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Orange Scott Cummins, The Pilgrim Bard

Left to right: Scott Cummins with a vase of flowers, Scott Cummins with a baby, Portrait of Scott Cummins.

Photos courtesy of Frank and Jan Cummins. Frank is a great grandson of Scott Cummins.

CLICK HERE for more information about Scott Cummins.

Three photographs of Scott Cummins, the Pilgrim Bard
Photos courtesy of Frank and Jan Cummins. Frank is a great grandson of Scott Cummins.

Pilgrim Bard

by Scott Cummins

To whom the green sward is like bed of down,
With no pavilion save the starlit sky,
Upon whose locks the evening dews have shown;
Who often slept among the wilds alone,
The while the coyotes sing his lullaby.

Gladly would I backward turn Time's mystic wheel,
And make this land again a desert wild;
I care not what the future may reveal;
But memories of the past will o'er me steal-
Again I would be nature's reckless child.


Orange Scott Cummins.

Photo used with the permission of Linda Wagner, webmaster of OkieLegacy.org.
Orange Scott Cummins
Photo used with permission of Linda Wagner,
webmaster of OkieLegacy.org.
See: Scott Cummins, "Pilgrim Bard."

Orange Scott Cummins, "The Pilgrim Bard", was a "traveling man". He was born born on 12 May 1846 at Zenia, Harrison County, OH., to Reverend George Irwin Cummins, (of Washington, MD) & Mary Ann (Clyde) Cummins (from Kent County, Delaware). He moved with his family to Suasqueton, IA, when he was 18 months old. His family lived in Centerville, OH, when he was discharged from the U.S. Army on 8 Aug 1863; he was enlisted at Drakeville, IA, in 1861 and served in the Civil War for over 3 years.

He served in Company A, 3rd Iowa Cavalry, according to an article, "Soldier's Reunion", published in The Medicine Lodge Cresset, October 23, 1879.

O. Scott Cummins married Mary Melinda Martin (born 27 Oct 1848, Hendrix Cty., OH) in Appanoose Cty., IN, on 4 April 1865; they then resided on a farm given to them by her father, apparently as a dowry gift.

An excellent biography for him is online: Orange Scott Cummins a.k.a. The Pilgrim Bard, May 12, 1846 - March 24, 1928.

The electriccemetery.com biography states that "In 1869, Scott and Mary went to Kansas to visit his family who had moved there."

It is likely, but not certain, that these relatives may have been the W.B. & Louella Cummins family. No doubt this question could be answered fairly quickly with more research into it.

By 1870, O.S. Cummins was operating "The Frontier House" hotel in Wellington, KS, was the Justice of the Peace, and considered to be one of the city founders.

In 1877, Scott Cummins apparently decided to break ties with Iowa to become part of Barber County, Kansas. It is probable, though not proven, that he had been a Kansas resident for at least seven years. Whatever the case, he traded his farm in Appanoose County, IA, for a stock of horses and cattle in order to take his wife, who suffered from inflammatory rheumatism, to a "higher, drier climate". They settled in or near Lodi, southwest of Medicine Lodge.

The mention, in the electriccemetery.com biography, of him having been appointed a U.S. Marshall and of having stored an arsenal in his home, "built in the bank dugout fashion", is certainly a lead any responsible biographer will want to follow in their accounting of his life.

It is less surprising of the Pilgrim Bard to learn that he soon moved, within two years, to a new town called "Last Chance" southeast of Medicine Lodge about 18 miles.

The new Post Office established for this town, Canema, was named after Scott and Mary's daughter, Nina Canema Cummins. Canema was locally known as "Cumminsford" and was located on on Little Mule creek in Barber county, 12 miles south of Medicine Lodge.

Scott Cummins was living at Cumminsford on 23 April 1885 when he wrote The Flood, which was published in The Medicine Lodge Cresset on May 7, 1885. This poem is about the Great Flood of April 21, 1885, in Barber County, Kansas. At least 18 people perished in the flood.

According to The Kansas Gazeteer & Business Directory For 1888-1889, Mary M. Cummins lived in Canema, Barber County, Kansas, and ran a grocery and hotel. The electriccemetery.com biography states: "Many cattlemen and cowboys stopped for meals, lodging and supplies as Last Chance was located on the old cattle trail from Fort Supply, Oklahoma Territory to Honeywell, Kansas."

Nina Canema Cummins married a cowboy, T.J. Dyer.

After leaving Barber County, Scott Cummins is known to have lived in Nescatunga and Coldwater, Comanche County, Kansas.

