|Testimony taken by the Committee on Indian Affairs|
CHARLES H. ELDRED.
CHARLES H. ELDRED sworn and examined.
By the Chairman:
Question. What is your Christian name?—Answer. Charles H. Eldred.
Q. Where do you reside?—A. I reside near Medicine Lodge, Barbour County, Kansas.
Q. What is your business—A. I am ranching and stock-raising.
Q. How long have you been in that business?—A. Since May, 1880.
Q. What part of the country have you been engaged in in this business?—A. Principally in the Indian Territory.
Q. Have you any interest in this association that leased the Cherokee Strip?—A. Yes, sir; I have.
Q. State what your interest is and when it commenced.—A. I am a member of a firm which is a member of that association.
Q. What is the name of the firm?—A. Gregory, Eldred & Co.
Q. Of whom is it composed?—A. A. D. Gregory, of Saint Louis, Mo., Parson, of Illinois, and H. D. Reed, of the same State.
Q. Are there any others engaged in the business with you?—A. No, sir; there have been others interested.
Q. Who else has been interested?—A. Davidge Stith and Colonel Watkins. I do not know his initials.
Q. Where do these gentlemen reside?—A. They resided at the time in the Indian Territory.
Q. At the time of making the lease were you or your firm occupying a portion of the Territory?—A. Yes, sir; we were.
Q. How much land does your lease cover?—A. At present there are two ranges, one of them contains 187,900 acres, and the other about 38,000 acres in round numbers.
Q. How much rental do you pay?—A. Two and a half cents. That is the rental that has been assessed. That is what we have paid so far. What is to come back is not determined.
Q. Have you any knowledge of the way in which the lease was obtained?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. State what you know about it.—A. I will begin, gentlemen, at my first occupancy, in the Territory, to make it intelligible.
The Chairman . Very well, go on.
The Witness. In May, 1880, I went into the Territory and engaged in the cattle business; and in the fall of 1880, it was asserted to me that the Cherokee Nation was levying tax for the grazing of cattle on these lands. I made inquiries wherever I had the opportunity to do so, and there were various suggestions made to me. The greater part of the persons in my portion of the Territory said to me that it was not necessary to pay this tax, because it was a tax imposed by unauthorized persons. I tried to inform myself upon the subject, but could not do so. In 1881 I still investigated the subject, and there were conflicting rumors regarding it. I therefore concluded to go down to the Indian council myself. The council convened in November, and I determined to go down to ascertain for myself. In the mean time I had paid the tax. I went down to the capital of the Cherokee Nation, and found a body of men that I did not expect to meet.
The Chairman . You mean the council?
The Witness. Yes, sir. I found that the members composing this council would compare favorably 'with the legislatures of many of the States, and I became acquainted with numbers of these men and talked with them regarding their views. There had been fencing done by individuals, under what is called "head-rights"—that is, persons who wished to occupy ranges would employ Indians, as I understood, giving them so much per year in different sums to hold a range for them. I saw at the capital very serious objections by members of the council to this; among others I would mention Clem Rogers, who took an active stand against it. He said to me—
Eldred, we have no objection to your cattlemen holding ranges upon this strip or pastures, provided the whole Cherokee Nation get the benefit of it, but I, for one, am not in favor of a party going out there in the employ of the nation as collector, securing pastures in the way it has been done heretofore. We have poor women and children which we must protect, and if each individual of the Cherokee Nation fare alike, we are willing this lease shall be made.
I also talked with Colonel Phillips, and first talked of getting a lease individually; that is, for my company which I represented. But after thinking the matter over, I concluded it was unwise. I was but slightly acquainted with the stockmen and I thought they might think I was trying to take it in a private capacity. I reported to my friends, and the subject of leasing was talked about, and, as you have been told, an association was formed; one of the purposes of the organization being to lease the land and protect ourselves against outsiders and Stith was my range manager. I was given a place with queer surroundings. One of our rangemen came and wished to push us off. I had purchased the range of Stith & Watkins. I had purchased the stock with the range, and had every right to occupy it. I might go into details here, gentlemen.
