Grant Lucius Wright, Ura Ramona (Roderick) Wright
and their son, Ronald Harden Wright.
Photo taken circa 1959 in Phoenix, Arizona.
This is a transcript of an audio cassette dictated by Grant Lucius Wright:
Grandpa Grant: I will tell you about the old times and the history of Kansas. You don't have to listen to it, you can always turn it off, or erase it and get it out of existence.
My grandfather Baker came to America when he was in his teens and his mother came over --his father had been a seafaring man and was lost at sea and his mother had married again. But she finally came over here - a big heavy woman - she used to say she was " 'ead cook at the big 'ouse" - in other words she was chief cook in Buckingham Palace in her time. One of the things she brought with her when she came over was a cherry wood bedstead and it layed around for years and years after she died, finally the last that I knew of it was up in the top of Uncle Lew's chicken house, up on the rafters. I always wanted it and they told me I could have it, one day I went to look for it, it had a flood down through there and it had disappeared some way. So, I never did get it.
Mother was the oldest one of the children to live, and there was Harry, the oldest boy, there was only two boys, Harry and Lew. Harry didn't get along with his dad very well and I guess he got beat up a lot when he was a kid, as soon as he got partway big enough he took off. Harry was a rough and tough one. What he did no one even knows, he'd come back once and awhile and finally married an old maid, a York girl, near Wilmore and stayed around there for awhile and then they settled down in Siloam Springs, Arkansas.
When I was in the sales yard, a fellow came in, lived down in Glendale and he got to coming to sales and I got acquainted with him and he told me he was from Siloam Springs and I told him I used to have an uncle that lived down there name was Harry Baker, did you know him? He said "Hell, yes, that fighting SOB." (chuckled) And I tell you what, he'd known that fellow for twenty years and he went to bed with a quart of whisky beside the bed and a chew of tobacco in his mouth.
I went back to Kansas, I think it was in '23 and I was at Grandmother Baker's and Harry came in on the evening train and the next morning said "Let's take a walk down the creek." Now, Grandma lived out on the banks of Mule Creek, so we went off down there in the timber and he took his shirt off and said, "I want you to help me change these dressings." And I'm telling you - he was cut to ribbons. Sliced all over the front, there wasn't any on his back, so he got it when he was going forward. Every morning we'd go down there and change his bandages, and no one ever knew, besides me, that he'd been hurt at all, and he never let on to anyone that he'd been hurt. And he holed up there and he got healed up some and went back down.
And he finally, when he got old, he came back to Wilmore and tamed down, his wife died, and had a house, fixed him up, they fixed up a room for him, a big room in her garage that she never used and he lived there until he died.
Lew was entirely different, he was just a happy go lucky sort of a guy, always saw the funny side of things, he could get tough when he needed to, it wasn't very often. He liked to sing and lived about a half mile from Wilmore and you could hear Lew down there every morning, singing away at the top of his voice.
Now Mother was the oldest one of the girls and her and Dad, they married in Missouri and I guess it was in the late 70's when the whole tribe moved to Kansas. Grandfather took up a bunch of land down about 12 miles south 'n east of Wilmore and Dad and his brother Jim took up some land about 8 miles north and east of Wilmore. About the earliest thing I can remember is when we lived in what was known as "The Old Ranch." Mother's uncle, Will Powell had a big cattle ranch along Mule Creek and the upper end of this was this old ranch house, it was a big two story house and had been built many years and years before, I don't know when, but my uncle Tommy Wilmore had married one of Dad's sisters, one time was there and he told me he that he'd shot buffalo standing on the porch of that old ranch house.
I know Dad worked for Uncle Will a couple of winters, feeding cattle, and went back up to his farm, it wasn't very good, we had a little bunch of cattle, probably 25 head and big horses, Dad was always proud of his big work horses. He could work anything that wore hair, it didn't make any difference how rough and tough they are, dad could break them and work them.
