Item #3966 [Manuscript Travel Diary of a Trip Through Oklahoma and Nebraska, With Detailed Descriptions of Numerous Cities and Towns, the Local Native American Population, and the Indian School at Fort Sill]. Oklahoma.
[Manuscript Travel Diary of a Trip Through Oklahoma and Nebraska, With Detailed Descriptions of Numerous Cities and Towns, the Local Native American Population, and the Indian School at Fort Sill]

[Manuscript Travel Diary of a Trip Through Oklahoma and Nebraska, With Detailed Descriptions of Numerous Cities and Towns, the Local Native American Population, and the Indian School at Fort Sill]

[Various locations in Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska, and Illinois: February to April, 1903]. [59]pp. of manuscript, totaling approximately 6,000 words, plus two printed maps and two pages of contemporary newspaper clippings pasted in. Contemporary red limp cloth. Minor wear to extremities. Very good. Item #3966

A highly-detailed manuscript diary recording an unknown author's experiences traveling through the Middle West, predominately Oklahoma Territory in the first few years of the 20th century. The first forty-two pages document his travels through the Oklahoma Territory, Kansas, and Nebraska; the final seventeen pages contain a roughly contemporaneous account of the author's travels to Illinois, titled "What I Saw in Chicago." Though the author does not identify himself, internal evidence suggests he was a resident of Audubon County, Iowa. This interesting diary follows the author's travels through numerous small cities and towns, including Trenton and Alma, Nebraska; Almena, Kansas; and several locations in Oklahoma, such as Enid, Kingfisher, Chickasha, Lawton and nearby Fort Sill, Cement, McLoud, and South McAlester.

The author's narrative reads almost like an emigrant's guide, replete with details on each location's population, topography, crop yields, land prices, and major industries - information apparently gathered from local publications and numerous conversations with local residents. The two maps come from the Enid Commercial Club and a Lawton real estate office, respectively. An example of his text from the beginning of the trip provides a flavor of the narrative in which he observes that "the lands of southern Neb. and of northern Kansas are of wonderful formation, the stratification is perpendicular rather than horizontal and is very marked in the draws and pockets as they are called. The river and creek bottoms very wide and flat and exceedingly fertile - and are what is known as Alfalfa lands - producing three or four crops of that forage plant in a single year and each crop yielding from one to two tons per acre. At Almana they told me of one man in the valley who had received an income of sixty dollars per acre from his alfalfa farm the past year. The uplands are broad, level plateaus of wide extent.... They are plowed each fall after the crop is cut and the grain sown with a press drill - producing a crop of from 20 to 30 bushels. 120 total acres of wheat is not uncommon for one man to put in. Very little of the alfalfa land is on the market, but the wheat land in and around Alma can be bought at 10 to 20 per acre."

Regarding Enid, Oklahoma, it is "a well built town from eight to ten thousand people located on an almost level prairie.... Its manufactures while small are quite varied. Steel bridge works - shoe factory - broom factory (large). Three large flouring mills - Yeast factory. Ice plant with capacity of 50 tons daily - a very large brick yard including pressed brick. Hay press factory - and several smaller interests not visited. There are three wholesale grocery houses located here and several fruit and produce commission houses. The shipping facilities of Enid are first class - having nine or ten RR already in operation." The author toured the ice plant, likely the Arctic Ice and Refrigerating Company, and provides a lengthy description of the process of creating "artificial" ice by refrigeration.

The author's description of Lawton is particularly intriguing, as the town had only existed for about eighteen months at the time of his visit. It was established in 1901 after the U.S. government seized more than 2,000,000 acres of "surplus" Indian lands (what remained after previously communal tribal lands had been allocated to individual Native American households under the Dawes Act) and auctioned off lots to white settlers. By the time the present author arrived, the population was over ten thousand residents and the town had "an electric plant in full operation lighting both streets and houses, a brick plant making 20,000 per day of first class bricks - an electric street car line already chartered will be built this summer - 20 miles in length - a water system already to be built to bring the water from the Wichita Mountains 9 miles away.... All nationalities - races of men and states and territories are represented here - and you will find some of the sharpest business men on earth here - men who are familiar with all phases of business but who have broke up life and are here in this new country to retrieve their fortune. Bankers - brokers - money lenders - lawyers - and real estate men are in abundance. Any of them will sell you the Earth - if you want it - or as much of it as they can - and they are doing it, too."

Among the many other valuable observations found in the present diary are a description of the "Big Pasture" - 488,000 acres of land that had been reserved for grazing use by the Kiowa, Comanche, and Apache tribes, most of which they leased out to large ranchers. The author recounts the sight of 50,000 to 100,000 head of cattle on "the finest looking body of land I ever saw," as well as the behavior of the local prairie dogs, owls, and bull snakes. The author also details methods of planting, harvesting, and packaging cotton; the regimen used at Fort Sill to keep the pack mules in shape so they can be deployed for Army use at any time, including fifteen mile treks carrying 300-400 pound loads three days a week, and more. In a particularly informative passage, the author describes his visit to the Indian School at Fort Sill: "The Indian school on this reservation is an object of interest. There are about 200 pupils of both sexes in the school and the Supt informed me there would be more if they had room to care for them. All the common branches are taught and in addition a course of manual training is added to both boys and girls.... The kindergarten room was quite interesting to me. Here in this room was a little Indian girl I bought her Indian doll - gave her $2.00 for it. It is gotten up in true Indian style - lashed to a board in a buckskin hide and strap attached by which the little maid could swing it to her back just in the same manner as the Indian mother carries her papoose."

The author also provides a sobering impression of the Native Americans he encounters in the Oklahoma Territory near McAlester: "You do not want to make the mistake and suppose for a moment that these Indians wear war paint and feathers and blankets for they do not. These all dress the same as white men and women and many of them are as well educated and as white as the white man. They want their lands - draw their annuities from the U.S. Government and live at their ease."

An exceptional primary source on Oklahoma in the period between the land runs and statehood, with much local color which should appeal to researchers and those interested in the larger development of Oklahoma.

Price: $2,750.00