by Jiggs Krober (about 1970)
The countryside was a busy place teeming with stooped shouldered, weary faced men who had left their homes, families and dreams to follow their leaders in bloody, furious battles of the Civil War. They drifted back home to find a desolation of those dreams. The homes had been burned, ransacked and ruined by the armies of both the Confederation and Union as they marched against one another. As the male members of the family gathered many stories were shared. The one which was repeated often in our family was the effort the women put forth to save some of the precious bits of jewelry, crystal, china and the ladies side-saddles that had been hidden as the men went off to war. Word was received by a runner, a small boy too young to fight in the war, that the Union Army was headed for the main house. The women and young children gathered their hoarded bits of treasure and rushed to the apple orchard some distance from the house; there they hastily dug holes in the soft soil and buried most of their worldly goods. The Union soldiers stayed only long enough to water and feed their horses from the hay and grain they found in the barns. As they tended to their mounts the barnyard gates were left open and the hogs immediately headed for the apple orchard to hunt for apples, which had fallen from the trees. After soldiers had gone the women and children breathed a sigh of relief for they were not mistreated in any way. They quickly made their way to the orchard to retrieve their hidden treasures. They were horrified to discover the hogs were rooting up the buried stores—in fact the old sow was busily chomping on some of the jewelry and silverware. After a struggle they saved many pieces—one broach with a picture of great, great Grandpa Evans on it is still in the family and the tooth prints of the old sow can be plainly seen to this day.
There was much unrest and tension in that part of Tennessee where the family lived and stories of the free land which was rich and ready for energetic farmers lured the family to the huge state of Texas. The land in Montague County, Texas was a vast area just waiting to be farmed and the family was happy to be away from the scenes and memories of the Civil War. Their farms were small and the family was growing with two sons and three daughters. The boys yearned to run a big herd of cattle but the farm was too small for that, so they headed north and west to the free lands of Indian Territory. They were young and dreamed of traveling west with their cattle herd. So the McQuigg boys bade the family farewell. The boys, Vede (Monte) McQuigg and John (Coley) McQuigg headed for the “Free Country”.
They crossed the Red River and moved on north and west to reach land that was not yet settled and was a great country for raising cattle—many springs of good water and an abundance of grass—trees and breaks were good to protect the cattle in the rough winters. This land they settled for was in the first bend of the South Canadian River as it meandered from Texas and into the free land of Indian Territory, which was later to become Oklahoma Territory.
There was a booming town just across the river. This was the site of Grand, which became the County Seat of Day County. The McQuigg boys made a trip back to the home in Texas to get their farm implements, household goods and most important their wives. Upon the return to the Territory, they freighted lumber from Higgins, Texas and Shattuck, which were railroad towns. With the lumber they purchased and rock found in the area, they built “half dugout” houses. The fronts of the houses, parts of the sidewalls and roofs were of lumber. The floors were hard packed dirt and homes were cozy, though a bit drafty with our Oklahoma winds howled. They were visited often by bands of Indians as they roamed the land. The homesteaders learned that most of the Indians loved their southern cooking and many meals were shared. John Mc Quigg’s wife, Olive made a trip back east to visit her family and John loved to tell and retell the story of the Chief of one band of Indians who stopped by. The chief asked where John’s squaw was. When he explained that she was gone—the Chief and his band left returning in a few hours with a young Indian lady—the Chief said, “Man needs woman, this girl can be your woman.” John had a lot of explaining to do. To this great land caused an exodus from Texas to the Territory.
