Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Oklahoma History: Fort Sill: An Enduring Legacy Pt 1

Fort Sill, Wikipedia Photo


By Alanna Radle Rodriguez and Judge Rodriguez

Thank you for coming in and joining us for our final fort in “The Forts of Oklahoma Series.” This fort tends to hit a little closer to home, as it is the only fort that is still an active military installation to this day.

The original military occupation of the site is listed as being in 1834, when the 1st US Dragoons established “Camp Comanche” to begin negotiations with local indigenous tribes. In 1852, Captain Marcy arrived to explore the Indian Territory and made the recommendation that the site be considered for a permanent fort. In 1858, Colonel Douglas Cooper also made the same recommendation.

The fort was initially staked out by Major General Philip Sheridan and Colonel George Custer on January 8th 1869. First named Camp Wichita, it was known among the indigenous tribesmen as “The soldier house at Medicine Bluffs.” The installation was later renamed by General Sheridan in honor of his friend Brigadier General Joshua Sill, who was killed during the battle of Stones River, Tennessee, in 1862. The site was staked out as support for the tribal pacification policies enacted by President U.S. Grant in response to increasing raids and massacres just after the War Between the States.

The Indian Territory was quite lawless, particularly after the War Between The States. The only law in the territory was enforced by the U.S. Army including soldiers from the other forts in the Oklahoma/Indian Territory. The policy of pacification was carried out by numerous Indian Agencies that were assigned to different forts throughout the territory, indeed throughout the entirety of the Great Plains.

Some of the more notable visitors to the location were Jefferson Davis, General Henry Leavenworth, Nathan Boone, Wild Bill Hickok, Buffalo Bill Cody, Ben Clark, and Jack Stilwell.

After several months in operation, President U.S. Grant approved agents from the Quaker Indian Agency to be assigned to the Kiowa and Comanche tribes on their reservations just outside of Fort Sill. The army was prevented from taking punitive actions against the indigenous tribesmen who used Fort Sill as a sanctuary. This resulted in the Warren Wagon Train Raid.

General William Tecumseh Sherman arrived from Fort Richardson shortly after the raid and ordered several of the Kiowa chiefs be brought in for questioning. They were delivered to him at the commanding officer’s quarters, known as “Grierson’s Porch”. During the questioning, he ordered the three chiefs arrested, and they attempted to assassinate him. In memory of the event, the Commanding Officer’s quarters were dubbed “The Sherman House.”

The chiefs: Satank, Satanta, and Addo-Etta (Big Tree) were arrested and ordered to be transported to Texas for trial. A mile from the fort, Satank grabbed the carbine of one of the troopers guarding him, and before he could fire it, was hit by several bullets from the other guards. Satank’s body was left leaning against a tree, and the column continued on its mission to deliver the other two chiefs to Fort Richardson, Texas. A marker commemorates the site where Satank fell. He was buried in “Chiefs Knoll” in the Fort Sill Post Cemetery.

Satanta and Addo-Etta were tried and convicted for instigating the raid and sentenced to death by hanging. Their sentences were commuted to life in prison by Texas Governor Edmund Davis. In October, 1873, they were paroled.

In 1874, the Comanche, Kiowa, and Southern Cheyenne engaged in the “Red River War,” which lasted almost a full year. The last chief to surrender was Quanah Parker. His surrender signaled an end to the indigenous tribesmen involvement in the warfare in the southern plains.

At one point during the 1880s, the fort was nearly deserted when a rumor had been spread that gold was found in the Wichita Mountains nearby, as both the enlisted men and the officers left to stake their claims.

During the 1880’s and 1890’s, one of the units that was stationed at the fort was Troop L of the 7th Cavalry. This troop, consisting entirely of indigenous tribesman, was considered to be one of the best in The West. Several of their members are credited with helping the tribes avert the bloody “Ghost Dance Uprising” in which many tribesmen were brutally killed by the Army.

In 1894, the fort received the Chiricahua Apache chiefs as prisoners of war. The most notable name among them was Geronimo. After having been at the fort for some time, the government allowed him to travel with Pawnee Bill’s Wild West show. Geronimo, with a contingent of Apache, was allowed to attend several annual World Expos and Indian Expos during the 1890’s. They were even able to ride in Theodore Roosevelt’s inaugural parade. Geronimo died of pneumonia, as a prisoner of war in 1909.

Being on the fringes of the Indian Territory, Fort Sill had started to lose significance during the later 1880’s throughout the 1890’s, even into the earlier part of the 20th century. In 1901, the last of the indigenous tribes’ lands to be opened to white settlement was located around Fort Sill. The town of Lawton quickly sprang up, becoming one of the larger cities in the new State of Oklahoma.

The first artillery battery arrived in 1902, and the last cavalry regiment departed in 1907, the year Oklahoma became a state. This marked the historic change in roles from being a little-known frontier cavalry fort to an enduring role as a major artillery fort in the US Army.

Join us next month as we share the more recent chronicles of historic Fort Sill: An Enduring Legacy Pt. 2

Monday, September 18, 2017

Matthew Maury - Pathfinder of the Seas

With Nancy J. Farrier

Have you ever wondered how scientists discovered the ocean currents, such as the Gulf Stream Current? Who first figured out there were even currents to map out? The answer to those questions would be Matthew Fontaine Maury: oceanographer, astronomer, historian, cartographer, meteorologist and geologist.

Maury was born in 1806 in Virginia, but his family moved to Tennessee when he was five-years-old. He longed to grow up and join the Navy like his older brother. In 1825, he did join the Navy and went to sea. He was fascinated with studying the seas and the ways of navigation on the seas. He also wrote down his findings and published book about navigation.

