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The Empire of Greer County, Texas

NOTE FROM WTGS, By Jodean Martin

In the southwestern corner of what is now Oklahoma lies the territory formerly called Greer County, Texas.

We founded the Society to preserve the heritage of Old Greer County, Texas from 1880 until the present day of Jackson County, Oklahoma. In the days after the Civil War, we were treated like a step child by the United States Government. They were busy with the reconstruction of the Southern States and didn't have time to stop Texas from almost stealing the land just across Red River. Big, bragging Texas just shouted a little too loudly and got the attention of the federal government, to take notice that a part of the Louisiana Purchase had never been properly claimed. The Supreme Court stepped in and settled the boundary question in 1896 and made Greer County a part of the United States and not a county in Texas.

This history is unique, exciting and entertaining. The stories of the people between 1880 and 1997 have left us a strong heritage to preserve. The Western Trails Genealogy Society has endeavored to gather this history. We have no printed history of Old Greer County. After this generation there will be no first person stories. We want to protect, preserve and print the stories of the men and women who lived in the half dug outs, civilized the land, tamed the cowboys, survived the dust, drouth, dreaded rattlesnakes and gyp water, built homes, churches and schools so that we could inherit this land known as Jackson County, Oklahoma. These were the pioneer grandfathers and grandmothers of our county. They earned the right to be honored.

As early as 1877, George Boyd saw Greer County, Texas, as a young cowboy 17 years old, while helping to drive a large herd of cattle from Ft. Griffin, Texas to Dodge City, Kansas. At the mouth of Starvation Creek, the drivers found a military road running from Cantonment, near Mobeetie, Texas to Ft. Sill. Other than the Military road, the only signs of human life they saw were a few wagon tracks and old camps of buffalo hunters.

In 1880, John Powers established his headquarters at Jaybuckle Springs with the "Jaybuckle" brand. It was located at the crossing of Elm Creek due North of the present present town of Reed. Samuel Houston Tittle was his foreman until 1887. Powers was joined by Handy and Haney, who ran the "H-Bar-Y" brand. In 1885 the Haney's sold to "Doc Day."

Cap Ikard owned the "V Bar" and Bar X" was owned by Eph, Doc and Elam Harrold. Their cattle ranged between Salt Fork of Red River and North Fork of Red River, with line camps running North and South on the East and West side of the range. Headquarters of the V Bar was in the cove of the mountains where the town of Granite stands today. They sold out in 1884 to Franklyn land and Cattle Company who moved westward in 1884 as settlers began homesteading.

Smaller cattlemen came into the county as early as 1880-81 for there are records of the Eddleman Ranch. Other small ranchers were B.W Waters and Tommie Pennison. Sam White ran the "T Cross" and the "O.M." marks. Luther Clark had a ranch in the Southwestern section. John Ledbetter and W. B. Tullis, had the "ZV" ranch in Ladessa Community. Nash Racey was their foreman, his son Bill Racey lived in the Ladessa Community in 1935. Pumphrey and Olive ran the "Bar-10" and "AT" outfits. The Seawrights had the "Heart" and "TE" brands on their cattle and built a "drift fence" across the county, starting on North Fork and running just East of Mangum then South to Turkey Creek.

A gate, through which the early settlers came to Mangum, was located near the dugout home of the late W. J. Reeves, father of Lige Reeves. Doan's Crossing was the Gateway to old Greer County, Texas and Corwin T. Doan sat in his sod trading post and saw the trail driver, the ranchman, and the settler come into Greer County. Alan Farmer, brother-in-law of Outlaws Frank and Jessie James ran cattle in the 80's around the mouth of Station Creek (in Northeast Greer County, Texas.) Farmer was a frequent visitor to the County while his cattle were on the range but he never lived in the County nor brought his family to Greer County, Texas.

(From the Pioneer Edition of 1935, July 21 Mangum Daily Star, Ok., Sec A Page 1-4. Paper can be read at the Mangum Public Library, Mangum, Ok. Copied by Jodean McGuffin Martin, Rt, 3, Altus, Ok. 73521.)

The Texas State Legislature authorized the issuance of land Certificates to Veterans of the Texas Revolution and Confederate army in 1881, by 1884, certificates were being located.

The first families who ever lived in Old Greer County, Texas according to the information available, were the operators of two Greer County Stage Stands on the line from Henrietta, Texas to Fort Elliott, Texas. The Stage line was started in 1879 between the Military Posts and the two families moved to Greer County to look after the stands. One was located on Salt Fork River near where Frazer was begun and the other was at the mouth of Station Creek. A man named Miller ran the Stage Stop at Station Creek and the place is now owned by W. W. Taylor of Mangum, Oklahoma. The name of the family operating the Station on Salt Fork is not remembered. Another Station was operated on Jay Bird Creek, West of the present site of Texoma, Texas and another on the Wilbarger side of Red River at Doan's Crossing.