Henry Kingston and Sarah Lucinda (Evans) McQuigg were the parents of the two boys and three daughters. The older daughter, Allie Rae had married a businessman and lived in a big white house in Plainview, Texas. The middle daughter, Hester Mae, married an “educated” man, Henry H. Hutchison. Mary Lard, was still at home—she was a vivacious happy-go-lucky young lady with any beaus. As plans were made to travel to the Territory, a brother of Henry Hutchison joined the party. He was an ex-Texas Ranger, He was one of the original members and had been wounded by a gun totin’ drunk man. As these men rode by the house they were using foul language and were very boisterous. Alex Hutchison called them down and one man shot him in the knee. A bone had to be removed and Alex saved that bone and had cuff links made of it. These are still in the family. As the farming tools and household goods were loaded into covered wagons it became clear that they would need help to move the livestock and wagons, so two young men, Lee Pipkin and Mitchell Evans, volunteered to help because they wanted to see this land of opportunity. Miss Mary had a close girlfriend, Miss Mae Dunn, and they decided they wanted to travel together. Mary was a fine seamstress and spent the last weeks in Texas sewing clothes for the trip. She fashioned red bonnets for Mae Dunn and herself. As they modeled them for the young men there was much teasing, especially of Mae because she was a very shy girl and blushed so prettily. The boys teased over and over that when they got to the Territory the Indians would steal their bonnets. The two young ladies traveled in a four-wheel, one horse buggy. The horse belonged to Mary and his name was Jeff, a beautiful black from good Tennessee blood liens. The girls had one passenger – a big gray tomcat, Meddur, which rode the entire distance with them. One day as they traveled along Mary pointed out several Indians on ponies watching them from a hill-top. She said, “Mae look over there” as she looked back at her friend. Mae was sitting on her red bonnet.
The law said no one could file on a homestead unless they were twenty-one years old. Miss Mary was 21 before leaving Texas and Mae was 21 on the trip. On their birthday Mary baked a birthday cake in a dutch oven over the campfire. The girls had a lot of fun watching for different birds and animals. They prepared the meals for the crew and enjoyed that too. Mary and Mac homesteaded on adjoining 160 acres. The rules stated that the land filed on must be lived on so many months. Since these unmarried ladies were alone they would spend one night on Mary’s land, walk across the line and spend the next night on Mae’s land……thus qualifying as homesteaders. One of the brothers, Vede McQuigg and his wife, Texanna decided to move to another frontier and they moved to the State of Washington. They never returned to the Territory until one of his daughters drove him back in 1945. He had many stories to tell of their move west. John McQuigg’s homestead was about 3/4 miles east of the parents, Mary and Mae proved up on land about four miles north and west. The head of the families build a large house by the standards of those days—it even had a big bay window. Grandpa McQuigg had a green thumb, he bought seedlings from Texas and they grew his would cut off a branch, stick it in the grund and they soon had a peach, apple and apriot orchard. These fruits were dried for winter use. Grandma McQuigg was a true southern lady an always set a fine table. She insisted on linen tablecloths which were changed after each meal. Clean cloths were placed on the table and as dishes were washed—the table was “set” for the next meal and a clean cloth was spread over the table. This saved time at the next meal also they didn’t have much cupboard room to store dishes in. She had brought china and glassware, which were from the home in Tennessee. This home was the scene of many fashionable dinners. Miss Mae Dunn was courted by a big handsome man, Will Thomas, who lived on his homestead near Durham, about fifteen miles away. When they decided to marry, things began humming. Beautiful material was obtained and Miss Mary fashioned an outstanding wedding gown—which is still owned by Mae and Will’s daughter, Pauline Cordell. (In 1999 the children fo Fred & Pauline Cordell loaned the gown to the Pioneer Museum in Cheyenne). Mary made gowns for all the ladies, young and old for the happy occasion. The big bay window of the McQuigg house was decorated with wild flowers and greenery and the couple was to stand in that special spot. Much food was prepared. Henry Hutchison and another gentleman dressed as waiters with white cloths over their arms, served the entire sit down dinner. There was a slight hitch in the plans—-the preacher who was to perform the ceremony didn’t show up. He had forgotten and went fishing instead. One of the young men, Clarence Brown, saddled his horse and rode to Grand, several miles away and brought the judge back and the party was on. Bessie Hutchison was about three years old and remembered that day clearly. She got to act as a junior attendant. A big crowd attended—there was a family on every 160 acres and everyone loved any excuse to get together.
A young man, Anzley Ellis, began courting Miss Mary. He was a handsome man who sported a neatly trimmed moustache. He was a businessman from Shattuck and later became Undersheriff of Day County. This coupld was married in 1908. The first years of their married life they lived with her parents. Mary’s sister, Hester and her husband, Henry Hutchison had two boys and three girls. Bessie was the baby. Hester died before Bessie was a year old and Mary was a devoted Aunt who raised Bessie (Bullard). The other children were to spend some time with their father. The oldest girl was sent to Aunt Allie in Plainview where she attended high school and college. The other girl and two boys moved west and never felt that this “territory” was home. This is still the Land of Opportunity as far as I am concerned.