The Chairman . I would like to hear it all.
The Witness. They took possession of our cattle, and moved them out, and a controversy ensued which ended in a suit at Fort Smith. The prosecuting attorney told us that the matter could be kept in the court for a good while, but would end in no good at last. This being the case, I felt it to be necessary to have some way in which we could settle difficulties that might arise. A certain Indian had come to our camp during my absence, and said to Mr . Stith, our range foreman, that he was there to negotiate with him to fence in the range with the Comanche County Pool, of which Hunter & Evans composed the firm, and proposed to share the pasture with us. Mr. Stith told me that his reply was this: that he did not think he could do it, but he would refer the matter to me upon my return to the range. The result was that we went to the Comanche County Pool, made the arrangements, and we were fenced in and held under that right. Our pasture was taken from us by an Indian under this "head right." We remained there, but with a controversy.
The board of arbitrators was appointed to settle the differences in regard to the leases. Our case came up before the board, and was decided in favor of the company and to the satisfaction of all parties concerned. As I was going to say, this led me to know that it was a very dangerous way to hold cattle. I went down to the capital, and consulted with different parties as far as in my power, and to secure a copy of the Indian laws, and saw the treaties on the subject by the courtesy of the Hon. William Boudinot. He went to the safe of the treasury and took out a piece of parchment which I read carefully. In that parchment I saw that the Cherokee land was described very minutely, within a hundredth part of an acre, and with Martin Van Buren's name signed to it as President of the United States. I said, this being the case, these people certainly own the land in fee simple. 1 was told by attorneys that it was no such thing, but I concluded that they had the power, and 1 stated this fact to the members of the association, and I said I did not think that the approval of the Secretary of the Interior was necessary, and therefore nothing was said about that. Them had been permits granted by the treasurer of the nation to as many as three different persons on the same land, which gave occasion to many disputes, and, therefore, this association was formed, as you know, and after the association was formed, myself and Major Drumm were sent down to the capital of the Cherokee Nation to effect some permit, lease, or something of the kind for the occupancy of this ground. The result was as all know. We went there—
Q. Was Major Drumm with you?—A. Yes, sir. I wish to say before I retire that prior to this, in February, 1883, an order was issued, so I understood at the time, ordering all of us off this land within 20 days.
Q. By whom was the order issued f—A. By the Interior Department, as I understand. We were ordered to leave the land in twenty days. At the same time I had in my possession a permit from the treasurer of the Indian Nation—the Cherokee Nation—to hold cattle on this until the 8th day of September, and it occurred to me as a very peculiar thing that the Interior Department would give the Indians permission, as I understood, to issue licenses to parties to graze upon the land, and after we had paid the money, that we should be removed. These matters, of course, made us feel like securing a lease; so I went down there in connection with Major Drumm and consulted with members of the council regarding what they thought would be advantageous to the nation and to other parties concerned. Mr. Miller stated, while on the stand, that we were sent there limited to a certain amount, which I think he will correct, when he remembers that we asked the views of the association upon the matter, and they told us to go and use our judgment. At that time it was supposed the lease could be secured for $60,000 or $65,000; because the year before that it could have been leased, as I was informed, at $25,000. I went there and canvassed the situation and talked the business over with these people.
Q. Was the council in session?—A. Yes, sir. We talked the matter over, and we both agreed. that is, Major Drumm and myself, that in justice to the Cherokee Indians and in justice to the association we represented we should offer the sum of $100,000, which was all that we would offer. But right here I wish to say that I repeatedly said to Indians who were there, as I understood to procure a lease, that if they wanted to give more there was our bid of $100,000. We proposed to pay that amount into the treasury of the Cherokee Nation, and before this time it had cost the Cherokee Nation 20 per cent. to collect the tax or rent, and this was one of the grounds taken by those who favored our bill, which was known as the Rogers bill.
Q. The parchment which you saw was ;not a definition of the limits of the Strip, but of the entire Territory?—A. Yes, sir. I will say, Mr. Senator, that I knew the Strip, of course, from the military maps which I had seen.
