was concealed
behind, shot Olive through the heart.
It was by this time sun down. Halford fled to Nichols store near by and
escaped the men who were with Henderson. He got a girl who was living with him
and putting her on the horse, mounted another, and the two fled down the bottom
lands of the Beaver river east of town. It was not long until the citizens found
his trail and were in hot pursuit. Four hours later they overtook him. Leaping
from his horse, he dodge the volley of bullets which were sent after him and
escaped by crawling away in the tall prairie grass, although his pursuers rode
up and down for hours in the search.
There was no inquest. Oliveís body was sent to his mother, who came from
Nebraska, as far as Dodge City, Kansas, to get it. Within a year she had also to
bury her husband, who was also shot to death and with much the same reason as
A GOVERNMENT FOR BEAVER CITY
There had been a little shooting scrape some weeks before Oliveís taking off.
Charlie Redmond and John Massey had been roping, that is, lassoing each other.
Redmond got the lasso over Masseyís neck and downed him. Massey got up and there
was a short fight. Redmond got the worst of it and then friends interfered.
Massey left the saloon and went across the street. Redmond followed him and shot
him across the small of the back. It was a flesh wound of little consequence.
The shooting of Massey set the people talking about the necessity of some
sort of city government with police force attached. The shooting of Olive after
his attempt on Hendersonís life make them act. On September 15, 1887, an
election was held and the following officers were chosen:
Mayor, J. Thomas; Councilmen, John Garvey, Thomas Braidwood, J. H alley, and
M. Mesaur; Clerk, F. B Ogden; Treasurer, J. A. Ovestreet.
The city government was organized the next day without any other formality
than the calling of the councilmen to order by the mayor, and thereupon a
commission was issued to a city marshal as follows: Beaver City, N.S.I.T.,
September 16, 1887. -- Know Ye, that at a regular meeting of the Board of City
Council of Beaver City, held on the 16th day of September, A. D. ADDISON MUNDELL
was commissioned City Marshal to continue in said office during the pleasure of
said City Council.---J Thomas, Mayor. Attest: Wm. B. Ogden, Clerk.
The marshal received fifty dollars a month for three months. The saloon
keepers contributed three dollars a month each, and all other business men three
dollars each. The tax receipts dwindled to thirty dollars a month at the end of
three months and after six months to a sum not worth collecting.
It was during the ebb-tide of collections that two deliberate murders in Jim
Donnellyís saloon occurred. An account of which will be given further on.
Itís further worthy of note that this city organization is still preserved,
and that it is respected by the people. It was through its workings that the
main street had been graded and the trail north of town improved.
THE LAST BLOOD SHED IN BEAVER
When the story of two deliberate and cowardly murders has been told and the
record of life taking in Beaver City will be complete to date. The murder and
result in other parts of the territory which averaged not more than fourteen a
year among the seven or eight thousand people, are illustrated by those done
here. In all five men have been killed here and two wounded. The first two of
these last killings is interesting too, from the fact that the murderer was put
on trial before a No Manís Land Court, and although really guilty was acquitted
for want of evidence.
About February the 1st, 1888, two strangers drove into town and registered at
the hotel and Eugene Brusher and Andrew H. Morris of Beloise, Kansas. It was
afterwards (officials) learned that the real name of Morris was John A. Clark.
They said they had come to locate stock ranches, and as they had money, there
were welcomed by everyone. Part of the welcome was numerous invitations to
drink, all of which were accepted. The men stayed in town several days making
several trips into the surrounding country, meantime to look up claims, but
returning each night to Beaver, where they invariably went on a spree.
On the night of February 3, they were in Jim Donnellyís saloon next to the
hotel with a number of others, apparently having a good time. In the crowd was
Dr. J. R. Linley. The doctor wore a silk hat. He was the only man in town
allowed to wear a hat of this kind, and it was only his reputation as a good
fellow that saved the hat from being a target for the six shooters of the
cowboy. "Shoot" was a business rather than a slang phrase.
In the course of the horse play before the bar Dr. Linley exchanged hats with
Brusher. Without an instance delay Clark drew a revolver and shot Brusher
through the head, the bullet entering just below the hat brim. Brusher fell dead
in a hap before the bar. Clark called for another drink, and then began to crew
up his face in an endeavor to cry.
City Marshal Mundell, who was playing poker in the back room of the saloon
and did not realize that any thing had happened until a boy came from the front
room and said nonchalantly, in answer to a question about the noise, that a man
had been killed.
Clark surrendered his pistol at Mundellís orders, saying that he had intended
shooting the hat. Next day Clark was arranged before Mayor J. Thomas and the
jury on a charge of murder. The trial lasted for three days and at the end City
Attorney E. E. Brown, was obliged to accept the plea of guilty of criminal
carelessness, Clark was fined $25 which he paid. Clark was advised privately to
leave town, but remained and so lost his life.