He was living in Winchester, Oklahoma, when his wife, Mary M. Cummins, died January 24, 1903. (Her obituary was published in The Barber County Index, January 28, 1903.) The news of her death was carried to Medicine Lodge by Denver Boggs, another former Barber County resident was settled near Winchester, Oklahoma.

Apparently seeing greater opportunities to the south, Scott Cummins took part, on 16 Sept 1893, in the Oklahoma Land Run and staked a claim in the Cherokee Strip. The claim, 7.5 miles west and 3 miles south of Hartdner, KS, was on the Salt Fork River, and the family's first dwelling was a dugout. The Cummins farm house near Winchester, OK, in which his wife probably died was built at a later date.

Judging from the fact that Mary M. Cummins was buried in a family plot on a hill just north of that homestead beside Scott's mother, Mary Ann Cummins, it seems that his mother had been part of their Oklahoma household.

Civic duty called to Cummins again after moving to Woods County, Oklahoma: for 6 years he was a U.S. Land Commissioner and for 4 years he served the District Court of Woods County as a baliff. Scott Cummins died 24 March 1928. He is buried at the Alva, Oklahoma, Municipal Cemetery.


Scott Cummins, the Pilgrim Bard.

Photo courtesy of Frank and Jan Cummins. 

CLICK HERE for more information about Scott Cummins.

Scott Cummins, the Pilgrim Bard
Photo courtesy of Frank and Jan Cummins.


The Chosen Land - Barber County, Kansas, pg. 146.

Orange Scott Cummins

By Joy (Cameron) Sherman

O. Scott Cummins, the Pilgrim Bard, was born May 12, 1846, at Zenia, Harrison County, Ohio. His father, Rev. Geo Irving Cummins, a native of Scotland, and his mother, Mary Ann Clyde Cummins, from Ireland, were married in Scotland before coming to America.

Rev. Cummins, a Methodist preacher for 55 years moved frequently as the church conference directed. When Scott was 18 months of age, they moved from Ohio to Northern Iowa. Most settlers were Indians of the Mesquoquie tribe. Many of his playmates were young Indians. He learned their customs and habits. From these associations he wrote "The Legend of Cone."

Scott enlisted for the vicil War at Drakeville, Iowa, in Co. A 3rd Iowa Calvary in 1861. He participated in all the battles of Gen. Wilson's Calvary Raids. He was mustered out August 8, 1864.

On April 4, 1865, in Appanoose County, Iowa, Scott married Mary Melinda Martin, born October 27, 1848. A daughter, Nina Canema, was born on the farm given to them by Mary Melinda's father.

While visiting Scott's family, now living at Paola, Kansas, a son Rolland was born, but lived only a few months. They returned to Iowa, adopted a three year old orphan brought in from New York. He was named Dugan for an old war buddy.

In 1870 Scott was recognized as a founder of Wellington, Kansas. He was a Justice of the Peache and proprietor of 'The Frontier House', Wellington's first hotel. They returned to Iowa because of Mary's health, and Daisy Lorn was born. Doctors advised higher, dryer climate for her rheumatism, so they returned to Paola, with 3 covered wagons, driving cattle and horses.

Mary Melinda and Scott went on to Barber County and staked claims near Lodi, returned to Paola for the winter. In the spring they began a six weeks trip to Lodi, a store and post office southwest of Medicine Lodge.

Scott was appointed U.S. Marshall and given an arsenal to be used for protection of settlers from Indians. They were stored in his dugout home.

Two years later, they moved 5 miles from the first claim, now 18 miles southwest of Medicine Lodge, a place called 'Last Chance. The Mule Creek crossing was called "Cummins Ford". The Cummins family operated a general store and lodging house and served meals. 'Last Chance' was on the cattle trail from Ft. Supply to Honeywell. It was later named Canema for little Nina Canema.

1886 map of Barber County, Kansas.
1886 map of Barber County, Kansas, showing Canema.

Three sons were born, Walter Scott, who died in a flu epidemic; Donald DeWitt (Dewey), who died September 22, 1969, and Dwight, who died soon after birth.

In the Cherokee Strip Run, Scott staked a claim on Salt Fork River, 3 miles south and 7 1/2 west of Hardtner. They built a lovely farm home near the original dugout - near Winchester, Oklahoma.

Mary died January 24, 1903 and was buried on a knoll near Scott's mother, Mary Ann, on the home place.

Scott continued to live at his home where he wrote 'Musings of the Pilgram Bard," "Owaaneo" (Pale Flower), and "Twilight Reveries". His writing was encouraged years before by Tom McNeal, founder of "Medicine Lodge Cresset," later with Topeka "Mail and Breeze."

