|In Part III, the Stubblefields arrived in Oklahoma Territory to settle in Washita County. In Part IV, Dustin
Ward describes the towns closest to their farm, Cloud Chief and Gotebo. Years after the trek, Edna marries
Walter Ward, from a neighboring farm, and both work the land together at Oak Creek Farm.
|Know Your History!
The contents of this page ares historically
significant. Dustin Ward not only recounts the
long-ago days of old towns, but also the hardships
Oklahoma farmers faced amid the land speculation,
weather, and foreclosures by banks.
Until 1902, the closest town to the Stubblefields and Wards was Cloud Chief,
approximately eight miles north. Cloud Chief was established in the Run of 1892
and was named for a prominent Cheyenne Indian chief. It was the closest place for
the Stubblefields and Wards to buy sugar, flour, coffee or anything else they
needed. For a few years (until Cordell got the railroad) Cloud Chief was the county
seat of Washita County.
To give an idea of what Cloud Chief was like back then, here is an excerpt from an
address given to the Oklahoma State Historical Society by Edward Everett Dale,
noted Oklahoma educator and historian of the West: (I attended many a class in
Dale Hall, a building named after him on the OU campus.)
“My first visit to Cloud Chief must have been in the summer of 1898. More settlers
were coming in, schools were springing up rapidly and my brother was to conduct a
county normal institute at Cloud Chief for four weeks, which it was my privilege to
It was a very small town at this time, quite remote from any railroad. There were a
few stores, two hotels, the Iron and the Central and two saloons known as the Elk
Saloon and the Two Brothers. The courthouse, which stood in the middle of the
central square, was a long, low wooden building consisting of a single room. Desks
were placed along the walls, each with a chair and a sign designating it as the
"office" of the county clerk, sheriff, school superintendent, and so on. Only the
county treasurer's desk was separated from the rest of the room by a low railing and
had an iron safe beside it. In the middle of the room were placed rows of chairs
separated from the desks of the county officers by a wide aisle. Here district court
was held, the judge sitting at a table just in front of the first row of chairs.
Two young men teachers attending the county institute cooked their meals over a
campfire in the rear of the building and slept each night on pallet beds on the
courthouse floor. They had a wide variety of choice since they could sleep in the
office of the county clerk, superintendent, sheriff, or any other county officer, or in
the district court room. All were enclosed by the same four walls. Travelers also
often stopped their covered wagons back of the courthouse and slept inside on the
floor, particularly in cold or rainy weather. With no locks on the doors it was in the
true sense a "public building."
A short distance from the courthouse stood the jail, a low wooden structure in
which the county had recently installed two steel cells of which the citizens of the
town were inordinately proud. Formerly the jail had consisted of only a single room
with a big cottonwood log inside to serve as a seat for men confined there. Ordinary
prisoners were merely put inside and the door locked. More desperate offenders
were put inside, chained to the cottonwood log and the door locked.
The town's water supply came from a public well in the central square fitted with a
pump and trough. The water was clear but so strongly impregnated with "gyp" that
most of the supply for household use was hauled from springs two or three miles
away or, in the case of some families, taken from a cistern. Most of the some forty
teachers attending the summer institute boarded with families in town at a weekly
rate of two dollars. In some cases, however, there were no beds available for men
so they slept on blankets spread on the prairie grass.
The small ranchmen who had hoped and planned for an indefinite period of free
range soon realized the extent of their error. Someone crossing the western part of
the country on horseback from north to south in 1899 saw almost no settlement for
many miles. In fact there was virtually none from the Canadian to the valley of the
Washita, which was the better part of a day's ride. Some five or six years later there
was a family living on practically every hundred and sixty acre homestead.”
|Alice and J.P
car! (Dustin Ward)
|The church in Cloud Chief. (Dustin Ward)
Gotebo wasn’t established until 1901 when the Kiowa/Comanche lands were
opened for settlement. These lands were the first to be allocated through lottery
instead of land run. (The land runs resulted in too many disputed claims.) Gotebo
was first named Harrison, after former President Benjamin Harrison. In 1904 the
name was changed to honor Kiowa Indian Chief Gotebo, who lived in the area of
Rainy Mountain. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad ran through town
and was the closest railroad to the Oak Creek Farm.