A few days after the shooting came William Brusher, a brother of Eugene. He
had never seen Clark. After going over the testimony in the case he pretended to
be satisfied that the shooting was unintentional, and at once made friends with
Clark. On the evening of February the 8th the two were in Jim Donnellyís saloon
where Eugene Brusher had been killed. They were shaking dice for the drinks at
ten oíclock when Brushere excused himself and stepped outside the front door.
There was one unpainted pane of glass in the front window, through which Clark
could be plainly seen. Brusher drew a heavy revolved, aimed it carefully, fired
and shot Clark through the heart. Then he jumped on a horse, which he had
standing there ready all the time and galloped out of town. A posse pursued but
never overtook him.
He was afterwards heard from at Rush Center, Kansas, but the civil
authorities of No Manís Land made no effort to expidite him and try him for his
Clark had been the owner of a hotel at Beloise, Kansas, which he burned for
the insurance money, and Brusher was the sole witness of the crime. Clark had
induced Brusher to come to No Manís Land with the intention of getting rid of
him and had taken the first opportunity to do him up.
Clark was buried beside Frank Thompson and O. P. Bennett, and his part of the
traveling and camping outfit which he and Bennett had brought were sold to pay
the expenses of the funeral.
NO MANíS LAND BEFORE CONGRESS
As may be inferred from what has already been told of the history of this
country the first ambition of the people was to have the strip organized as a
separate territory. It was only a potato patch in size as compared with the
states and territories that bounded them, but it was larger than Rhode Island
and Delaware, in fact could support a greater population than both of these
states put together.
According to the people here the rapid settling of No Manís Land attracted no
end of land sharks, who made every effort to grab the land under cover of law.
They prepared a bill which Senator Plumb, of Kansas, got through the senate
which would have extended the laws of the United States over the territory by
attaching the Strip to Kansas for judicial purposes.
"It ordered the completing of the survey of the Strip, but made no
appropriations for the expense of the surveyors. So, of course, the survey could
not have been completed and Senator Plumb knew it couldnít. It made no
provisions whatever for any local government.
Had this bill become a law the owner of the land script of whom the people
here say Senator Plumb is the chief, would have gobbled the best of the
territory including town sites. The sole protection for life would have been the
United States Court at Wichita, some hundreds of miles away. The power of this
court is seen in the condition of affairs in Indian Territory, over which it
extends and where over three hundred lives were taken unlawfully during the
year, and blood would have flowed like water under this bill in No Manís Land,
and Plumb knew it. This bill was actually worked through both houses, but when
President Clevelandís attention was called to the effect, he vetoed it.
A similar scheme which the people here say that Senator Plumb had on foot was
the location of a land office at Vorhees, Kansas, a town site in which they say
the Senator is largely interested. This included the attaching of the Strip to
Kansas for judicial purposes.
A third bill was the Oklahoma bill, this received the united support of the
people in No Manís Land. I creates a new territory, with local government
complete, out of that part of the Indian Territory west of the civilized tribes,
and including No Manís Land. This bill is, of course, strongly opposed by cattle
owners, who occupy the whole part of Indian Territory included in the bill. The
people here asserts that Senator Plumb is interested in the cattle, and is the
mouth piece of the cow men. One company pays the Cherokee Nation over two
hundred thousand dollars a year for a lease of seven million acres. Other
companies pay equally absurd prices for other parts of the land. In spite of the
depression in the cattle market these men are getting rich hand over fist. This
territory is the last foothold of the cattlemen for all other ranges throughout
the West have been invaded by the much hated home seeker. Itís a misfortune for
the people of No Manís Land who have in equity a right to the claims they
occupy, that their demands for law and justice would have to wait on the
discussions of the propriety of opening a part of Indian Territory, but there
seems no other hopes for them. The area of this territory is too small to permit
them to be organized as a separate territory and as already shown the bills to
attach them to organize territories have been conceived in the desire to
defraud. What with the influences of the cattleman and the opposition also, of
the people of western Kansas, who want their vacant land settled before No Manís
Land is opened, the people here are likely to start before they get the
legislation which alone is needed to create here a remarkably flourishing
COUNTERFEITERS AND MOONSHINERS
Very little can be learned here about the making of silver coin and of
moonshine whiskey in No Manís Land. There is a distillery, they say, over on
Clear Creek, and the product is brought here and taken elsewhere about this
Territory and sold. Two men ventured to "bootleg it" into Kansas, and got caught
by prohibitionists, and are now in the State prison. None of the saloon keepers
here pays a license, although all of them did so until Dr. Chase went to
Washington as a delegate and learned that there was no law under which they
could be punished if they refused to pay. The counterfeiting was done in a sod
house in the northeast corner of No Manís Land not far from Englewood, Kansas.
