GUYMON DAILY HERALD
Stories from the past
All articles copyrighted by the Guymon Daily Herald. Used by permission.
Hermit Reveals Wild
Horse Lake History
The following article appeared in the Guymon Daily Herald, Wednesday, Sept. 27, 1967.
The article was written by Lawrence Gibbs and Jim Rockenback.
The Massacre of Wild Horse Lake has been an oft repeated story of early Oklahoma Panhandle history, and until now Wild Horse Lake has been known by that name because of the wild horses which stayed there for water and to feed on the lush grass surrounding it.
However, information recently brought to light by Charlie Littlejohn links the lake, located north of Straight, with Kansas Civil War history and Quantrill's Raiders.
Littlejohn, who was 80 last Aug. 11, is affectionately known as the "Hermit of Wild Horse Lake"
He lives alone in a small rustic cabin that his father, Aaron Littlejohn, built soon after filing on the homestead six miles north of Guymon.
Located several hundred feet east of State Highway 136, the weathered woodframe cabin, which has never been painted, occupies the west side of a small gully, and is sheltered by a number of fruit and shade trees.
A barbed wire fence surrounds the house and yard filled with such things as a left-handed plow, old harness, rigs, angle iron, and other relics of an age gone by.
Time has eaten away at the cobblestone foundation, the wind has removed a good portion of the wooden shingles, and the small structure leans with the seasons--north in the summer and south in the winter. The latest addition to the house was a lightning rod installed seven years ago.
Its lone occupant is also worn and wrinkled, but Littlejohn says he enjoys his secluded life on the prairie.
He still uses a kerosene lamp since the cabin has no gas or electricity. He burns wood for heat and cooking.
A windmill, built in 1919, is his only water supply, and a garden supplies most of his food in summer, if the jack rabbits don't get to it first.
Littlejohn's eyesight is failing although he still reads without glasses, and he has lost all his teeth, (he hopes to get some false teeth within the next year) but his health in general is excellent and his memory is the envy of many.
Known by many, but still unknown because he prefers it that way, Littlejohn has a few close friends. Most of those are neighbors or businessmen in Guymon who have made his acquaintance by offering him rides to and from town.
Charlie gave up driving several years ago and walks to Guymon to do his grocery shopping.
"I enjoy walking outside," he stated, and pointed to one of his favorite hiking areas--a 22 acre piece of unbroken land in the northwest corner of his land.
It was there that he pointed to ruts of the Houston-Seattle Wagon Trail.
"As a youngster, I saw wagons going back and forth along this trail. They kept east of the mountain until about Denver, then crossed Seattle," he related.
"My pappy filed on this land Aug. 5, 1905, and mom and us kids came here on May 22, 1906--lived here ever since that time."
Littlejohn was born near Dover, Kan., and came to Indian Territory by wagon and team.
He remembers the trip well, and much of what has happened since that time.
In the course of a converstaion Littlejohn reached in his pocket and pulled out some old relics. Fingering an Indian arrowhead, he commented: "Indians made these by heatin' the stone then dipping water onto the rock--water makes it chip to this (shape)."
In his other hand he had a piece of soapstone which had been carved square with a hole in the top.
"Know what this is?" he asked. Then without waiting for an answer said: "It's a tallow stone, You just pour tallow in this here hole and poke a sick in it and you light it for a light. Burns quite a while."
On the way to old Lee Cemetery where Charlie said his mother was buried, he pointed out the location of old Sledgeville one mile from his cabin, "Use to be a town settlement there. Store. School House. Voted there too--at L.W. Reed's." he related.
When asked what the precinct name was, Charlie readily answered "Block."
Charlie, a veteran of World War I, also reminiscenced of his time spent in service.
"Reckon there was 65 to 70 men in my outfit--all from the Guymon area. Trained at Camp Travis with the 90th Division."
He mentioned several names of those who enlisted with him in February of 1918.
"In the second bunch--we was the second bunch to go--there was J. Dunham (deceased)of Hough, Frank Parks--he lives at Hooker you know."
Littlejohn also mentioned Albert S. Johson of Ft. Hobbs, N.M.
"Albert S. Johnson was just a
lieutenant when I knowed him--we was kinda buddies. He's a
five-star general now."
Charlie was in Company C and was a flag sergeant.
Nearing the location of the old Lee Cemetery, Littlejohn craned his neck and pointed to a patch of dry rustling Johnson grass growing alongside the road,
"Here tis," he said.
To a passerby the cemetery would appear as a corner mud hole to wet for cultivation.
County road crews had apparently mowed a swath of the grass around the cemetery for driver safety at the county road intersection, but all headstones, of which there were three or four were hidden in tall grass and brush.
Littlejohn went directly to his mother's marked grave.
A Civil War veteran, Harvey Lee who served with Company I, 48th Illinois Infantry, donated the land for the cemetery, and Lee, his son, Clem Lee and Clem's wife, are the first three graves.
Littlejohn's mother's headstone read: C.E. wife of A. Littlejohn. Born Oct. 1852; died Sept 23. 1917.
Charlie's father died in Kansas and was buried in Russell Creek Cemetery in Craig County, Kan.
Keeping Charlie on one subject is hard, and in bringing him back to the Wild Horse Lake story, he insisted on talking abut Quantrill's Raiders--a band of Confederate guerrillas led by William Clarke Quantrill during the Civil War.
By combining what Charlie had heard his pappy say and with the use of an encyclopedia, it was learned that Quantill was born in Ohio, he rode west with a wagon train and became a gambler at Fort Bridge, Wyo.
He returned to Kansas in 1859, and taught school for one term. He was accused of stealing cattle and horses and killing several persons, but he escaped arrest.
At the start of the Civil War, Quantrill formed a band of guerrillas. He led his men on raids against the townspeople who favored the Union.
Quantrill's band was mustered into Confederate seervice in 1862, but continued to operate independently. Oct. 21, 1863 he and his men burned out the town of Lawrence, Kan., and killed about 150 people.
Frank James, Jesse James' brother, rode with the band that day. Quantill was fatally wounded in 1865 during a raid in Kentucky.
This seemed a long way off from Wild Horse Creek, but Charlie continued. April of 1870, what was left of the raiders--who had been robbing and looting Kansas, chased some Indians to an area around Wild Horse Lake.
"In order to keep Quantrill's men away, the Indians, who were Cherokee, tied brush to a horse and set the brush afire. It went crazy and ran around setting the countryside afire, then jumped into the lake."
Hence the name--Wild Horse Lake.
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