They opened up the Oklahoma Panhandle to homesteading and in 1901 Dad and Uncle Lew went down there and took up 160 acres each on what was known as the South Platt range. That was a prairie range about 15 to 25 miles wide and around 45 to 50 miles long, running east and west. Our place was just four miles from the Texas line. It was fenced with a big, heavy six wire fence. And north of us about 8 miles was Clear Creek. All along Clear Creek was little cattle men that squatted in there years before and they ran cattle out on this range. And they cut water gaps into the creek near their places so the cattle could come in to water. The year before we moved down there a big Texas cowman had came in with a big herd of cattle and turned them, gone and turned 'em loose on the range. These little cowmen just rode out and stayed out at their end of their water gaps and wouldn't let his cattle in to water, so we agreed to take them out. So he had his water and he headed to Texas again. But he sent some of his cowboys out there and they took up three claims, five miles apart, right down through the middle of the range. One well was five miles east of us, and one just west of us, and then there was one on five or six miles farther west. He drilled big deep wells on these claims and built water tanks, put up big 18 foot wooden windmills and turned them loose and they would run all the time pumping these tanks full of water. And the spring we went down there in 1902 and we came in with 5000 head of young steer and turned them loose.
We left Kansas, I think it was on the second day of April, 1902, in a couple of covered wagons, Dad drove one, Mother the other, Frank and Rollie, my two older brothers, drove the cattle and horses we weren't using. It took us eight days to get down to Beaver County, and the first thing Dad did was to build a ten by twelve board shack, mother used for a kitchen, we slept in, we had a couple of tents. Put our beds up in them and we set the wagon covers off on the ground, we used to store things in. And after, the first thing dad did was to fence the place, and break up about 80 acres of it. Broke the sod and planted a crop of corn and barley, and we bought 25 head of yearlings and raised heifers, and turned loose on the range. The stock was most of it, we had all milk stock, and my job was to take them out every day, let them graze all day and take them to a tank we built - this big well to water, and night I would bring them in and corral them and milk the cows. Dad started to hire a well driller to come in and drill us a well, but it took him all summer before he got it to running. In the meantime we'd haul water from the other well.
And another Texas cowman came in that same spring with about five or six hundred head of big four to ten year old Texas steers, every color in the rainbow, and a lot of them with horns as long as your arms. I had to watch the fields pretty close, cause every once in a while some of these steers would jump fence and get in the fields and about all I had to do was ride up to the fence and yell and they headed out and then I'd take after them, get my rope out and whip their tails for about a couple of miles. But you could count on them, there would be some of them back in the next morning. There was two especially I remember, a big speckled steer, and one of them, his back was white except his head and neck were red. They were a couple of real onery ones.
In the fall dad made a sled out of two foot pins, a heavy sled, and made a sod cutter that bolted on to it, so they could cut a strip of sod four inches thick and, or three inches thick and a foot wide, and that fall we went down in the draw where the buffalo grass was real heavy and thick and put a heavy weight on this sled and took a team of horses with him and started along and cut the strips of sod. Then he'd take a spade and cut them into two foot lengths and load them on the wagon and haul them up to where to where he was going to build a house, and he built a sod house twenty feet wide and forty feet long, about eight feet high. Built the joists and the rafters and shingled it and put in the floor and it was a real warm house in the winter time and cool in the summer.
There wasn't a tree in the whole country except a few down along the streams so all we had to burn was cow chips. It was us boys job to take a wagon, and groceries then came in boxes, different sizes, and Dad would go to the railroad and get a bunch of these boxes and we'd bore a hole in one end and put a rope through it and we'd go out on the prairie and drag those along and pick up cow chips 'til we got a wagon load, come in and rake 'em up, we had a rick there 50 feet long and high as our heads, it was shortly after mowin'(?).
The first winter we didn't have any school at all, never thought about school when we was running wild on the flatlands. Dug out skunks and hunted rabbits, stuff like that. Then the next winter there was quite a few people moved in there on the claims so they hired a girl to teach a three month school. The neighbor just east of us had a dugout about, oh, I guess it was eight by ten feet, and they built some benches and a table and put down in there, and we had a three month school.
