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The Western Star, April 22, 1922.


A few Reminiscences of Pioneer Life in Comanche-co.

Some Early Day Events Recalled.

By J. M. Lobaugh

I went from Pittsburg, Pennsylvania, to Kansas in 1884. At Harper I purchased what in that county was styled a gentle pony. To my native state he would have been called Lucifer. A few days rest was not conducive to his good behavior.

I rode the pony to Coldwater arriving there September 16, 1884, chowing and camping on the journey with a light freighter who hauled my tent, blankets, grub box, cooking utensils and heavy trunk. The prime object of the freighter was to pay a monthly visit to his pre-emption claim in order to make a proper showing that his residence on his claim was bona fide. Black coffee with sugar, ham and eggs and crackers in lieu of bread formed the principal diet on the trip. Canned tomatoes were relished uncooked, although I had not liked them before going West. The first night on the journey from Harper, we camped near Sun City. We spread our blankets on the ground and lay down facing the starry heavens. It was all very new and refreshing to me. The air was so pure and dry. All was quiet until the silences was broken by the howling of what seemed to be many coyotes. I knew now it might have been but one. I was somewhat concerned lest a rattle snake might visit us, as the camp was at the edge of a prairie dog town. I had been told the prairie dog, owl and rattler lived together. This was probably misinformation. Investigation probably would prove that when the rattler moves in, the other two move out.

We found Coldwater an infant in swaddling cloths. The sound of hammer and saw filled the air and many buildings were in the course of construction.

Tim Shields, president of the town company, took me in charge and showed me lots, any one of which I could have in consideration of erecting a building thereon. That nothing succeeds like success was especially recognized by the Coldwater Town Company. The growth of the city was rapid under the system of assigning a building lot to anyone who would erect a residence or mercantile building thereon and when in due course of time, the election to locate the County seat was held, Coldwater was an easy victor over her rivals.

The chief concern of every new comer who had not exercised his right to pre-empt land was to find a desirable 160 acres, not already appropriated.

I rode my pony for about 30 days, looking for a pre-emption claim and incidentally enjoying the new life which was like a vacation. The good land everywhere was plowed around and staked with name of claimant. It was an unwritten law that any claim so staked should not be molested for four weeks. In fact, a large number of tract were in this manner fraudulently covered by locators until such time as a customer could be found. The claim I practically desired was so staked. In due time no claimant appearing I proceeded to improve the land and was never molested.

On one of my first rides over the county I saw a herd of 95 antelope that were grazing on Section 16-31-19, near the south line, as peacefully as sheep. Although I knew they were ferae naturae, they gave me the impression that they were tame, owned and under control of a farmer who might be found just over the brow of the elevation. However, they quickly discovered me and scampered away. I do not remember seeing antelope in county after 1884, with the exception of one, which had been captured while young and became very tame. It developed into a nuisance, destroying gardens, and some one finally killed it.

The pioneer cattle men of Comanche-co. had pre-empted most of the watered land prior to 1884. They considered the up-land utterly worthless except for grazing. They viewed with dismay the influx of settlers in 1884 and '85 and considered them deluded fools. They honestly advised settlers that it would be impossible to make a living by farming 160 acres, and predicted that the county would in a short time become depopulated of farmers and that the houses in Coldwater would be empty.

The new settlers had little faith in the cattle men's forecast and the unusual rainfall of 1885, resulting in some heavy yields of oats and some other crops, strengthened their faith in the land. However, as the art of dry farming had not yet been learned, very many of the settlers during 1887 and 1888 had a hard time to procure the necessities of life. Their crops had failed. The funds they had brought with them were exhausted. They had proved up their claims and mortgaged them at high rates of interest and had spent the money. The buffalo bones with which they found the prairies strewn in 1884 had been gathered and marketed and the sources of the revenue were almost wholly lacking. The county had become as dead as the proverbial door nail.

The opening of Oklahoma to settlers in April 1889, gave these down and out farmers a chance, of which many availed themselves, to abandon their mortgaged claims in Comanche-co. to settle on 160 acres farther east and south in Oklahoma where the rain fall was more dependable, and where, profiting from their bitter experiences in Comanche-co. and later by improved methods of soil preparation, they themselves have become prosperous.

The opening of the Cherokee Strip in 1893 made another heavy draft on discouraged Comanche-co. farmers, almost depopulating the county. The smaller cattle men and farmers who remained quickly took advantage of a great opportunity and fenced as many sections of land as their live stock required, without inquiry as to the owners.

In 1893 steer calves cost $5 and yearlings were worth $10. The increase in value per year was 100 per cent. The Comanche-co State Bank would loan a good handler of cattle purchase price of as many calves as he could feed. During the several years of low cattle prices the shrewd cattle men built up their herds and by 1898 a number of them who were on the first step of the financial ladder in 1890 had accumulated several hundred head of cattle.

The increased herds and the increasing prices of cattle created a market for land. Richard Roe would say to John Doe, "You have more land fenced in than you need, while I am short of pasture, let me have the fence." John Doe would say, "I will have more cattle next year and will need the pasture." Richard Roe would then find the agent of the owner of the land and procure a lease, whereupon John Doe would purchase the land. Thus cattle men were fairly kicked into prosperity; for necessity made them reluctant purchasers of land, in the last five years of the old century when $200 per quarter section was the prevailing price.

A town company well at the intersection of Main-st. and Central-ave. supplied the entire town with water, until 1885, according to my recollection. At first the water and windmill were installed. Wells were expensive and until about 1888 a large number of residents got their supply from Kelly and Johnson at 25 cents per barrel, delivered.

Until about October 1884, Sun City was the nearest post office. Every few days a purse was made up and a messenger sent with letters to mail and bring all Coldwater mail. Dan Cline contributed his services as postmaster; sorted and handed out the letters. The papers were spread in order on a counter and everyone was permitted to search for his own. However, a post office was quickly established with daily mail by stages from Kinsley and Medicine Lodge. Dan Cline was appointed post-master and was 100 per cent efficient.

The Western Star, May 5, 1922.


In a letter last week by the Western Star from J. M. Lobaugh, formerly of this city but now of Chicago, Ill., Mr. Lobaugh says:

"I enjoyed Bob Henkel's article very much. He is a good writer and has the faculty of giving wings to his imagination. By the way, Reb Goddard, whom he so effectually peeled in his article, has been in this neighborhood about three months. He is training a string of fine saddle horses for a sale to be held in Chicago during the early summer. Reb is looking well and I can see that he loves horse-flesh just as well as in the young days.

"I suppose you know that my old friend and associate, Mr. Boardman F. Smith, has been sojourning with his wife in Europe during the past year. He writes very interestingly of conditions and scenes over there. He will return in September and expects to take his Cadillac out of storage and travel through to California, where he will, no doubt, make his home. Mrs. Smith expects to join him in Trinidad. He has asked me to go with him that far, on the way, incidentally visiting our old stamping ground in Coldwater. The probability is that I will go with him and if so, I hope to meet many old friends and business associates there."

Also see:

A $50,000 BLAZE! -- Coldwater's Principal Business Block in Ashes.
The Western Star, March 3, 1888.

A Terrible Tornado!
Visits Coldwater on Tuesday Night, Leaving Death, Destruction and Desolation in its Path.

The Western Star, May 12, 1899.

Letters from R.E. "Reb" GODDARD
The Western Star, February 4, 1921 and January 18, 1922.

Coldwater Centennial Notebook by Evelyn Reed.

Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above news article to this web site!

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