There were two men in the business and they got on very well for a time by
dodging back across the line whenever the officers got after them in Kansas. But
they ventured over once too often and were caught and are now in prison. Had
they come to Beaver and got caught they never would have been sent to prison.
THE CLIMATE IS HARD TO BEAT
From the Territorial Advocate of December 12:
"Who could wish for a finer climate than ours? Grapes are still hanging on
the vines still uninjured by frost. There has been no fire in our office for two
weeks except a little each morning. It is unnecessary to go to California to
find a perfect climate."
From the Territorial Advocate of September 21st:
"The Advocate failed to make its appearance last week. This due to a cyclone
which carried the roof of our office away and covered the type and presses with
We have worked hard to get things in order for this issue, and hope our
friends will excuse us."
NO MANíS LAND SOCIETY
Let the man about town who has seen it all and is weary of life come to No
Manís Land and attend a ball. He can attend a hop on almost any evening by
giving an hours notice, but the balls which begin early and last all night are
an event of such occasions as the Fourth of July; Decoration Day, and other
holidays, and no holiday passes without one.
There was one on Christmas even. It had been looked forward to and prepared
for ever since the ball on Thanksgiving night. In each issue of the Territorial Advocate
the editor had written paragraphs about it. There was
one sentence in each paragraph, which, though not likely to attract the
attention of stranger at first, would nevertheless be remembered by him when he
reached the dance hall. The sentence was this: "Gentlemen will attend at the
clock room and deposit their hats, etc., etc." meaning six shooters. The only
gentlemen allowed to carry six shooters beneath the roof of the hall was the one
in charge of the cloak room. He kept one handy to insure that no one else
carried one into the dancing room.
Evening dress in No Manís Land is different from what it is in New York. All
wore high heeled boots, and a few of the more dudish among them had their boots
blackened. As a rule the lower end of their trousers were tucked into their boot
The music was furnished gratuitously, of course. There were three violins and
an organ. The organ was brought from the Methodist church. Mr. George Blake, the
city recorder, was (the) leading violinists, and Dr. J. R. Linley and Rube
Chilcott, played second. Mrs. George Blake and Miss Birdie Easter presided
alternately at the organ. Both are very graceful dancers. It was therefore a
matter of regret among the gentlemen that no one else could play. All things
considered however, Mr. Olive McClung came to be the most popular woman on the
floor and it is quite certain that her figure and bearing as well as her
features, would attract favorable comment anywhere.
As the gentlemen passed the cloak room each received a number. This was to
prevent trouble on the ball room floor. In announcing a square dance, the floor
manager, Oliver McClung invariably said something like this: "Partners for a
quadrille Nos. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12."
There was room for three sets on the floor, and the numbers were called in
regular succession, so that no one of the fifth-nine gentlemen present could
dance more frequently than any one else. There was no restriction on the ladies,
of course, and they danced in proportion to their popularity. In justice to No
Manís Land gallantry it should be said that there was seldom any wall flowers.
When a dance was called the gentlemen "russled" for their partners, and took
their places on the floor in the order in which their numbers were announced.
Then each stood about in his place and rested his weight first on one foot and
then the other, and looked frequently toward the music stand as if impatient to
begin. The ladies settled their skirts and touched up frizes and back hair,
while the fiddlers gave a few preliminary saws on their strings to make sure
that their instruments were in tune.
At last the preliminary thump of his foot and a nod, Mr. Blake would play the
opening note while the stage driver, Jack Farley or some other "would shout"
honors to your "partners".
There was that about the movements of the dancers especially of the gentlemen
in shirtsleeves and with trousers tucked into the tops of their high heeled
boots, which the word sprightliness scarcely described. Even the sod wall two
feet thick trembled particularly when Farley shouted "shake them feet", meaning
thereby "balance all."
If the dances were different from what New Yorkers were accustomed to, it was
in every way modest and pious. If a few of the ladies were married no one would
have suspicioned anything, for no one saw nor heard anything, and only thought
of the business in hand until ex-Marshall Mundell took McClung to one side and
exhibiting a copy of the National Detective Review called attention to this
notice which appeared below the portrait of the McClungs:
$50 Dollards Reward: For the location of McClung and wife. Were at Medicine
Lodge, Kansas, on July 24, 2888. Noted Dead Beats.
