C. E. Bond of Protection recently came into possession of a very interesting letter at the time of the settlement of his mother's estate.
The letter was written by Floyd Allen, an uncle of Mr. Bond's, and gives detailed account of his part in the Oklahoma run into the Cherokee strip in 1893.
Because the account is of unusual historical interest we are reproducing it here, believing that our readers will find it interesting.
Dear Mother A...... and Father and Mother S.......
If you will allow me, will write the one letter for all. I believe the last I wrote you we were at Oxford. We rented a house at that place for a month, thinking we would leave our families at that place until after the race but changed our minds after Clare and myself had taken a trip down along the strip line. As Oxford was about 35 miles northeast of the point we expected to make the race from, we only stayed in Oxford about 9 days, then drove within about 7 miles of the line where we found a splendid camping place on a creek called Shoe Fly, 7 miles north and 2 1-2 miles west of Hunnewell at Mr. Rigg's who made us welcome to all the wood and water we wanted to use; also told us we could camp right in their door yard if we liked. But on account of grass for our horses we preferred camping on the creek. Just before the run drove the wagons up close to the house, so that in case that cat got to chewing on chicken wing and the girls thought it tramps, they could get the old man up with his gun and investigate matters, or they might mistake the screech of a cricket for the yells of some man being scalped by the Indians. At any rate we thought they would feel more safe if they were close to the house. On or before the day of the race each man that expected to get land was obliged to register at one of the booths that were located along the line at several different points. We registered at Hunnewell. Were at hand early in the morning of the first day of the opening of the booths so as to be among the first to register. But long before reaching the town we could hear the shouts and hurrahs of those who were already on the grounds ahead of us. On reaching the place were not a little surprised at finding not less than two thousand already formed in double lines not less than one half mile in length packed in as close as they could stand in front of booth. The greater part of these had formed in line Sunday evening so as to be first. We hurried back to line up as it was called. We hurried too far away off east there half or three quarters of a mile we could see them falling in as fast as a man could count if he did not count too fast. Got in line about half past six in the morning. We went to line fixed to stay until our turn might come. Before night they had formed to the amount of nearly four thousand and this kind of a line was kept up all through the week until about Saturday morning before the race. I tell you this standing in line was no funny job although we had lots of fun out of it. Everybody seemed to be in good spirits in spite of the burning sun and dust which came-such clouds that at times you could hardly see three rods distance. But the prospects of getting a quarter section of land (although the chances were about one in ten) made them feel jolly. We lay in line, or rather stood, or squatted or sat down for about 36 hours. Then came our turn. Went through the mill - entered at the east, signed our names and passed out of the west door. Then didn't we get a move on us for camp. We did not even stop to look back at the crowds in line but some said it extended back about three quarters of a mile. Arrived at camp, found everything all O.K. Thursday, L. took it in her head that she wanted to see the sights at Hunnewell and knowing that it would not be in my power to draw the faintest kind of a picture by telling her about the situation at Hunnewell concluded to drive over. After driving 2 1-2 miles east of our camping place, we struck the main road leading south to H.......... Here we found one solid line of teams, covered wagons and in fact all kinds of rigs nearly all moving toward the promised land. Also on either side of the road every good camping place was full of wagons.
On reaching South Haven five miles south the crowds of white tops had increased to such an extent that we could hardly see anything even if one would close his eyes he could see white tops moving around. South Haven is three miles north of Hunnewell. After leaving South Haven the dust got so bad at spells that you could not see ten feet ahead of you. Had to keep at the side of the road so as not to run into wagons. After picking our way along finally reached Hunnewell. Picked our way through town and as close to the booth as possible. Close enough no one could see leading away off to the east almost as far as one could see one solid line of men or two lines slowly making their way toward the booth where they expected to register. After getting our eyes, ears and mouth so full of dirt that we could scarcely see, hear or talk we drove out on a by street where we found a few feet that was not already occupied to eat our lunch which would consist mostly of warm water and sand. While eating, Elmer made the remark "Papa I thought you was going to Hunnewell." I said to him, "We are in Hunnewell now." "Well, I don't see any houses," he said. Well he might say he could not see any houses for the tents and covered wagons so completely hid the town that it would have taken a much older head to pick out or get the outlines of anything that looked like a frame building. The fact was that every nook or corner that there was room for a white top or tent was occupied.