Ed Miller was one of the stage drivers, he drove a team of Spanish mules. He would keep them in a trot all the time. Two trips were made weekly between Henrietta and Ft. Elliot. This was the Old Mobeetie Trail.

In 1881, John Zuber obtained Veteran's Donation Warrant NO. 387 from the Texas land board and transferred it to Colonel John M. Swisher and hired Henry Sweet to locate them. Sweet came in 1882, surveyed the land and made field notes on 50,000 acres. November 23, 1883, Swisher was issued a patent to 640 acres of land in Greer County, on the Zuber land grant, the land being located "on the waters of the Frazer in survey 89, West near Sand Station," the later being a camping place for hunters and travelers. The Frazer being Salt Fork and Sand Station was located East of Granite. (He had the Rivers so mixed up that he was on the wrong river) The Swisher land grant is the oldest instrument shown on the official records of Greer County, Texas. (They were identifying Salt Fork and North Fork as the same continuous stream.)

December 10, 1885, A. S Mangum, owner of Veteran's Donation warrant NO. 907, was given a patent for 320 acres of land "in survey NO 156 on the waters of the Frazer." Mangum employed Henry C. Sweet, a public surveyor of Dallas County, Texas to survey the 320 acres and plat it into a townsite.

Near the West edge of Mangum, in the "brick plant brakes" there is a partially silted spring of water known as "Dray Spring." That spring determined the location of Mangum, the first town established in Greer County.

Arthur Yeakley and his mother came to Navajo in 1884 and established a home. P. H. Holt and Walker located at Frazer in 1884. About December, 1884, W. B. Kiser came from Mobeetie, Texas with his family and located at what was long known as Kiser's Salt Works, at Salton, about 28 miles Northwest of Mangum. In 1885, J. R. Curry and family came to Mangum. They operated a small store for several years.

Official records of Greer County, Texas show that by May 15, 1885, land grants had been issued by Texas to the following persons in Greer County: W. J. Sowell, Isaac Reed, Silas Edem, Mrs. Aria Mays, William Goodwin, John F. Toms, Mary Anne Abler, Robert Fletcher, John M. Swisher, Feneral (could this be General) Vanderfoot, Foraster Robinson, B.A. Vansickle, Robert Price, Sophonia Cartkenbam, Hanes Cunningham, Sarah Conwell, Eliza Garzley, James T. Cook, Samuel G. Everetts, Phillip Walker, Walter P. Lane, Mrs. Aznbah Ward, John Mackey, Margaret J. Hays, Mariam Calley, Valentine Bunch, Mrs. Sidney Cole, Mrs. M N. Scott, Mrs. Sarah L. Cox. Mrs Anna Morrison, G. C. Shaw, W. N. Bishop, Mrs. Amanda Densmore, their land totaling 34,800 acres.

Cattlemen appealed to President Arthur to stop the homesteading and he sent a Federal Proclamation for the Texas settlers to vacate their homesteads. The settlers refused to leave, and on July 6, 1886 they had sufficient population numbers, counting all the cowboys and settlers, for organizing a county government in Texas. The county being so large, was divided into four precincts for the election. The returns of the election were taken to Mobeetie by B. W. McDonough, counted by the county commissioners of Wheeler County, and the results certified by Emanuel Dubbs, County Judge of Wheeler County. Greer County, Texas was created with a full slate of officials. Mangum, being located in the center of the County and the only platted town in Greer County, Texas, was designated as the County Seat.

Frazer established a Post Office with Mrs. P H. Holt as the first Post Master in 188?. Cowmen and farmers were not compatible neighbors in Greer County. The conflict arose when the cattlemen surrounded with wire fences large tracts of land subject to homestead entry. This dispute had stirred up much bitterness in Greer County and a public meeting was called at Mangum to harmonize the factions.

The Editor of the Mangum Star wrote: " A cattleman has the same rights to the public domain as another man. He can acquire a title by the same methods and hold this land by the same law. He is entitled to no more. In holding government land for private purposes he escapes all taxation and throws all the burdens of local government upon the agricultural settler. He interferes with the latter in his access to his little patch of ground, prevents the aggregation of settlement and the support of schools, and destroys such a gathering of communities as provides the full enjoyment of all the privileges which every settler is entitled to receive from the government he supports. Give the cattleman his full legal rights, prevent him from doing injury to others, enforce the law without favoritism and leave results to care for themselves in Greer County as elsewhere. It is beyond the province of the U.S. agents to create law or to turn over the public domain to adjustment of private parties.

