Altus, county seat of Jackson County’s abuts the Red River to the south and lies 38 miles from Texas to the West. The settlement was originally on Bitter Creek when in a flood in 1891 forced them to flee to higher ground nearby translated ‘altus.’ meaning “higher ground.” While Altus is rightly proud as the home of a major USAF base, the County’s namesake is deservedly considered a villain.[1]

Altus

Altus, county seat of Jackson County’s abuts the Red River to the south and lies 38 miles from Texas to the West. The settlement was originally on Bitter Creek when in a flood in 1891 forced them to flee to higher ground nearby translated ‘altus.’ meaning “higher ground.” While Altus is rightly proud as the home of a major USAF base, the County’s namesake is deservedly considered a villain.[1]

The County’s namesake, Andrew Jackson, was our sixth U.S. President and “ruthless in his policy of removing Indians from lands coveted by white men” in southeastern U.S. Defying a U.S. Supreme Court order to not enforce the Native American Removal Act, he ordered the forcible relocation of 18,000 Cherokees to Indian Territory. Eighteen thousand Cherokees began the journey and 4000 to 8,000 died along the way earning it the name “Trail of Tears.”

Ft. Sill

After camping near Medicine Bluff in 1868 Col. B.H. Grierson decided this was an idea spot for a fort in the heart of Indian country. It was first named Camp Grierson and later renamed for Gen. Joshua Sill, a Civil War casualty.

Kiowa warrior Satanta used the Oklahoma reservation as a base for murderous raids into Texas. He was captured and confined in the Old Post Guard House for two years. After release, he resumed raids in Texas, was caught, imprisoned, and there committed suicide in 1878.

From cavalry the mission of the post morphed into field artillery. Famed Indian warrior Geronimo was held in the fort’s Old Post Guard House from 1894 until his death in 1909. He enjoyed considerable freedom causing the structure to be called “Geronimo’s Hotel. Every Monday he cut fire wood in back of the guardhouse to work off a hangover.

Two-thousand acre Camp Doniphan existed briefly at the outset of WWI on the South side of Ft. Sill as a ‘cantonment’ for the 35th National Guard Division from Kansas and Missouri. Stationed there then was Lt. Harry Truman who was put in charge of the regimental canteen. In 1939 we drove by the guard house seeing troopers in cavalry breeches, canvas lace-up leggings, and campaign hats lounging on the porch.

Lawton

Lawton was founded in 1901 on land obtained from three Plains tribes and named for Post Quartermaster and Indian fighter Gen. Henry W. Lawton who was later killed in battle in the Philippines.

Quanah Parker

No article on Lawton and Ft. Still would be complete without mention of famed Quanah Parker a Comanche—the tribe after whom the County is named. [2] His mother, Cynthia Ann Parker, was a member of a prominent Texas Baptist family when at age 9 in 1836 she was captured by a Comanche band. She became a fully acculturated member of the tribe and though recaptured as an adult, she missed her family and tribe and pined away to death.

Once the soldiers and buffalo skinners had eradicated the millions of buffalo which supported the Comanche tribe, their fate was sealed e.g., they had no means of support but to reside on their reservation southwest of Ft. Sill. On May 6, 1875 after a time of meditation on a mesa top with the Great Spirit, Quanah decided to lead his Quahadi band to Ft. Sill. On June 7, 407 of his band arrived and surrendered themselves with 1500 horses.

Following is a partial history of Parker from one by Brian Hosmer.[3] “Parker said he was born ‘about’ 1845 south of the Wichita Mountains on Elk Creek. His band refused to attend the Medicine Lodge Treaty in October 1867 in which most plains tribes agreed to peace and removal to reservations in Indian Territory. The Quahadis continued to roam the western plains living off the rapidly declining buffalo herds and raiding white buffalo hunters and settlers until the herds were gone and to survive they agreed to enter the Kiowa-Comanche reservations west in southwestern Oklahoma.

Though most Indians resisted adopting the white man’s ways Parker was an ‘assimilationist’ leading his people to cultural transformation. He promoted self-sufficiency and self-reliance and encouraged Indian youths to learn the white man’s ways. Being most likely the world’s best horsemen, the Indians rejected encouragement to become farmers, but they adapted to ranching, horse breeding, and trading. They also leased their lands to white ranchers.

Parker became perhaps the wealthiest Indian in the nation as a stock raiser and owning $40,000 of stock in the Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railroad. He was a close associate of several prominent Texas Panhandle ranchers and counted President Roosevelt one of his friends. In 1902 his people named him deputy sheriff of Lawton.

He rejected monogamy---having six wives—and Christianity even though his son White Parker became a Methodist minister. Quanah was a peyote-eating member of the Native American Church. Originally buried in the Post Oak Mission Cemetery he was buried along with his mother in 1957 in the Fort Sill Post Cemetery.

Plains Indian reservations were broken into 160-acre allotments to each family with the residual lands awarded by lottery to white settlers—including my wife’s great grandfather, Isaac B. Wright. [The framed patent dated June 30, 1906 and signed by President Theodore Roosevelt hangs proudly in our house.]

[1] Okla. Heritage: A Picture Story of Pioneers, Outlaws, Indians, 1966.

[2] Gwynne, S.C., Empire of the Summer Moon, NY: Scribner, 2010.

[3] Hosmer, Brian C., Quanah Parker, Texas State Historical Assoc.