Q. The parchment which you saw was a correct definition of the whole ?—A. Yes, sir; fourteen million and so many thousand acres.
Q. That was the original patent fin. the land?—A. Yes. sir.
Q. I suppose these Indians chose to lease it in the manner it has been done for the reason you have given previously, but as to the rental, what led them to choose between your offer and other others that were made? What opportunity had they to choose between your rental and a better one?—A. Well, sir, the opportunity that all legislative bodies have. There were two bills. But, if I mistake not, Mr. Crittenden, who is here, was a member of the committee which had charge of the bills and can explain it. Both of the particular bills went before the House. The Smith bill came up and was voted down; the Rogers bill was sustained.
Q. What was the Smith bill?—A. The one that made $100,000 the minimum. The other was to lease to.Cherokee citizens, in which I understood some of our friends were interested. The two principal bills were the Rogers bill and the bill that fixed the minimum price. One reason for choosing our bill was that it provided for paying the money into the treasury, and they wanted the money to go into the treasury without paying anything for collecting it. That was the bill known as the Rogers bill. It provided, as I said, for putting the money into the treasury of the Cherokee Nation, and the other bill was silent as to the expense of collecting.
Q. By what vote did the Rogers bill pass?—A. Well, I could not inform you. The senate consists of eighteen members; we had a majority; and the house consists of forty members, and we also had a small majority there.
Q. How long was it under consideration?—A. The bill was discussed for quite a time. In the mean time the council had been called together for the purpose of disposing of $300,000 which had been paid by the United States Government into the Cherokee treasury. But I wish to remark, in justice to the Cherokees, as Mr. Boudinot has made the assertion, and as this report will go to the Cherokee Nation, the assertion was made, as I understand the colonel, that they had received $320,000 on the land west of 96. I must say that numbers of these people came to me about this matter, and I told them it was a law of Congress that they could not go back on; that this money was paid under a law of Congress. Some of them told me that whenever they had had any dealings with the United States Government they had gotten the worst of it every time, and they did not see fit to take this money, and they were several days arguing this matter. Speeches were made in the open air, and while I am not a public philanthropist I feel it a duty to be just to these Indian people. I wish to make that remark that it may go into this report, that this $320,000 was not paid on that outlet west of 96. I do not so understand it, and I told the Indians that, in my opinion, it was not so. I advised them to take that money.
Q. What did you understand it to be?—A. My understanding was that this land had been assessed at 9 cents an acre that the Osage and Nez Perce, the Otoes and Kansas Indians had taken that land upon that basis, and the land being eastern land, and the most valuable in the Territory, they had not been paid its true value, and this money was the difference between what money they did receive and what Congress thought they should have. The consideration was, that these Indians should give a patent to the United States, which struck me very forcibly, it being the first time in the history of the world that an Indian was called upon to give a patent.
Mr. Bowen. I would like to interrupt the witness and call his attention to the report of the Commissioner as regards this money. It is marked here. [Hands witness Public Document 19.]
The Chairman , Mr. Bowen, suppose you keep that matter separate from the other.
Mr. Bowen. Very well, Mr. Chairman.
The Chairman . The council had been called to consider what disposition to make of that money and to consider the lease?—A. Yes, sir; our lease business came up first and they were waiting for the matter to be put into print. They had to wait until it was printed and put upon the table and this other matter came up and was under consideration for a good while. I was asked questions, and I have always given as fair an explanation as has been in my power to do, and I think any Cherokee citizen will bear the out in that.
Mr. Bowen. I would like to get this $300,000 matter into the record. The amount is the same as mentioned by Colonel Boudinot. He was making his statement from the document handed you.
By the Chairman:
Q. What do you infer from that?—A. That Colonel Boudinot stated the matter fairly from that report. I do not want to make any statement to the Cherokees or to anybody else that is not correct. If I have made a misstatement I want to be corrected.