The doggone yearling steers I told about belonged to a man named Tandy and was branded BAR Z. The big Texas longhorns belonged to Pat Crow and was branded T4. Our brand was a 7HL Connected. 'Course all of the local cowmen had their own brands and in the fall of 1902, late in the fall, a general roundup started. It began at the east end of the range then started gathering all the cattle in and throwing them together in a big herd that day to the windmill five miles east of us. I guess there was around 12,000 head of cattle on the South Platt Range. When they got the big bunch gathered in, 'course they had their chuck wagon and their herd of saddle horses, and Tandy had eight or ten men, Crow had three or four, all the local cowmen were in on it, and when they got the big herd gathered in then the local cowmen cut theirs out, held them in a separate bunch, and then Crow cut his out. Tandy decided he didn't want his cattle there, so he turned his back on the range. Then they drove the cut that they wanted to keep over to the second windmill, just west of our place. Well then they got a big circuit(?) and gathered everything in, then our herd went through the same procedure. Then they moved on west, about there, the next hold up they had was about twelve miles west of us. They took all of the cuts over there and sometime in the night those two big steers that was always into our field slipped out and the next morning they was back in our field. Well, I saw them and I saddled up a little roan horse we had and took after them and I run 'em for about an hour 'til they was tired out and then I circled them back close to the house and rode in and caught another pony and put the saddle on him and the last time those two steers were so tired they stayed together until I started them west on a long trot. They kept along as they could go our way and then finally we got to the herd they was shufflin' along. I turned them into the herd they was so tired they laid down and I never saw them again.
We kept our cows mostly pretty close in and we had them in big corrals and we had lots of feed stacked up. So Tandy elected to leave his 5,000 head gone loose on the range. They dug a big dugout and a big well five miles east of us, which was their headquarters and they had corrals for their horses and so on, and the local cowmen took theirs on in to their various ranches for the winter, and everything went along just, until late in February, we was just about out of grub in our establishment, so the last day of February Dad hitched up the good team of horses and headed for Loco, was not quite 60 miles to the northwest of us, up in Kansas. It was rather warm that morning and real foggy and damp and 'bout noon it started to snow. Wasn't any wind, it just came down, and it snowed and snowed and snowed 'til the snow was three feet deep all over that prairie. When Daddy got to the railroad, well he couldn't get out - the snow was just so deep. And we was down to a pretty short ration, we had lots of beans and the flour to make bread. We was out of meat and everything else. So we had our cattle in the corral and feeding them this cafer corn that had these big heads of grain on top, and 'course a lot of that scattered out on the ground and the snowbirds come in there by the thousands. And we'd take a piece of number nine wire about three feet long, that's a heavy stiff wire, if it was good and rusty that was the best part, the best one, and there was just these big bunches of snowbirds and we'd throw that wire in to them as hard as they could, they'd throw it in a bung well when they threw they'd start to fly, and they'd come up in a cloud and that wire sometimes would knock down eight or ten of those little bitty birds. And we'd take the best breasts out and throw them in the bean pot and that was what we lived on. Our water'd gone haywire, so we was out of water and we melted snow. And the cattle and the horses, they would eat snow.
So it was about the, after about a week the snows melted and it was settled down some, so we hitched the big team to the wagon and filled it with barrels, and the windmill to the west of us, it was broke down, so we headed out to the one five miles east. Then we drove the horses, big horses first, the loose horses, and they broke a trail and turned the cattle in after them and we drove 'em over there and they all got filled up on water and we filled our barrels and then came back. Dad didn't get home for twelve days. There was lots of traders got hung up there, deliverin', so they made big sleds with vee timbers in front and hitched three or four teams on behind and pushed that on ahead of 'em and they finally broke the roads down as far as Beaver. And it took him a couple of days to get from Beaver down to our place. And there were a lot of episodes all over.
These cattle that were released on the range, there was nothing for them to eat at all. Once in a while there'd be a weed that would stick up above the snow. They'd come drifting by our place and the herds, we had to fight 'em off from there, the feed, and they'd see a weed and every steer would make for it. They'd finally drift to the Texas line to that big heavy fence and they couldn't go any farther. They'd even eat the tails off each other for something, all the hair off of their tails, and they died along that Texas line, you could walk on cattle for miles. Well, after the snow got off, my brother older than I, Rollie, he was five years older than I, we'd take the team and wagon and go off there and skin cattle. We'd skin out their head and legs, and rip 'em down the middle and we'd drive a big iron bar in the ground and chain their head to that, chain their hide to the hind axle of the wagon, and drive the team off. And we made quite a little money with that and with it we ordered a twenty-two rifle from Sears and Robuck. Steven's favorite single-shot rifle.