Because it had the railroad, Gotebo began to grow as Cloud Chief began to
decline. In its heyday, around 1920 or so, it had two cotton gins, two banks, a dry
goods store, post office, variety store and a place to eat. It also had the Weiss
Drugstore, run by probably the only Jewish man in the area. When it was torn
down sometime around 1975 my uncle Jack somehow acquired the original tin
ceiling tiles and put them on the ceiling of the old smokehouse on the farm. They
are there to this day.
Indians in the Area
About a mile east of Cloud Chief is a creek with a strange name - “Two Baby
Creek.” I’d always wondered how it got its name, and in reading a history of Cloud
Chief I came across the reason. One of the famous Indians in the Cloud Chief area
was huge Arapaho named Two Baby. He got his name because when he was born
he was large enough for two babies. He was popular with the settlers because he
was good-natured and loved to make people laugh. He lived in a teepee
alongside the creek that is named after him.
Another notable Indian was the Kiowa Chief Gotebo, who was alive while my dad
was growing up (died in 1927). Dad doesn’t remember ever seeing him, though he
said he saw many Indians in town sitting on blankets and Chief Gotebo could have
been one of them. I asked dad if the Indians dressed as whites or as Indians back
then. He said about half and half, but they always had braids. He said the
government built the Indians living around Rainy Mountain some frame houses,
but the Indians preferred to sleep in their teepees in winter and their brush arbors
in summer. They used the government houses as barns or outhouses.
There is a story about Chief Gotebo’s bravery. There was a bad flood on Rainy
Mountain Creek in 1903, and a family’s home was washed away and all drowned
except for two little boys who were able to cling to a tree. Gotebo heard them
yelling for help and swam out and brought each to safety.
In Herk’s tape Grandmother talks about a flood in “the Kiowa” where her family
was almost stranded. I wonder if it could have been the 1903 flood mentioned
above. Grandmother says,
“Now after we were here several years we started to go back down to the Kiowa
and fish, just in wagons, you know, and an old Indian down there at Rainy Mountain
Creek said “Maybe so heap waters, we better go back.” Well, we never paid any
attention to him and we went down there and it rained till we didn’t get back.
That’s when I was just a kid. Didn’t get back until they started out, some of them,
to looking for us. It had rained, and there was just a lot of water down there in the
Kiowa, and it was flat you know.”
|The Eskew farm house where Edna and Walter
married. (Dustin Ward)
Then, of course, there was Big Tree. I told part of his story earlier in this
book, how he was a great Kiowa warrior and was involved in the Warren
Wagon Train Massacre and was sentenced to hang along with Satanta.
And I said that Grandmother referred to him in Herk’s tape. Here is what
she said. “Big Tree . . . I’d seen him. I never tried to talk to him any, but
he lived right down on the Washita. I thought if I ever got close to him
he’d just take my head off. I’d read a history of the Indian and white war,
you know, and old Big Tree was in a lot [of those battles.] I remember
that he was telling some men down at the mill – there was a mill down on
the Washita River - that the most regrettable thing he ever done was
pitch a baby up in the air and he caught it on his knife and killed it. It’s
nearly too bad to tell.”
My dad told me stories of Big Tree, too. He said all the kids had heard
stories about him and were afraid of him. They would try to get past his
place as fast as they could whenever they went to Mountain View.
But there was no need for them to fear Big Tree any more because he
became peaceful in his old age.
|For some prairie life reminisces, go to page V!
|Living in a dugout. (Dustin Ward)
|Chief Gotebo. (Dustin Ward)
He converted to Christianity and became a deacon and Sunday school teacher in the Rainy Mountain Kiowa Baptist Church southwest of
Mountain View. He died at his home in 1929 and was buried in the Rainy Mountain Cemetery close to Chief Gotebo, who died two years
earlier. I stopped there and found their graves.
When Edna met Walter, and Life on Oak Creek Farm
My Grandmother met my Granddad when she was 12 years old, at Hagy school. He would walk to school from his house in the grove
southwest of the farm and take a shortcut across J.P.’s property to get to school. This is how Grandmother describes it on my tape:
“My mother was combing my hair getting me ready for school. School was right down the hill there in that draw, you know. She was
combing my hair and your Granddad come steppin’ across the prairie out there – it wasn’t broke up, it was still grass, you know – and he
was steppin’ out I don’t know how far at one step. He was hurrying to get to school. And I said, “Mama, there’s one of the Ward boys. He’s
mine if I never get him.” And she stopped and told me to get my mind on my books. But it wasn’t long ‘til I was fourteen. I was, I guess,
about twelve then, between eleven or twelve. It wasn’t long after we come to this country. And when I was about fourteen I’d walk with him
down to that little school. And I’d had a date with him. Well, when I was eighteen-and-a-half and he was twenty-three we got married.”