As soon as we had finished our lunch, Lettie was ready to go back to camp. Arriving at South Haven I stopped or we did rather to get some groceries. While in the store trading I noticed some children come in and saw their faces were loaded with dirt but thought nothing of that, but when the little girl ask for a drink of water I thought I knew the voice and says "Is that you Mabel." She says "Why, papa, is that you? I didn't know you." The fact was there was not the least resemblance that I could see to any one of them being mine. The only way I knew them was by their voices. The dirt actually was thick enough to sprout garden seeds if moistened. Well, I managed to keep from losing them. Arrived in camp all safe and took a general scrubbing.
Friday morning drew the wagons up near our neighbors house where we left them until after the opening. Put in most of the time the last few days before the race fitting up our horses as we had intended to run to Salt Fork about 18 or 20 miles south of line. Had them in shape so they would have made the run easy by holding them in the first five miles. Saturday morning finds us up bright and early getting ready for the biggest race ever known to man except the human race and a large portion of the human race were included in the strip race. Here we are at 8 o'clock kissing the children and bidding them keep their noses clean. A hard thing to so when the air is so full of dirt all the time.
We rode our horses slow as we had about 9 miles to go to the place we wanted to make the start from, that being about 3 miles west of Hunnewell. At 11 o'clock we gave our horses a light feed of oats back a half mile from line. Had our horses well loaded down for running. Had about six quarts of oats and grub enough to last about 4 days slashed on back of saddle also shovel slashed top of that. Also had our canteen filled with cold tea which held 3 quarts which we carried on our right side. I also had a heavy Colts revolver strapped on my right side. This was about the appearance most of the horse-backers made.
As we rode down to the line we could hardly decide where to start from as there was no thin place in the line. There was one hundred feet reserved all along the line for the teams and horsemen to form up in lines to wait the signal at 12 o'clock when we were to cut loose. The wagons, carts and buggies generally formed in lines back of the horsemen. But here they were a solid mass along the entire line, but here we are only 5 minutes. Some one shouts until we start. Now the horsemen line up as close to the hundred feet line as they dare. Every man with team gets his lines and holds his whip ready. Two minutes to twelve everything is as quiet as a graveyard. Not a word is spoken by anyone. Even the horses seem almost to have stopped breathing. Everyone leaning forward to catch the signal that would send them out on their wild chase. All of a sudden some one shouts "There they go" and glancing up to the east, about a mile distant on top of a rise we could see a perfect cloud of dust. Could hardly see anything else. This was the only signal we had. So away we went but all holding back their horses. It looked like a mighty army moving off at a rapid speed. As far as the eye could reach east or west, it was one solid moving mass.
By the way an old man living on the line had told us where we could find a good crossing on Bluff creek in some old cattle paths with our horses but could not be crossed with teams, so we started right due north of this crossing so as to run directly south. It is about 2 miles from the line to the crossing. As I said, they all seemed to be holding back their horses, so after running about a mile I says to Clare, "Let's let our horses right out for the next mile until we reach the crossing. If we don't, we will have to wait our turn to cross." We did so, reaching the bank with about 6 other horses, leaving the balance all behind. It must have taken some of them a minute before they could cross.