The next spring the homesteaders started coming in, in flocks. And Dad would take 'em out and locate 'em on a claim for five dollars, let out claims for 'em and all, and I seen as many as twenty-five wagons camped on the east side of our place. That was an open section that couldn't be filed on, school land, every section 16 and 32 in each township was designated as school land. And later, Dad leased that 640 acres for a few years. But, by the end of that summer practically every quarter section of the country was taken up. Of course, that was the end of the free, open, range. Lots of 'em didn't stay there then, so we had outside grass for our cattle by herding them through that summer, but then those dugouts and shacks went up on every quarter section. So the days of the free range was over.
We gathered in most all our cattle and a bunch of fellows drove 'em to the railroad in Higgins, Texas. The cattle had dropped off, and all that that summer, the yearlings that he'd bought and paid $25 for, he sold 'em as grown cows for $17 a head. I had had two or three cows and decided I wanted to go to school on that winter, so I butchered one and peddled him around over the country and sold it for 5 cents a pound for the front quarter and 7 cents a pound for the hind quarter. Drive up to a place and they'd tell me how long and I'd cut 'em off a chunk and lay it out and go on to the next one.
They had a good sized school down on Clear Creek, eight miles north of us, so I went down there to school during the winter, stayed at a rancher's house, several of us from out there on the flat stayed at this house, was along in February I got sick and a man brought me home. I didn't know when I got there and down with pneumonia and like to died. An old doctor had moved in there on a claim and he stayed there with me and finally he just, snow on the ground, he just opened up the bedroom door and the windows and set there aside of my bed for twenty four hours. Finally the fever broke and I come out of it. I can remember the first thing they let me eat was, we had some pigeons, one of the boys got a big squab out of the nest and Mother cooked that for me, and I never tasted anything so good in my life. When I hadn't had anything but a little broth and stuff and seemed like two or three weeks.
Summer of 1903, in June, my brother Rollie, who was five years older than I, took a team and wagon and went down in to, about a hundred and some miles east of us, into Oklahoma, to work in the harvest fields, wheat harvest. And he worked through the harvest and then through the threshing and for those days and making a pot good money, and he sent most of his money home to Mother and he wrote all the time, and we got a letter from him that he was going up to Kansas to Grandfather Baker's, that's about north of where he was, and we never heard from him again. He never got up to Kansas. And Dad and Uncle Harry went down in that country and tried to get some trace of him and they didn't.
Along in early September Mother put an ad in the Kansas City Star (sic - it was probably published in The Western Star) about a lost boy, and in that same paper there was a story about a body being found in a wheat field on the Hundred And One Ranch. That was north of where he'd been working. So Dad and Uncle Harry went down there, of course, they couldn't identify him in there, but the winter before, his Grandmother had made him a shirt, and she got the sleeves too short, and at the shoulder she'd put in a two inch strip to lengthen the sleeves, and he happened to be wearing that shirt. And it was my brother that they'd found. And the local people around there put up a reward and the United States Marshal got on the job, Oklahoma was a territory then, and they checked out everyone down there that had worked with him, and all around there, and no trace and one-----we checked into the post office in Kary? and he found where a man who's name was Joe Baker had bought a money order there and sent it down into Indian Territory. So he went down there and hunted up this Joe Baker and found that he had just got out of the penitentiary about six months before, he was a tough customer, and he was, had left there but he finally traced him down on the cattle ranch way out in the sticks. He went out there and stayed overnight and arrested him. Brought him back to Kary. Right after Mother had put this ad in the paper we got a letter from the Chief of Police in Wichita, Kansas that said the team, my brother had sold the team and wagon out on the streets. My Mother sent him a picture and they wrote back that he wasn't the one that had sold it. The man that had sold it had written out a bill of sale for the team and wagon, he sold them at auction, and he dated this bill of sale August 3, it was August 3, 1903, but he made it 19003, put in an extra cipher. And this marshall was bringing this fellow back, had ridden all night on the train, and the next morning he handed him a pencil and a piece of paper and said "Write August 3, 1903". And he looked it over, and he wrote August 3, 19003. And they built up such a case against him, Dad went down to the trial and the last day of the trial the guy figured they was going to hang him, so he pled guilty. And then he got a ride with my brother and my brother had the nice little twenty-two rifle we had and he kept it nice, and he walked down in this wheat field, he had an armload of straw, and this fellow walked along behind him and shot him in the back of the head, and took what money he had and the team and the wagon and pulled out. He was sentenced to ninety-nine years, I don't know whatever happened to him after that.