Memorial at Goshen Pass
The main focus of his life work happened when he was in bed, unable to get up. I am not positive if he’d been injured or was ill near to the point of death, but either way he was bedridden. One of his children would read the Bible to him every day, and one day began to read Psalm 8 to him.

Maury was struck by the words in Psalm 8:8 – “The fowl of the air, and the fish of the sea, and whatsoever passeth through the paths of the seas.” He had this verse read to him over and over as he pondered the idea of “the paths of the seas.” At last he said, “If God says there are paths to the sea I am going to find them if I get our of this bed.”

He recovered, and with the inspiration of the Psalm, began his intense study of the seas and the patterns of their movement. He is considered the father of oceanography. He charted the currents and helped shippers understand the ways of the ocean so they were more successful at crossing the oceans.

Naval Observatory, Washington D.C.
In 1842, he became the superintendent of the Navy’s Depot of charts. There he had access to ships logs, charts and various instruments used in navigation. Later at his behest the Depot of Charts became the United States Naval Observatory. He used his knowledge of meteorology to assist in mapping the ocean currents.

In 1847 he published the Wind and Current Charts of the North Atlantic. Then in 1851 his book, Explanations and Sailing Directions to Accompany the Wind and Current Charts
came out. His most famous book, The Physical Geography of the Sea came out in 1855. These books were used to develop more charts to assist the sailors as they used the various trade routes.

Monument in Richmond, VA
Maury went on to write many more books. He became a professor of meteorology at the Virginia Military Institute. He did many lecture tours and received honors from all over the world. Maury Hall at the Naval Academy was named for him. Monuments were created to honor him. He is named “Pathfinder of the Seas” and the “Father of Modern Oceanography.”

Throughout all his work, and in his books, Maury always gave credit to the Bible and believed God had given us guidance through this great book. He gave credit to the Bible for the vision he had that was ahead of his time. He even mapped out places where cables could be strung across the ocean, an advanced idea for his time period.

Maury died in 1873 after he took ill during an intense lecture tour. His work continues on and has benefited all of us.

Have you ever heard of Matthew Maury? Have you seen charts of the ocean currents or heard them referenced during weather reports? This is a fascinating idea and I loved that his inspiration came from listening to the Bible being read aloud at a time when he was unable to get up.

Nancy J Farrier is an award winning author who lives in Southern California in the Mojave Desert. She loves the Southwest with its interesting historical past. Nancy and her husband have five children and two grandsons. When Nancy isn’t writing, she loves to read, do needlecraft, play with her cats, and spend time with her family. Nancy is represented by Tamela Hancock Murray of The Steve Laube Literary Agency. You can read more about Nancy and her books on her website: nancyjfarrier.com.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

The Mad Hatter and Camel Urine

Did you know the crazy Mad Hatter in Alice and Wonderland is based on a historic fact?

When tall, black beaver-felt hats were the raving fashion, the hatters would bring in beaver pelts from all over, including multiple thousands from across the ocean in what would become The United States.

Once they received the furs from near and far, they had to find a way to treat the pelts to release the top layer of hair that was coarse and ugly (not good for the hats) and gathered the shorter, softer, under fur. The fine layer was then mixed with glue, shaped, and molded to fit a hat form. And like the 80s hair band—the taller, the bigger, the better.

But here’s the kicker, to release that long hair and access the fine fur the beaver skin had to be coated with mercury.

Yup mercury.

You know where I’m heading don’t you.

The hatmaker would heat the glue-fur combo over a lantern or candle to get a better shape out of the material. Unwittingly, they would breathe in mercury fumes which are a neurotoxin which led to several crazy hatmakers suffering from Mad Hatter Syndrome.

I was so intrigued when I learned this random little fact. Even more so, when I found that the Mad Hatter in the original Alice in Wonderland was supposedly based on the author's crazy-hatter friend.

But as I shared my tidbit with my friends, I found that many knew this crazy fact already.


They didn’t know this extra special detail.

I laugh.

How on earth did the hatmaker’s figure out that mercury released the fur?

And here it is.

Some entrepreneuring individual figured out that camel fur, plus, camel urine equals released fur that could be used as felt. And the craft of felting was born.

As the demand for hats grew, so did the demand for camel urine. Eventually there wasn’t enough camel urine to go around. So, some other get-it-done fellow figured he would try human urine and see if it worked too. 

It did.

I know. Ugh.

As the easier to obtain and cheaper resource of human urine became the norm, they noticed the poor hatmaker with syphilis being treated with mercury produced a finer end product than their healthy counterpart. Eventually they got around to selling hats with urine-free mercury treatments. Improving sales and making hatmakers sick with the mercury exposure.

I think I’m just fine with seeing the elegant top hats behind museum glass or staged on vintage mannequin.

Camel pee… yuck.

I found a new respect for the crazy, mad hatters. Dealing with furs, camel urine, mercury poison, and fancy lords of the highest rank, on top of learning how to felt to perfection was no small task. They had to have some tenacity to be good at their jobs.

My hats off to you, hatters.

Do you know of any interesting facts behind the trades? How or why certain tricks-of-the-trade came about or trades that have become obsolete? I’d love to hear them.

CaraGrandle is a Historical Romance Novelist who prefers to write about the early settlers of the Pacific Northwest. She is represented by the Steve Laube Agency. Cara leads the author4TheAuthor writers group on Facebook, home to 185 writers. Together they're pressing back on busy and making a space for their dreams. Cara hosts a Writers Encouragement show weekly on Periscope. The show is on Tuesday mornings at 9:00am PST. Cara's Periscope show includes live, interactive author-interviews with leading Christian fiction novelists, editors, publicist and agents under the handle @CaraGrandle. 

Cara is currently out on submission. Follower her journey on her Facebook author page.