“None of the McQuigg families made the run of 1892. They merely waited until the law declared the land open, then went to town and filed their claim.
TALE THE WEDDING DRESS TOLD
(Written by Mrs. L.L. Males as it appeared in the 1965 Ellis County Capitol Newspaper)
“I met a nice young man with black curly hair and dark blue eyes in 1901. We married September 20, 1905. The preacher, Old Brother Hogg, forgot the date and went fishing. One of our good neighbors, Clarence Brown, went to Grand and brought the county judge. Inge Williams and he performed the ceremony at 11 o’clock in the evening.”
So goes the story of a wonderful pioneer woman, Mrs. Will Thomas who lives in Cheyenne town—but let’s go back to the beginning…..
GO WEST YOUNG WOMAN 1898
Henry Kingston McQuigg and his good wife, Sarah Evans McQuigg, were packing up all their earthly belongings. Soon they would say good-bye to their old Texas home, Montague County and head for the promised land at Grand, Day County, O.T.
Lee Pipkin and Mitchell Evans had promised to go along to drive the horses and cattle. All their plans were shaping up. There was one fly in the ointment. They had only one daughter at home, Mary, a beautiful young and she was reluctant to leave her Texas home or was it that she hated to leave behind her best girl friend, Mae Dunn?
“Mae, why don’t you decide to go with us and see what that new country is like? Maybe we’ll see some Indians, maybe we could catch us a beau,” giggled Mary as she tried to hide her tears.
Only a few years ago Mae Dunn’s mother had died leaving her an orphan at 17. She had helped care for the family.
As the time drew near for the McQuiggs to leave, Mae confided, “Mary if I had the clothes I just might go with you to Oklahoma Territory.”
We’ll ask Pa. Maybe he can help us!” suggested Mary. So it was that Mae Dunn got her O.T. wardrobe and she and Mary McQuigg joined the family caravan, riding side by side, a journey that took them to this very day, to this very town, where they are still the best of friends.
MAE TELLS THE STORY, NOVEMBER 1898
“Mary and I came all the way in a one horse open-top buggy driving old Jeff. We had a few hot bricks and old Meddur, the cat, to keep our feet warm. Our hearts were young and gay. We brought a churn of buttermilk. I made biscuits every morning while Mary fried bacon and eggs. The boys, Lee and Mitchell said, “Pass some more of Mae’s left handed biscuits~”
Mary (age 88 on November 16, 1965 and Mae age 89 on November 12, 1965) celebrated Mary’s birthday while we were on the road. It took fourteen days to make the journey. We baked a nice cake. We put the bake pan in the iron oven and put hot coals and ashes underneath and on top of the lid. The cake came out well done and tasted very good.
CHEYENNE—HERE WE COME
“We came through Cheyenne, O.T. on a cold cold afternoon, crossed the Washita River and went on a piece where we camped out close to a dugout. It happened to be the home of Grandpa Cann, Clark Mercer Cann, (the grandfather of Alfred Owen and Mrs. Ray Cole, Reydon). Came a big snowstorm that night and the Canns asked us to share their warm fireplace. We were there two days and nights. The daughter, Phoebe (Phoebe Owens_ baked us some good light bread. (Light bread, corn bread or biscuits seemed to be a matter of principle. Were you a southerner or from the north?)
We arrived at John McQuiggs in the Bend of the South Canadian, (Oftern called Snakey Bend) on Thanksgiving Day. By Christmas, Grandpa had a four room house and gireplace ready. We had a Christmas tree and a delicious supper. Little Johnnie Hutchison and I dressed forty quail!”
WHO’S A GOOD CATCH?
The day after Christmas, Vede McQuigg took us to a dance at Old Grand. We met and danced with several nice young men. There was Ote Richards, Sid Beran, Quinn Walck, the Harness brothers, the Carpenter brothers and Anzley Ellis (Anzley, famous as the last gun totin’ Sheriff of Old Day County_ became Mary’s husband January 29, 1908 at Grand. Two or three years later we met Lee and Warren Newell and Milton Crawford.
In 1903 we attended a nice wedding, Dr. O.C. Newman and Della Smith, Sister of Sheriff Doc Smith of Grand (The Newmans of Shattuck.)