Every man who pays taxes on land in Oklahoma has a right to demand that no user of land shall occupy it freed from taxation. It is not a question for settlement by any county but a question in which every tax payer of the territory has an interest, in seeing that exemption from taxation is granted to no one. The cattle interest deserves all the rights the law gives it, but this right should not be extended to an occupancy of the public domain in any other manner than that provided for every other interest."

Homesteading won, ranches became smaller.

"Early settlers of Greer County, owed much to the kindness of the Cowboys of this country," Mrs. A H Anderson, now of Strong City, Oklahoma, said, "During lean seasons, Cowboys allowed the settlers to tame and milk wild cows and frequently gave them a quarter of beef. The Cowboy was the best friends the settlers had." The pioneer woman came here with her parents from Jack County, Texas in 1886.

(from Pioneer Edition)

There were only 3 graves in Riverside Cemetery when Mrs Dan Cullins came here from Texas in 1886. One was that of Mrs. Settles, wife of J C Settles, a Greer County, Texas pioneer. The other two graves were those of the first two men killed in the settlement. Jack Joy was killed by Con Sullivan during a Christmas celebration and buried in the Cemetery. Later Bill Buchanun, a Texas Ranger, killed Sullivan who resisted arrest. Sullivan was also buried in the Cemetery. Buchanun was tried for murder and cleared at Mobeetee, Texas. Knowledge of the shootings was current at the time and details of the affair was common household conversation.
(from Pioneer Edition)

(From a Manuscript by County Judge Percy Powers of Mangum, Oklahoma, printed in the Chronicles of Oklahoma.

On March 16, 1896, the Court ruled that under the treaty with Spain of 1819 the true Red River was the south fork of Red River, This simply meant that Greer County, Texas ceased to exist but Greer County, Oklahoma was born.

As Oklahoma Territory ad valorem taxes were to be paid on property in the county on January lst of each year. The title to all real estate was still in the Federal Government, and the only source for tax income was the herds of cattle owned by the cattlemen.

In the fall of 1896, the cattlemen refused to pay their taxes and sought an injunction against the taxing officials against the collection of taxes. The contention of the cattleman was: "You are undertaking to assess taxes against me for property I owned on January lst, 1896. I did not have any property in Oklahoma on that date. I was in Texas and subject to the laws of Texas. Oklahoma has no right to create an assessment against my property when it was in Texas."

The Judge Keaton decided the case in favor of the cattlemen, which simply meant that there was no funds to operate county government, the schools or any roads.

In Mangum a young lawyer, James A Powers, had arrived from Decatur, Texas, and was practicing law. After the District Judge decided the case Mr. Powers was in a cafe and stated his opinion of the law.

"Judge Keaton never did catch the controlling feature of this case. This has been Oklahoma ever since the Louisiana Purchase. The Federal Government has claimed us all these many years, but delayed taking us over until the Supreme Court of the United States decided the case. Under this decision of the treaty with Spain, we never were really a part of Texas. Texas claimed us and had set up a County Government. But it is similar to a person having possession of a stolen horse."

Through the "grape vine" this statement reached Mr. George W. Briggs, chairman of the Board of Commissioners who lived North of what is now Granite, Oklahoma. Commissioner Briggs hitched up his horse to the buggy and drove over to Mangum to see Mr. Powers.

"Powers, some person has told me what you think about this tax case. I think you must have something there. We have instructed our County Attorney to appeal this case to the Supreme Court of the Territory. If you will help him and can make the Supreme Court see your view point we will give you One Hundred Dollars."

In time the case was assigned for argument before the Supreme Court at Guthrie. Mr. Powers took the mail hack to Quanah, Texas, from there he went to Bowie, Texas and then took the Santa Fe to Guthrie, and presented his argument to the Supreme Court of the Oklahoma Territory.

While he was gone, a music man from Quanah, Texas, placed an Adam Schaff piano in Mr. Power's home at Mangum. When he returned and found the piano, he said, "Oh! this man will have to come and take his piano. I have a large family and it is all I can do to provide food and clothing for my family. I never can pay for this piano."

His daughter, Nellie, 8-10 years of age began to cry. Through the ages, a woman's tears have been her greatest weapon and I remember as if it were yesterday that my father relented and said: "Nellie, I have just come back from Guthrie where I argued a law suit. No person can guess how a court will decide a case. But I have hopes of winning this case. If I do, I will get one hundred dollars, and will buy the piano."

In due course of time the Supreme Court ruled that on January l, 1896, the cattle were actually in Oklahoma, not Texas, and were subject to tax assessment. The cattlemen paid their taxes. The County Commissioners paid our father one hundred dollars and he bought my sister a piano. Since that time little Nellie Powers has taught music to at least one thousand children.

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