Maddux Land Run


Told by Sam Maddux to Lorena Males in 1967. We are indebted to Lorena for her recorded history.

Sam received a letter from his brother John which stirred his racing blood. It stated, “The free land in the Cheyenne-Arapaho country will open April 19 at noon.  Bring your saddle to Mobeetie. I can meet you there. You can borrow a horse at the ranch.”

Sam lost no time for he had his eye on the land–free land. He rode the mail hack and carried his saddle from Ft. Supply to Mobeetie. From there the two brothers rode their horses to a Boomer camp on the Washita River just over the Texas line. Twelve others joined them. Theirs was a motley crew, mostly Texas cowboys who wanted some land of their own.

For three days they camped there on the Washita River and practiced their horses–getting them ready for the big race.  Towards evening on April 18, it began to get colder. Too excited for sleep, the bunch of cowboys sat around the campfire chewing the fat.

“I’m goin’ down in that country and git me a home,” Sam said. “I’ve been through there and the grass is belly high to the horse. Everybody will settle along the streams where there’s wood and water. The red hills and upland ain’t no good so they will never be settled. A feller can always depend on lots of open range. It’ll be a good place fer a feller to git a start.”

“By gollies, you can git more than a quarter section of land. County F will be laid off tomorrow and you can get your stake down and claim a town lot, too,” explained his brother, John.

A lanky devil-may-care cowboy rolled over on the cold ground as he relaxed. “Well, as fer me, boys, I’m jist goin’ along fer the ride. It’s gonna be the best show that ever come along. It’s a horse race where it don’t make no difference what kind of a horse you ride. Many a pore horse will be rode to his death tomorrow.”

“Seen one feller drivin’ a lumber wagon. He’ll haft to hustle!” laughed another of the boys. “Well, I wouldn’t settle down in this God forsaken country. Won’t nothin’ grow in sand and red dirt. Give it back to the Indians!” argued the lanky one.

Sam Maddux was 28, older and more serious than the others. The youngest son, he had stayed at home to help his pa. Now he was free with a chance to get a start of his own. He felt thankful for his warm bed roll. The coyotes sang him a sleep song. He dreamed of a big white house on a hill. Some day the Indians would be friendly. Some day there would be railroads and fences.

They got up at the crack of dawn on the big day. It was nippy, spitting snow, with an overcast sky. Nothing daunted the spirits of the riders. It was hard to settle down and wait for the 12 o’clock signal. Even the horses sensed something and were chomping at the bits.

“Well, why don’t we jist sooner on in? Plenty of other fellers have did it. Nobody but a fool would waste time waitin’ fer that little pop gun to go off,” hooted the lanky one.

“Listen, boys” said Sam, “we don’t want to do nothin’ now to mess up our chances foer gettin’ that free land–them soldiers is all along the line–”

“Mr. Serious Sam,” scoffed the lanky one. “We’ve got them town lots to think about too,” added John. “I bet some day there’ll be a big city built there where they put the county seat,” observed Sam. Time seemed to pass faster when they could talk and argue.

“People won’t be able to stick it out,” argued the lanky one. “They’ll starve out and go home to pa. Ain’t no houses, no towns, no churches–all these peoples comin’ here pore as church mice–give it back to the Indians!”

“It’s the last free land left in America. I’m here to git while the gittin’ is good,” added Sam. “Some of us fellers likes it here ‘cause there ain’t no law around. This place is gonna collect more outlaws and bad men than any place that ever wuz’.” snarled Texas Tom who usually had nothing to say.

Sam Maddux straightened up and looked Texas Tom in the eye. “We’re movin’ into the territory to make us a home. Won’t be no time ‘til we’ll have law and order. We’ll git rid of the trash.”

“What’s gnawing on you, Serious Sam?  Have you done set yer cap fer some purty gal? It won’t be no fun living with the snakes in a dugout all by yerself,” joked the lanky one. “It’s a cinch men won’t settle where women won’t stay. It’ll sure take the women folks to build up this new country. They’re the ones who put up the window curtains and set out the lilacs and rose bushes. Soon as I git settled I’m gonna set out a apple orchard–anything‘ll grow here–that Washita bottom–it’s good land.”

There were horses, wagons, conveyances of every size and description. In one thing they were identical–in his hand each man had a stake. Each would race and drive his stake on what he thought was the best quarter section. It was a grand and glorious giant grabbox. John Maddux on his big bay, ran clear off and left the others.

Sam Maddux staked out a lot in the new town. Cheyenne was born that day. Five miles northeast of the townsite on the Washita River he staked his homestead. He came back to the new town and enjoyed a good supper with Daddy and Granny Cox who had a chuck wagon they had brought to feed the soldiers. He slept on this bedroll close to their camp.

The next morning Sam was up before daylight, eager to take another look at his land. His home! After breakfast with Granny Cox, he rode his tired horse to his claim. As he surveyed his domain he looked across the creek and saw a smoke signal. Indians! Eager to get the feel of his own land, he tied his horse to a tree, and walked to the smoke signal.  There sat two young fellows eating their camp breakfast. You could smell strong boiled coffee.  “Howdy, I’m Sam Maddux. I’ve staked my claim over yonder.” “Glad to meet ya, name’s Billie Brown. Meet Charlie Rynerson. Looks like we got right smart work to do. We wuz fixin’ to dig a well.”

“The first thing I got to do is return this borrowed horse to the XL Ranch at Canadian. Reckon we’ll have any Indian neighbors?” Sam asked as he cautiously looked around. “It’s hard for a feller to figger what we might be facing. Whatever happens you can count on me,” Billie said. “Same here,” Sam said to seal their pact.

As Sam Madux walked away from Billie Brown’s camp, his mind was clouded with doubts–is this a good place to settle down and raise a family?

As soon as Sam Maddux had staked his claim and his town lot where the Masonic Lodge stands today, he rode his borrowed horse back to Texas. Harvested his crop, sold his cattle, went to Weatherford where he bought a wagon and drove his team and wagon back to his homestead. Wheels of this wagon are family keepsakes.  With a sod buster plow he turned about 15 acres of the virgin land and planted corn.

ADDITIONAL 1998 NOTE: There were 40,000 people who made this the Cheyenne- Arapaho Land Run, the third of the five land runs to settle Oklahoma Territory. They ran in from all four directions.  Every one of them received a piece of land. {This did not happen in any of the other land runs.}  Homesteaders were still claiming virgin land as late as statehood in 1907. The cavalry shot the guns to begin the land run except near Durham, they rang a teacher’s bell.  There were about three fellows who had no horse or wagon, they ran on foot and were given a little head start. One of these men was E.E. Tracy. Granny and Hez Cox brought a chuckwagon and fed people biscuits and gravy from it after they pulled onto a town lot.