Scott presented a rough exterior, but was deeply spiritual, due to early training and his own Bible reading. He was a concerned, compassionate, warm, and loving person. He prefered the quietude of home and friends.

On March 24, 1928, he died and is buried in Alva Cemetery.


"About June 1884, in order to attempt a consolidation of the two interests, and avoid a county seat fight, some one or more called a meeting which was held at Coldwater, mostly on the prairie, as there was not enough room in Sisson's office to hold the crowd, to make a treaty of peace. Among those who were up from our rival town of Nescatunga was Scott Cummins, now of this county, and town, and wearing the nom de plume of "The Pilgrim Bard."

-- J.P. Grove: Memoirs of Early Comanche County, Kansas, The Western Star, March 4, 1921.


Map showing the location of Canema, Barber County, Kansas.

From the map collection of Phyllis Scherich.
Map showing the location of Canema, a.k.a. Cumminsford, Barber County, Kansas.
From the map collection of Phyllis Scherich.


Meanwhile, Scott Cummins, the "Poet Bard" who ran his Last Chance tavern-trading post on the nearby Little Mule Creek canceled his Fourth of July celebration -- a victim of one too many sabbaths.

"Cumminsford will not celebrate the Fourth of July this year for various reasons," he declared. "One is that the 4th falls on the Christian Sabbath, and if we celebrate it on the 3rd, it's on the Ancient Jewish Sabbath, and if we celebrate it on the 5th it would be a day too late and no use to make a fuss about it. Therefore, we'll give way and let the small towns bust themselves."

-- Chapter IX - Hebron and Gilead: Gyp Hills Jerusalems, Sod Jerusalems, by Lloyd David Harris.


He (James M. McCay) came to Comanche County in 1884 with a cousin, Kerry Kendall. The two men brought their grubstake in a covered wagon via Old Kiowa where Scott Cummins, the poet, had a store called "The Last Chance." Deerhead had just been started.

-- James Monroe McCay, Comanche County History, published by the Comanche County Historical Society, Coldwater, Kansas, 1981.


Scott Cummins was one of the Kansas authors pictured in a portrait album exhibited as part of the Kansas Exhibits at the 1893 World Columbian Exposition.


Musings of the Pilgrim Bard, a book by Scott Cummins.


A MEMORIAL POEM, from Musings of the Pilgrim Bard, by Orange Scott Cummins.


The Union, March 23, 1888.

Scott Cummins has a poem in last week's Medicine Lodge Cresset, which was written as a tribute to the memory of Capt. Byron P. Ayers.


The Flood -- The Medicine Lodge Cresset, May 7, 1885. This poem by The Pilgrim Bard is about the Great Flood of April 21, 1885, in Barber County, Kansas. At least 18 people perished in the flood.

Memorial Tribute by the Pilgrim Bard to the Memory of Capt. Byron P. Ayers -- The Medicine Lodge Cresset, March 15, 1888.


Lines, a poem from Musings of the Pilgrim Bard by Scott Cummins, "Rehearsed at the "Old Settler's Picnic in Paddock's Grove on Upper Elm Creek, Barber County, Kansas, September 16, 1886, on the grounds where Esq. Paddock and his entire family drowned in the flood of 1885."


A Christmas in the Wilderness, 1871 by Scott Cummins. A story about some buffalo hunters' Christmas dinner near where Medicine Lodge, Kansas, was later established.


Cummins, Scott. Reminiscences of the Early Days: Barber County, Kansas. Kansas City, MO: Press of Ramsey, Millett & Hudson, 1886. (K978.1/-B23/Pam.v.1/no. 3).

-- Bibliography for Barber County, Kansas, The Kansas State Historical Society.

Other books by Scott Cummins: Owaaneo (Pale Flower), Twilight Reveries and Musings of the Pilgrim Bard.

Reminiscences of the early days: Being a true history of the trials of an illfated emigrant train bound for California, who were held captive among the ... now embraced in Barber County, Kansas. Press of Ramsey, Millett & Hudson, 56 pages, 01 January 1886.

Musings of the Pilgrim Bard: A Book of Poems by Scott Cummins. The book includes Maid of Barber, a poem inspired by an early Barber County cowboy named Walt and a Barber County maiden named Malena.

After the Fire is a poem written by Scott Cummins on July 5, 1893, the night after his home at Canema burned down.

Tom McNeal on the Cresset
Medicine Lodge Cresset, April 20, 1890.


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