They got married on December 11, 1905 in a buggy in front of “Granddad Eskew’s house” near Lake Valley. Granddad Eskew was one of the
original pioneers in the area. He wasn’t related – everyone just called him “Granddad Eskew.” He had a two-story house, which wasn’t that
common back then, and it was considered one of the nicest houses in the area.
About the same time, J.P. and Alice moved to Cloud Chief where J.P. got started in the cattle business. J.P. leased some Indian land and a
school section and ran cattle all up and down the Washita River. Grandmother said at one time he had over 200 head. He also would help
supply stores in Cloud Chief by making wagon freighting trips to El Reno. Those trips took around ten days out and back.
So Granddad and Grandmother had the Oak Creek Farm to themselves then. It wasn’t long, though, before J.P. asked W.D. to go into the
cattle business with him. So Grandmother and Granddad moved into a little house on a hill outside Cloud Chief, close to J.P. and Alice.
Granddad tried running cattle with J.P., but it didn’t last long. They didn’t get along too well in business together. (In Uncle Herk’s tape you
can hear Leta saying in the background it was because they were “two hard-headed men.”) So Grandmother and Granddad moved back to
Oak Creek. By this time they had their first two daughters, Leta Grace (Lete) and Edith Mae (Goob), both born in Cloud Chief. (Birth dates,
etc. are listed in family chart at the end of this book. Also, I’ve heard it said that only Leta was born in Cloud Chief. But Grandmother says
unmistakably in both Herk’s and my tapes that both Leta and Goob were born there.)
The next nine children were born at home on the Oak Creek farm. The first was another daughter, Emma Clorina (Punnie). Then
Grandmother started in with the boys. First was Glenn Price (Son, Red, my dad), then Claude Francis (Jack). The house had only one
bedroom. That obviously wouldn’t do with such a large family, so Granddad built two rooms on the north side of the house. Then the other
boys came along: Jesse Ray (Tink), Leo Dyer (Boake), Walter Dean (Dude), Hershel Lloyd (Herk), Stanley Joe (Stan), and Donald Wayne
Doctor William W. Miller of Gotebo delivered all the Ward children born on the Oak Creek farm. When Grandmother felt her time coming, W.
D. would ring Doc Miller on their old hand-cranked telephone. The doc would ride his buggy out, deliver a baby, and charge W.D. $20.
In the interim, J.P. was prospering in the cattle business and was able to acquire enough land to deed a 160-acre farm over to each of his
three children. He deeded the Oak Creek farm to Grandmother and Granddad, and Hershel and Belle were deeded farms closer to Cloud
This made W.D. the first Ward to actually own a farm, rather than tenant farm for someone else. My dad told me that W.D.’s brothers would
tease him that he had “married a farm.” I’m sure that rankled Granddad and hurt his pride. He soon acquired some land, on his own, in
Beaver County (in the Oklahoma Panhandle) and planned to move his family up there. But for some reason he changed his mind, and I’ve
heard it suggested that Grandmother was a big part of the reason. I think she liked it right where she was and saw no point in pulling up
stakes to settle in “No Man’s Land,” as the Panhandle was called in those days.
So W.D. started making improvements to the Oak Creek farm, by himself at first and with the help of his daughters and sons as they grew
old enough. He put up fences. He terraced the land. He broke the soil and planted cotton. He built the chicken and brooder houses, the
smokehouse and hog sheds.
At one point he was able to purchase 160 acres across the road to the north, but times turned bad. There was the Dust Bowl and the Great
Depression. Gotebo’s two banks went bankrupt. Dad said his dad lost everything in his savings account – $17. Granddad also lost his 160-
acres across the road because he couldn’t make the payments. My dad told me it’s the only time he ever saw his dad with tears in his eyes.
|Oklahoma Territory, Part IV
by Dustin Ward