Q. What did you understand it was an appropriation for?—A. I understood from Colonel Phillips, who is a member of the Cherokee delegation, that it had been decided by the Nation that a sufficient compensation had not been paid by the United States for their lands, and this money was to make up the difference.
Q. You understood that this $300,000 was to make up a deficiency in the former appraisement, and the Indians were to give a patent to the Government?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. I would like to go back to the session of the council. Were you and Mr. Drumm there during most of the session?—A. We were there during the entire session.
Q. How long did it last?—A. As near as I can remember it lasted about two weeks.
Q. Was there any trouble about the principal chief signing the bill? Was there any anxiety about that after it had passed by a close vote?—A. There was no particular anxiety.
Q. Did you ever have an interview with him about the bill?—A. I never had an interview with him or any consultation regarding the bill.
Q. Did Mr. Drumm, that you know of?—A. I think not.
Q. What did Major Drumm state here about his not going down there?—A. The law was passed in May and a letter of acceptance was given, and we went home and reported to our association; and we went back to execute the lease. On that occasion it was that he did not go down there. He went as far as Fort Gibson.
Q. But during the negotiations with the council for the passage of the law you were both there?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Do you know of any interviews he had with members of the council at which you were not present?—A. I do not.
Q. Did you say the bill passed by a close vote?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Was there any excitement about it?—A. There was no undue excitement. There was some, but no more than there was at the time they proposed to remove the fences which had been built by Cherokees. That was at the session previous to this one.
Q. Now, did you employ any one there to help you?—A. We employed no one further than to bring our matter properly before the council.
Q. Who did you employ?—A. J. F. Lyons.
Q. He acted as your medium of communication with the council?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did he draw the bill?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. He is a regular attorney, I suppose?—A. Yes, sir; in the Cherokee Nation.
Q. Yon employed him as an attorney?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have you any objection to telling us what you paid him?—A. I paid him $500 for his services.
Q. Did you pay him anything for his expenses, or anything of that kind?—A. No, sir; I did not.
Q. What other sum did you pay out?—A. Nothing further than the expenses of ourselves there, and some small amounts to churches.
Q. What is that?—A. We paid something to churches there.
Q. What amount did you pay to the churches there?—A. I paid $10 to the Methodist church, $10 to the Sunday school, and $10 toward the construction of a church.
Q. Did you make any remarks to the Sunday school?—A. I did not consider myself capable to do so. I found much more fluent talkers than myself.
Q. Did you pay out any other sums?—A. I did not.
Q. Nor anything of value?—A. Nothing whatever.
Q. To any individual whatever?—A. No, sir.
Q. What do you say in reference to Major Drumm? Have you any knowledge of his having done so?—A. I am very positive he did not.
Q. What leads you to be so positive?.On what do you base that statement?—A. On the basis of being there associated with him.
Q. You have no knowledge of his having paid anything, and you state with confidence that you do not think he paid anything?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Have you anything else to say that will be of use that has not been already indicated by other gentlemen in reference to this transaction?—A. Not a great deal. There are one or two matters I might possibly communicate to the committee.
The Chairman . We should be glad to know anything not already stated.
The Witness. I will make a statement or two, gentlemen, in regard to our land, which has not been generally understood. Our rental has been spoken of as being about 2 cents an acre. I do not wish the committee to be misinformed upon that point. Our rental is one and three-quarter cents an acre.
Q. For how large a number of acres?—A. Well, sir, I was going to state: In the lease, if you, gentlemen, will peruse it carefully, you will discover that if by laws in existence or hereafter to be enacted by the Congress of the United States, if any part or portion of that land is taken away from us under stipulation contained in the treaty of 1866, the association shall be allowed a rebate of one and three-quarters cents an acre. I wish to say to you that it was well understood by the men there that we were going to fence that ground, and that all fences were to revert to the Cherokee people at the end of our lease. It was also known that a hundred thousand acres of saline ground was contained in that land; also a military reservation at Camp Supply, over which the Cherokees have no control whatever.