It is interesting to note that a part of the Christmas eve entertainment was
the childrenís festival at the Presbyterian church. The program was short. I
contained ten numbers, and included the usual carol, recitations, and giving of
presents to the little ones. Superintendent Breckenridge told the Sun
reporter that the program was made short so that everybody who wished to do so
could go early to the dance. Apparently everyone wished to go.
The popularity of the dances in Beaver may be inferred from this fact that
young and old drive and ride all the way from forty to fifty miles away in
"We have to keep the women contented" said Dr. Chase, in telling why dances
were held so often. But he was speaking for the men as well as the women, for
waiting for the Strip to come in its weary work.
THE FIRST CHURCH IN NO MANíS LAND
The Rev. R. M. Overstreet organized a Presbyterian church in Beaver City on
June 12, 1887, with ten members, including himself and four other members of his
family. A new church building 24x40 feet large was erected at the cost of nearly
$1,000, but a large part of the money came from the Home Missionary Board, of
the church in New York City. More members have moved away than have been added
by new arrivals, while there have been no converts.
THE OPENING OF THE TERRITORY
Up to the meeting of Congress in December, 1887, the whole territory boomed
along in a what that delights a western heart. Even the completion of the Ft.
Worth & Denver railroad through the Panhandle of Texas which then stopped the
freighters train over the Jones & Plummer trail did not check the prosperity of
Beaver City let along the influx of settlers who were looking for homesteads.
Claims changed hands at prices that farms with good titles would not have
brought across the line in Kansas. But when the fiftieth Session of Congress had
grown old and nothing had been done for the relief of No Manís Land its people
began to get discouraged. Their capital had been sunk in improvements and
currant expenses. They had nothing left o live on. Not only were the influx of
the settlers topped but many of the residents began to "haul their freight"
which in the vernacular here means to leave the country. The Majority of these
people, however, left such improvements on their claims as will enable them to
return and hold them whenever the strip comes in. There was probably at one time
a population of 12,000 people in No Manís Land. Now there may be 8,000
Nevertheless, many of those who remained are full of hope and no less than
forty new houses were added during the past six weeks. To the three hundred to
which Beaver contains. They are as a rule sod houses of cheap box frames, but
they will serve to hold the town lot as the boom arrived.
To trace the history of other parts of No Manís Land than this, the
metropolis, is out of the question. There are dozens of small settlements and a
half dozen villages to twenty or more houses in every one of which there have
been fights, murders, lynching, and the usual lawlessness to be found on the
frontier. To give in detail half the tales of the sort which the Sun reporter
took note would fill many pages of this paper not to mention the common place
killings of which no note was taken. But the record of events at Beaver is
tolerably complete, and that will give an idea of what occurred elsewhere.
To the man who comes from a land where trees grow the scenery about Beaver
seems at first sight utterly desolate. The Barren sand hills which are found all
along the north bank of every stream in this country fairly seems to dance in
the glare of the sun even on a winter day. The lowlands were once covered with
trees but these all have long since been cut away. The table lands between the
streams are only a little less dreary than the sand hills. But in a day or two,
or at most a week, this feeling wears off. There is something about the sweep of
the uplands that excites the imagination and fascinates the eye. The hills may
be a picture of desolation but one is found confessing that in the sense of
grandeur exceed the depression which their desolation at first creates. The
whitish buffalo grass which by reflecting the sun light, had at first made the
eye ache is seen at last to be of a delicate shade of green that is delightful
to look upon.
The one difficulty in the way of farming is the south winds. The trade winds
from over the sea sweeping across the Gulf of Mexico are over the land until
deflected to the north by the Rocky Mountains. They drive along the broken
prairies for hundreds of miles. Heated above by the direct rays of the sun and
heated below by those rays reflected back from the white buffalo grass sod. They
come like the breath from the furnace in which Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego,
fell down and they destroyed the face of the land.
Crops that mature before the first of July flourish luxuriantly every season.
Other crops flourish about two years out of five for wet seasons are had that
often. When crops can be irrigated as in the bottom lands there is a growth
almost beyond belief.
Two crops of ordinary garden vegetables are raised every season and each crop
is in itself a wonder. As the country is settled up and the buffalo grass turned
under the climate will change and this land will be as good as it is in Kansas
-- no better and no worse. Central Kansas used to get burned up as this country
But in spite of this obvious drawback, there will be a tremendous influx of
population here as soon as the laws of the land reach the country. Two
railroads, one near each end of the Strip are built to the line and have stopped
there only temporarily. The country has been so much talked about everywhere
throughout the west that thousands will hasten hither as much from curiosity as
for any other reason as soon as property is secure. There will be a mushroom
growth of partial wilting down again and then No Manís Land will become a
humdrum country of farms with only a curious early history to make it talked