History of the Wichita Mountain

A visit to Oklahoma would not be complete without a trip to the Wichita Mountains. These mountains have long been known by miners as rich in minerals, and they have long looked forward to the time when they might develop them.

According to Spanish records Father Gilbert, with one hundred men, led an expedition into the Wichita Mountains as early as 1657, and sunk a shaft to the depth of one hundred feet about nine miles northwest of Mount Scott. About the year 1738 another expedition was lead to the mountains, and work was begun towards developing a mine in Devil’s canon. The members of the second expedition were mostly Mexican peons. They were attacked by the Kiowas, who massacred all but three of the party, who escaped to Mexico. There they made a map of the mines, which was finally secured by a Mexican miner who returned to the mountains many years later and unearthed the old mines, finding many relics of the former possessors. Whether he found any of the treasure ever discovered by the first party is not known, as he did not return to the mountains from a second visit to Mexico.

The old mine is on the North fork of the Red River, and is at the extreme northwest corner of the range of mountains. It had long been called the Haunted canon by the Indians, but is now known as Devil’s canon.

The next expedition of which there is any record was formed at Jacksboro, Texas, in 1852, and was lead by J. McElroth and McCall. They stated that they found gold on Otter creek, near where Needman’s smelter now stands. While returning to Texas they were attacked by •the Indians on Cash creek, and the whole party was massacred, except McCall and McElroth, who made their escape down Cash creek by night.

When visiting the Wichita Mountains , I began at Roosevelt, near the northwest corner, where I met R. W. Hail, a citizen of the Chickasaw Nation, whose present address is Roosevelt, Oklahoma. He invited me to go out to his camp at the Lone Jack mines. He is an old miner, and gave me great assistance in writing up the history of the mountains. He and A. E. Andrus of Mangum, Oklahoma, a wealthy farmer and in every was a perfect gentleman, together with about a hundred others, organized a mining company on Otter creek in 1900, and Andrus built the first storehouse in Kiowa County. It was begun the night of August 6 and was completed the morning of the next day. By evening Andrus was selling, goods there. It was located in the little town of Wildman, the center of the mining district. R. W. Rail first discovered the Gotebo oil fields in 1889.

Among the highest peaks in the Wichita Mountains is Baker’s peak, near the center of the range. During General Arbuckle’s trip through the mountains one of his scouts became separated from the army and was attacked by Indians, who shot his horse from under him at the foot of this peak. Baker, the scout, managed to make his way to the top of the peak, which can be reached in only one direction, up a narrow defile. The Indians tried in many ways to get at him, but every time a head appeared above the rim rock the scout put a bullet through it with his rifle. They tried to crowd up while his gun was empty, but there were lots of rocks handy, and Baker used these so effectively that they were unable to rush up on him.

Finally they sent up a shower of arrows, but he sheltered himself behind some big rocks and was not touched. At last, therefore, they settled down to starve Baker out. For three days the siege continued. Meanwhile the army had gone on, camping several miles south of the peak. When Baker failed to return the next morning a searching party was sent out, which, however, failed to find the missing man. For three days, however, the search was continued, until, on the evening of the third day, as one of the officers was standing on the top of a high hill, scanning the surrounding country with a field glass, he noticed a puff of smoke from the top of the peak which now bears Baker’s name.

Immediately a rescue party was sent to the peak, which found that Baker had been fighting against seventy Indians. For three days he had not had a bite to eat nor a drop to drink.

Fort Sill was established on the southeast corner of these mountains in 1869 by General Sheridan, General Custer being the first commanding field officer. When Sheridan was in the country establishing the fort his curiosity was aroused at the character of the rock composing the mountains and at the stories told by the Indian scouts, and he did some prospecting on a high mountain several miles north of the fort. The mountain is still called Mount Sheridan.

There is some game in the mountains and the water is good. From every point of view, the mountains are well worth a visit. It doesn’t matter how many mountains you may have seen elsewhere, if you have not seen the Wichita Mountains, you still have something to see.

Source: Puckett, J. L. and Ellen. History of Oklahoma and Indian Territory and Homeseeker’s guide. Vinita, Oklahoma, Chieftain Publishing Company, 1906.

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