Q. How much does that military reservation contain?—A. I could tell if I had the map here, but I think it is 7 miles square. [Here witness consults with other parties in the room.] Mr. Chairman, I am told that it is 12 miles square. There are also trails through there of considerable extent, and vast rivers and sand hills. There are vast bodies of land not capable of grazing any stock on whatever, and in the aggregate there are not 5,000,000 acres of land all told.
Q. Taking out these pieces of land you have spoken of?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. What do you mean by saying in the aggregate?—A. I mean that it would not amount to more than 5,000.000 acres of land that can be used.
Q. Why do you not employ Indians in taking care of your cattle?—A. I could. not answer that question.
Q. Perhaps you do not consider it for your interest to do so?—A. I have never had but one man in my employ that had any Indian blood in him.
Q. Did he make a good herder t—A. Yes, sir.
Q. What is your opinion about their making good herders?—A. I suppose there are some who own pastures who are doing well.
Q. Well, I made the inquiry whether they could be made good herders of?—A. I think they would be good to discharge any duty they are employed for.
By Mr. Bowen:
Q. I would like to ask the witness whether he knows anything about petitions having been very numerous, asking the chief to veto this bill?—A. No, sir.
Q. You mention having met Col. William A. Phillips?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. But you stopped before relating your conversation with him?—A. It was regarding this $300,000.
Q. What was the conversation?—A. It was in regard to what that money was for.
Q. Well, what was it for?—A. It was, as I have already stated, to pay the balance of the money due on the land occupied by different Indian tribes that had been settled there under the treaty of 1866.
Q. That was the substance of the conversation?—A. Yes, sir.
Q. Did you ever have any conversation with him about the lease?—A. I do not know whether I did or not. There might have been a reference to it, but there was no talk that impressed itself upon my mind.
By Mr. Cameron:
Q. When you were at the capital of the Cherokee Nation, endeavoring to procure this lease, did you give it out to be known what offer you made?—A. Well, sir, the offer at the outset was $100,000 for the land.
Q. You made no other offer?—A. No, sir; we made no other offer whatever, and I wish to qualify my statement by saying that we said, at the time, that if any other persons were willing to give more, let them make their offer; and I wish to say another thing, which will be proper here: it was spoken of—And I believe you gentlemen wish to be informed upon everything in connection with this matter. It is in reference to the competition for the lease. There was a gentleman there by the name of Camp.
Q. Where was he from?—A. I think he was reported as being from Washington. We understood he wanted to procure a lease there. He sent word to Major Drumm and myself that for $10,000 he would withdraw from the contest, and afterwards sent word that lie would withdraw for $6,000, and we sent him back emphatically the word that we did not come there to pay money to any parties; we came to secure the lease of the Indian council; we had money to pay for the lease, and nothing more; and, while speaking of Mr. Drumm, in justice to him I wish to make a remark in regard to Mr. Ivey's statement in reference to a conversation he had with him. I happened to be present at the very time Mr. Ivey speaks of; we were with Dr. Adair at the National Hotel. He came into the room when we were settling our bill. The Doctor had a brother who was in the lower house. Then Dr. Adair spoke to Major Drumm and said, "Major, my brother has been a friend of yours, and I think you ought to do something for him ;" and Major Drumm said distinctly that he had great sympathy for all these people, but that the lease had cost us all it was worth and we could not give any more; that was Major Drumm's remark, and I simply add this to my remarks in justice to him, because he is not here.
I would like to call attention to one or two other matters. Colonel Boudinot speaks of the lease being effected a year ago last fall, when it was two years ago last May when the law was passed.
Q. What is the date of the lease?—A. The lease was made in July, 1883. Mr. Ivey also speaks of land having been leased north and south of this tract for much more money. I would like to be informed upon that point. I should like to know where those lands are.
The Chairman . Perhaps by communicating with them you can find out.
The Witness. Colonel Boudinot also says the lease was made to nine men, and I would like the committee to he informed of the truth of this matter. These nine men are nine directors to whom the lease was made merely in trust, and they have never received anything more than anybody else connected with the lease. They came in the same way as the others, and they get no more or less.
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