I expect not less than 300 crossed at this place. Not more than 4 or 5 crossed ahead of us. After crossing, we we held our horses down to a good long lope, so that some 7 to 8 crossed right behind us caught up with us. But seeing we were in the lead of the crowd, I told Clare we could just as well have land near the slate as to run so far and that we had better put our horses right down for a ways, so we let them out and inside of a mile we were clear ahead so the first good chance we had we jumped from saddles and set our flags which proved as we found after looking up the corner stones to be school land. We started in right opposite school section and intended to bear west. While running far enough to miss the school lands south, but instead of that ran directly south, but as we were not counting very big on getting in race, was not so much disappointed after all. I commenced making calculations on settling on a piece of school land and watch our chances for a homestead, which chances soon turned up. On Tuesday after the race, I ran across a young fellow from Nebraska who had a claim one mile east of the school land, squatted land who was getting sick of the country or his father was rather. The wind had been blowing such a gale across the barren prairie ever since they struck the country that the father was doing all he could to discourage his son, telling him he could do better with him in Nebraska as he had all the land they could both work, so you see it was a very easy matter to get him to consent to leave. I simply made him a present of a good saddle to quit this claim. As soon as the trade was made I stuck my flag and commenced making arrangements that evening to go to Perry to file. Got horse saddles and ate lunch. By dark was all ready to start on trip of sixty miles over trails I had never passed over before.
For the first 8 to 10 miles I cut across the prairie without even a path. Nothing but the stars for a guide. The grass all being burned made it seen that much darker and also made it hard to tell the lay of the ground, but I made that 60 miles without once getting off the proper trail, although there were ever so many leading from the main road. Rode within about 8 miles of Perry by sunrise. Got in the city early Wednesday morning. Fed horse an got something for myself to chew, then proceeded to hunt for the general office. Finally found it, but on making inquiry found I would not be able to file for at least 4 weeks, there were so many ahead of me. The morning I arrived there they had commenced forming in companies of ten in a company and the companies also numbered. There were 631 companies already formed. I managed to get in Company 632. They were only running through about 22 companies per day so it will be 10 or 12 days before I can file. Went first thing I done and moved my family down on the place and commenced building sod house. It will be a combination dug in the ground about 3 feet then layed sod. This will be our basement room. Run the roof high enough to have a good room above. The room below is 12x14. Am boxing this all on inside. The studding running up through to the roof. Will not put floor in room before fall. The chamber room is 12x16. Will have room in shape to move in by Wednesday. Will sow six or seven acres of wheat this week. The grass has started and the prairies are quite green now. Have had two good rains within the last two weeks. Are all well except Mabel. She has sore throat. Is better than she was. Will tell you about our place and where it is situated. We are in county K 2 miles west and 3 1-2 miles south of Hunnewell on the Chikaska river. Brings us 3 1-2 miles from the Kansas line to the north line of our place. Are building on the east line about half way between north and south line. This being to our notion the best place to build. Here we got a slope to the east. Here I an speaking of this building place as though we were putting our sod house on the spot. The sod house sets about 10 rods north of where we intend to build when we get able as the song goes. There is about 10 or 12 rods along the east line that slopes to the east. The balance has a very gentle slope to the north. West you could call almost level. It is what we call second bottom land. The place just south of the Densmore place just north of town is more rough and broken than our place. You will think I am bragging too much but will say this much, the place is worth as much as any raw quarter of land in Washington Co. the same distance from town.
Have run out of paper and am not half through talking yet, but will not burden you with much more. ____ plenty of grass for our horses on the next claim east. Enough so I will get some hay. Will draw straw from the state for horse feed during the winter.
Wood will be rather scarce but then I can get it by driving 12 miles; pick up brush along the creeks for present use. Provisions are cheap here as with you. Get good flour for 75 cents a sack; potatoes are quite high from $1.10 to $1.20 per bu. Clare and family have settled on a claim just across the section line south of us. To all appearances the place was being smuggled. The neighbors all think he will have no trouble getting the place. He is breaking sod and getting ready to sow wheat. Think we are in good neighborhood. Of course they are like ourselves, poor. Well here I am sitting up here in the wagon on the seat writing by lantern light and it is about to go out and I am not half through yet. Lettie and the children have been to sleep for the last 2 hours. Don't know weather you can read this scratching or not. It you can't, bring it down and let (me) read it for you.
Excuse me for neglecting to write, but you won't want to see a letter of this kind very often. Regards to all the friends, especially Brother Webbs and family. Direct Hunnewell, Kans.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site! She noted that the letter is transcribed exactly as published.
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