Well, I just about run out of anything to say and I expect you've run out patience trying to listen to it, so I'll sign this thing off and we'll mail it to you.
-- Grant Wright
News article from The Western Star, 6 Jan 1950:
"Mr. & Mrs. Wayne Flory of Medicine Lodge and Mr. & Mrs. Ernest Ferrin returned from a trip last Thursday from a ten days' trip to Arizona and Mexico. They visited the Grant Wrights in Phoenix and, at Ajo, Arizona, went through the copper mines. On Christmas Eve they were in Tucson where they visited a cousin of Mr. Flory's and went through the old mission
(Mission San Xavier del Bac)there and also went to the mountains. Mrs. Maude Watkins accompanied them as far as Phoenix, then went on the bus to Norfolk, Calif., to see her grand-daughter, Mrs. R.J. Conger, and family."
From the Comanche County, Kansas: History & Genealogy
Name: Brian Yeagle
Date: 6 Sept 2006
Comment: I am the grandson of Ronald H. Wright, and great grandson of Grant Lucius Wright ("boppa", to my mother Sherry Wright). I can't believe I found Memories of Lew Baker on this site! I have personally heard the cassette tape my great grandfather Grant made detailing some of his history, and finding this is just awesome! Thank You, Brian.
Name: Jan Walberg Zachry
Date: 16 Feb 2007
Comments: My grandfather is Grant Wright who had the tape of stories. I think sites like this are wonderful for everyone in a family to find out more about their history.
Dead Body of Roland Wright Supposed To Have Been Found
The Western Star, December 18, 1903.
Reward for Arrest & Conviction of Murderer or Murderers of Roland Wright
The Western Star, January 23, 1904.
Photo of Rolland J. Wright's Gravestone
Crown Hill Cemetery, Comanche County, Kansas.
The Allender Family for information on the maternal grandparents of Ura Ramona Roderick, Grant Wright's wife. See The Roderick Family for information on her parents.
Letter to Jerry FERRIN re: Nellie May (Barnett) Ferrin by Alzina Baker
Surnames: Allender, Baker, Bond, Burditt, Chance, Ferrin, Fry, Huffaker, Pendergraft, Roderick, Schiff, Thorpe, Wright.
Memories of Lew Baker: The Baker & Powell Families
Surnames: Baker, Buckingham, Cox, Ferrin, McMillon, Pepperd, Powell, Wilmore, Wright,
The Powell trek to Comanche County, Ks
Lewelleyn & Kate Baker
Surnames: Allderdice, Baker, Parcel, Powell, Rich, Roderick, Schmidt, Six, Smith, Wood, Woods.
Harry Powell Baker, uncle of Grant L. Wright.
Felix Martin McMillen "From Missouri he came to Kansas in 1886 by covered wagon route, accompanying the Baker, Wright and Powell families, well-known Comanche-co., pioneers.", The Wilmore News, October 29, 1926.
This RootsWeb website is being created by Jerry Ferrin, who welcomes your comments, suggestions and contributions of historical information and photographs to this site, such as this oral history by Grant Wright which was laboriously transcribed from an audiotape recording by Arah Wright, wife of my cousin Kerry Wright. Thanks, Arah!
RootsWeb is a wonderful thing! I'd searched for years for Grant Wright or his descendents after having learned that we are related through our Allender ancestors, because I have photographs of the Allenders which I wanted to share with the only other people I know of how'd have reason to treasure them as much as I do. Well, thanks to RootsWeb, I've made the online acquaintance of my cousin, Kerry Wright, and my "cousin-in-law", Arah Wright.
Thanks to Shirley Brier for finding, transcribing and contributing the above cited and linked news articles pertaining to the murder of Roland Wright to this web site!
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