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Indian Pioneer Papers - Index

Indian Pioneer History Project for Oklahoma
Date: November 12, 1937
Name: Joseph Ratliff
Post Office: Shattuck, Oklahoma
Residence Address: Shattuck, Oklahoma
Date of Birth: August 16, 1873
Place of Birth: Florence, Williamson County, Texas
Father: Joseph RATLIFF
Place of Birth: ?Arkansas?
Mother: Francis HARRELL
Place of Birth:
Field worker: Linnaeus B. Ranck

Joseph Ratliff was born in Williamson County, Texas, Aug. 16, 1873. The winter of 1885 he left Texas and landed in Kiowa, Kansas, January 28th, of that year. Kiowa then was the end of the railroad. He was headed for the famous Box T. Ranch in the Texas Panhandle, the headquarters of which were some twenty-five miles north-west of where the town of Shattuck, Oklahoma, was later founded. To reach his final destination an overland trip of about one hundred and sixty miles faced him. Fortunately for young Ratliff he ------ a ranch freight wagon in Kiowa from the KH Ranch for a load of supplies. The KH headquarters were about on hundred and twenty-five miles southwest of Kiowa in the Cherokee Strip country. Down through the wilderness young Ratliff rode the fright wagon to the KH headquarters, being on the road about three days as best he can recall. He remained over on night with the KH's and the next morning the ranch foreman, Chas. Belford, hitched a span of mules to a buckboard and took M. Ratliff to the Box T Ranch well up toward the head waters of Wolf Creek. His sister lived at the Box T Headquarters, her husband, Frank Biggers, being the Box T foreman at that time.

The Box T cattle use to range over the western part of the Strip country more or less; therefore since Ratliff worked on the Box T Ranch for a number of years he was in Oklahoma Territory about as much during those early days as he was in Texas.

Sine he was only eleven years old when he came down through the Strip to the Box T over the line in Texas, he attended school the summers of '85 and '86 two summer terms as he described his early-day schooling in this section of the Southwest. The school was conducted under a cottonwood tree right out in the open. In case of rain the teacher and five pupils, the total attending, retired to the farmer's dugout which was located near the site of the classroom.

During these early days those on the Box T Ranch received and sent their mail at the Buzzard Roost Stage Station to the east of them in the Strip. As Buzzard Roost then was the only post office in this entire section of the country. Some of its patrons lived many, many miles from it. To receive mail at Buzzard Roost during its life as a United States Postoffice, the mail was addressed ----: "Buzzard Roost Stage Station, Indian Territory."

All of the Box T's supplies were freighted over land from Kiowa, Kansas, down through the Strip till about 1889. Ratliff made trips to Kiowa occasionally too with the regular ranch freighter. 

In 1885 Dillard Fant, then a large and prominent cowman of the Southeast was ranging a heard of cattle down in the Cheyenne-Arapho country. Millard F. W_rd was the foreman in charge. W_rd and the other cowpunchers with the cattle had a camp in the vicinity of the roost ____ ____ ody, Oklahoma. It was during the summer of 188? that such serious trouble developed in the Cheyenne-Arapho Reservation. For a while it seemed that a major outbreak of the Cheyennes was so imminent that the Federal Government rushed some _,000 troops in the proximity of the Cheyenne country.

Fant's cowpunchers and the Indians had not been getting along so well. Allegedly the Cheyennes were stealing cattle from the Fant herd. Also they lurked stealthily in the vicinity of the cowboys' camp, and given the first opportunity they never failed to swoop in and ___ and carry off the camp eatables. Fant's cowpunchers, of course, grew weary and impetiont with the Cheyennes' pilfering and in exasperation conceived of a plan, rash but summary, of stopping some of it.

Little Robe, then a prominent Cheyenne Chief and one of the last of the Cheyennes to become pacific toward the white men, they knew was the leader in most of the stealing the Indians had done. They had fed him on occasions at their camp and, therefore, knew his great relish for stewed, evaporated apples. Cautiously they laid a trap for him and his companions.

Before leaving camp one day they cowpunchers took special occasion to cook a large pot of beans and a pot of their dried apples and left them. In the pot of the apples they put a quantity of strychnine. It was a sure bet nearly that the Cheyennes would pay their camp a call during their absence, and in such event they knew that Chief Little Robe would appropriate the stewed apples to himself and limit his companions to the contents of the bean pot. As the cowpunchers had anticipated Little Robe and others stole in while the boys were gone. The wily, mischievous Little Robe devoured the apples; and so quickly did the strychnine take effect that the Indian Chieftain died violently on the spot.

This rash and indiscrete prank on the part of Fant's cowboys so enraged the Cheyennes against them that they were obliged to flee the country in order to save their lives. Only with the protection of soldiers were they able to return and remove the Fant Cattle from their reservation. Mr. Ratliff declares that he knows this incident to be positively true.

In 1897 Mr. Ratliff filed on a "waterclaim" of a mile strip along Wolf Creek near the old Fort Supply Military Reservation. This was done for the benefit of a ranchman of that locality by the name of Wright. 

Shattuck had been Ratliff's headquarters for many years last past.

Submitter's Comments: Joseph was my grandfather, and in our family it is well known that he had a terrible habit of not giving his EXACT birth date, due to his needing to be older or younger for what ever purpose was at hand.

The date of his birth has always been in question even to the governement who during his pursuit of Old age pension settled on 1875, but with census records and various other proven family documents I have narrowed his birth year to be 1877, though we have always celebrated August 11th rather than the 16th as his actual DAY, I can not confirm if we are wrong there and it is or is not either the 11th or the 16th.

In the interview you will notice that it states that he was 11 years old when he arrived in Texas at the Box T, this is correct, but even in the interview the dates do not match his age in the story and we KNOW that he did not leave home until two years after his mother Francis Harrell RATLIFF's death making the year of Joe's departure approximately 1887-1888.

The Foreman of the Box T at that time was Frank Biggers, his brother in law, married to his sister Mary RATLIFF Howard (her second marriage).

The Waterclaim on Wolf Creek was obtained for William Wright who was married to his other sister Louisa RATLIFF Anderson (William was her second marriage too) and William's brother Walter Wright. (Walter's descendants live in Woodward, OK. to this day).

The rest of the interview is considered to be factual, but I would either question dates or my grandfather's actually having been present, and possibly only passing along stories he was aware of.

The school he attended was as described and one of the five other students was a neice of Joe's, Frances Anderson, eldest daughter of Louisa Ratliff and her first husband James Anderson. They use to ride to school together on a horse named "Paint".

At the time of the interview Granddad was living with Walter Brown's family in Shattuck but soon left to go to Denver, Colorado to live with and near his daughters, Mildred Ratliff Haight, Frances Ratliff Drysdale and Irene Ratliff.

In the interview where I was not able to read the type I put either ? or ____. Maybe some one will be able to correct those parts with a clearer copy of by viewing the original copy.

Submitted to OKGenWeb Joseph's grand-daughter, Kelly Haight Sullivan <kelleen2@icehouse.net>, November 2001.