Wash Robinson was born in Old Mexico, as nearly as he remembers, about
the year 1840. When quite a boy, he was stolen by the Navaho Indians.
When he was nearly grown, he was sold by them to the Pueblos. After
having been with them for some time, he left, and went to the Wichita
Mountains. He was next taken prisoner at the battle of Big Frame on the
Santa Fe Trail, and taken to Washington.
He could talk no
English at all, but he was proficient in Spanish and in several Indian
tongues. He didn't know what his English name was, or even what his
right name was in Spanish, so he was named George Washington. After
having been kept for some time as a prisoner of war, he gave his parole,
and enlisted in the United States army. He was put in a colored company,
and soon learned to talk English. As there were already four George
Washington in his company, his name was changed to Wash Robinson, by
which he is still known.
In 1869 he came to Fort Reno with his company, and participated in most
of the raids after Indians, and took part in the efforts to drive the
Sooners out of Oklahoma. Having been raised by the Indians, he was
thoroughly conversant with all their manners and customs, so that he was
a very valuable scout.
On one occasion, when engaged in putting
Oklahomans out of the country, as Wash Robinson tells the story himself,
he met the well-known Captain Payne, who had come in from Kansas with
about fifty families and had settled on the south side of the Seminole
River in old Oklahoma proper. Payne and his men had thrown up
breastworks and were prepared for a siege. They said they would die
before they would leave the country.
Colonel Grayson was ordered
from Fort Reno with two companies of soldiers to put them out. A cowboy
working for Campbell, a big cattleman in that country in those days, saw
the soldiers coming and warned the Sooners, with whom he had become
"All right," said Captain Payne, when the warning
had been given him, "let them come." The boomers collected inside their
fort and prepared for battle. When the soldiers arrived at the
breastwork they went into camp. Colonel Grayson went over to see Captain
Payne, who told the colonel to pitch whenever he got ready. The colonel
laughed and said he wasn't quite ready for a fight; that he didn't
propose to cause any bloodshed unless it was absolutely necessary.
So the soldiers waited there several days, becoming very friendly
with Captain Payne and his men. Said the colonel to one of his officers:
"There isn't any use hurting these people; it's bad enough to be forced
to put them out. I hate to have to do it, but I'm not responsible for my
orders, and all I can do is to obey."
One morning, therefore,
when the boomers were all away at their different tasks, and there was
no one in their camp but Captain Payne and five or six others. Colonel
Grayson took Wash Robinson and six or seven other soldiers and dropped
in to see the captain. Said the colonel: "Now, captain, you had better
give up; I have to put you out."
Then the soldiers and the
boomers locked horns, and around and around the tent they wrestled,
overturning benches, tables and everything else. When the fight was
over, though, the boomers were all hogtied. There were several bloody
noses and black eyes, though in the latter respect the soldiers had the
advantage, for they were all Negroes, and their black eyes did not show.
After Captain Payne and those with him had been tied a signal
was given, and the soldiers rushed in, took possession of the camp, and
hauled the boomers back across the line into Kansas.
tell a good story on Wash Robinson, which, though he denies it, is too
good to keep. A certain Cheyenne chief took a lot of buffalo pouches,
filled them with water and tied them to the ponies of his men. Then the
band struck out across the plains. The soldiers, of course, had to
follow them. This was not difficult, as the Indians made a broad, plain
trail. In order that the soldiers might not overtake them the Indians
carefully avoided every water hole. The soldiers had neglected to take
any water with them, but, thinking they could do without water as long
as the Indians, they kept right on after them. Camp after camp of the
Indians was passed, however, and still no water was found. At last the
soldiers were away out on the plains, and here the Indians' tracks
Accordingly, the soldiers also scattered out. None of
them but Wash Robinson, however, could follow a trail, and, as their
horses were dying of thirst, and as they themselves were faint, they had
to shape their course for the South Canadian river. Robinson, however,
kept on the trail. It lead into the brakes, and finally to a canon with
timber and a good spring, where the Indians were camped, giving their
ponies a rest.
He knew that if he turned back he would die of
thrust, so he chose to go forward. The Indians took him prisoner and
gave him something to eat and drink, though if he had been a white man
they would have killed him. They knew him however, and did not want to
kill him. So, stripping him of all his clothes, and tieing him face down
across a log, they gathered about him while the old squaws marched past,
each one giving him a good spanking with a stick. After he had been
punished in this manner, and after they knew that the soldiers had gone
away from the neighborhood, the Indians turned Wash loose, still naked
as he was. He had to walk the two hundred miles to the fort.
the eighties Wash resigned from the army, married an Arapahoe squaw, and
has raised a family that is an honor to him. He has two grandsons who
are nice, quiet young men. The oldest one, named George, has skin as
black as his father's, but his hair is as straight as any full blood
Indian's. When it comes to throwing a rope, playing ball or running foot
races, there is no one in the tribe that can beat him.
owns a good farm on the Washita River at the mouth of Boggy creek, and
also conducts a livery stable at Colony, Oklahoma. He is the only man of
his color who is allowed to live in Washita county, which, with a
population of Texans, Russians and Germans, goes Democratic at each
election. No colored people are allowed in the county, and, though I
have been there several times, if there is a Republican there I have yet
to find him. Some of the agency employees are Republicans, of course,
but outside of these officials they are mighty scarce.
History of Oklahoma, Indian
Territory and Homeseeker's Guide
Source: History of Oklahoma and Indian Territory and Homeseeker's
guide, By J. L. and Ellen Puckett, Vinita, Oklahoma, Chieftain
Publishing Company, 1906