SKIP TO MY LOU
“We danced the old timey waltz, the two step, the square dances, the Scottish and the waltz quadrille. “Wonder if what country across the sea these dances originated?) “You ask about fights. We didn’t have any!”
“In 1898 we went to Higgins to a masquerade ball. Don’t know what for, to see and be seen, I reckon. They had oyster soup. One thing I couldn’t stand was oysters. I fished around and captured my crackers and soup and left the oysters in my bowl.”
BEAUTY SECRETS OF MARY AND MAE
Mix cornmeal and buttermilk to make a thick paste. Plaster face and arms. Let dry and rinse well in cold water. Takes off freckles and blemishes. For pretty hands: Sleep in gloves. Never go out of the house without your sunbonnet.
FILING ON THE LAND
“In 1901 I filed on a 160. I carried water half a mile to cook with. Mary filed the same year.” when Mary and I proved up on our claims. Ale Crawford and John McQuigg were our witnesses. We had to cross the South Canadian where Temple Houston said the Mississippi couldn’t hold a ramrod to it. The horses fell in one of those whirlpool holes and the men came out wet to their necks. As good luck would have it, we got across and proved up!”
George Gantz (of Germany) stayed all night with us. I cooked the first biscuits that he ate after landing in the territory. It wasn’t long until he went back to Kansas and brought his good bride, Dora to their dugout home.
DARK HAIR AND BLUE EYES
It was 2902 when Mae’s Prince Charming came along, sporting a shiny new buggy and high stepping horses, Nider and Spiker, sparkin’ horses. Will Thomas was from Virginia, as handsome as the come. He filed on land near Durham in 1899, the homestead that was to become “Home, Sweet Home” to the whole Thomas clan.
THE WEDDING DRESS
Mae wanted to be married at home, Grandpa McQuigg’s home. For seven years she and Mary had been like twin sisters, what one had, they both had.
“Mary made my dress. The material was white corded silk, came from Chicago. It had a gored skirt and leg of mutton sleeves. It came clean down to the floor. I wore high topped shoes.”
“On my wedding day I felt very happy. Mary and I got the house all decorated with yard and garden flowers. That night the waiters, Henry Hutchison (Bess Bullard’s father) and a neighbor, Jack Wieghman, dressed up in white aprons and caps, blacked their faces and called themselves Sambo and Andy. Our attendants were Sam Thomas, best man; Mary McQuigg, maid of honor; Charlie Thomas, groomsman and Lou Fay, Bridesmaid.
FROM THIS UNION
Irene Taylor, (Mrs. Lloyd) Belle Plains, Kansas; Pauline Cordell (Mrs. Fred) Cheyenne; Bufford Thomas, Durham, OK; Vint Thomas, Hardesty, OK; Bruce Thomas, Durham, Katura Powers (Mrs. Raymond) Midwest City, OK
HEAP O’ LIVING
“We lived on our homestead fifty-three years, until I was 81”, Will Thomas, a giant of his time, died in 1952. Now the old house that made a home is closed. Mrs. Thomas moved to Cheyenne where she made her home with the Fred Cordell family. The house was left just as it was. It kept its character. The whole family goes back there at least once a year.”
“We all had an interest in our home for we each had a job. Daddy and Mama didn’t believe in buying ‘on time’. If there was no money, do without,” explained Mrs. Cordell, devoted daughter.
DADDY MADE US WALK THE CHALK
“We had discipline. Daddy saw that we minded our manners and were quiet at the table. We all helped Mama. She was Daddy’s queen. God made a pioneer woman and kept the family pattern. Mae Dunn wore her wedding dress in 1905; Pauline Cordell, her daughter looked beautiful when she wore it at the Old Settlers Picnic in Cheyenne in 1957 and Dana Kay Thomas, her granddaughter was a recreation of the pioneer Mae Dunn when she wore it as first runner-up in the Miss Cheyenne Pageant in 1965.”
WHITHER THOU GOEST….
“Mama are you ever sorry that you left your Texas home and climbed in that buggy with Aunt Mary?” Mama’s face lit up with inner beauty. “I’ve never been sorry for a minute. If I hadn’t made that trip with Mary in the buggy, I never would have met you daddy!”
Say of her as Ernie Pyle said of his mother. “You could use her in a book, or paint her picture, as one of the sturdy stock of the ages, who has always done the carrying-on when the going was tough.”