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Washita County, Oklahoma
This bit of Cloud Chief history submitted by Doyle Fenn.

Original County Seat of Washita County Oklahoma"


Everyone has heard the old saying, You can take a boy out of the country, but you can 't take the country out of the boy. That old adage could apply to everyone who grew up in Cloud Chief and went to school there. There will always be a soft spot in the hearts of those who lived there. Time and circumstances have caused most of the residents to move elsewhere. Where a typical farm was referred to in acres (usually 80 or 160 acres) until after the depression of the 1930s, a typical farm may now be referred to in sections (640 acres) or quarters (160 acres). The horse drawn farm equipment has been replaced by giant machinery that can farm as much land in one day as a farmer in the 1920's could farm in several weeks.

There is very little to see in Cloud Chief today. The community building is located where Meeler Brothers Mercantile was located during Cloud Chief's zenith. Tom Walter's barbershop was there until it burned, and the walls of Walter Stutzman's garage still stand. The rock school building and gymnasium that everyone was so proud of are used as barns. Very few homes are occupied, and the site of most homes can no longer be identified. The general store and hotel that were built during the 1920's has been razed.

As time passes, all the memories of Cloud Chief will pass, and written records will be all that remain of the proud community of people in Cloud Chief. It seems to me that an appropriate monument to the first court house in Washita County should be erected on the site of the old court house in Cloud Chief.

I have attempted to put together a sampling of the historical development of Indian Territory, Oklahoma Territory, Washita County, and Cloud Chief. The area is rich in history and stories. Cloud Chief newspapers, as well as the CORDELL BEACON (formerly CLOUD CHIEF BEACON) have numerous articles regarding the early days in Cloud Chief and the court house controversy. I have read microfilm copies of the papers at the Oklahoma Historical Society in the Oklahoma Archives Building in Oklahoma City. Microfilm copies of most of the papers are also in the Cordell Library.

The National Archives provided a list of the post master appointments. Sue Ogle, Cordell Post Mistress, obtained copies of the Rural Mail Carrier records from the Civilian Personnel Records Office in St. Louis, MO for this publication. Records on the Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes are housed in the National Archives.

The Oklahoma Archives and University of Oklahoma Library hold a gold mine of information on Cloud Chief, Washita County, and the Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation. The staff was most helpful. Many of pioneer photographer Ira Smith's glass negatives are located in the Oklahoma Archives, and the staff was most helpful by making prints from the negatives. Some of the old photographs in this publication were made for me about 1948 by Ira Smith himself. I had gone to his office above a store across from the court house to pick up some Masters reunion photographs and saw his old photographs. He had lived in Cloud Chief before the turn of the century and had made numerous photographs of the town, community, homes, etc. He moved to Cordell after the court house was relocated and continued his photography. His office was a photographic history of the area. Unfortunately, many of his negatives must have been lost or broken. Some of his work has been well circulated and sold in businesses.

The Washita County court house holds numerous records and information. Deed records and school census records tell us who was there. An original plat of the town of Cloud Chief is located in the County Clerk's office. They were very helpful by making copies of records for me. Unfortunately, the school records have been lost. I was unable to find them anywhere. The only records I could find are cards with the year and teachers' names. The school census is also there, but a record of who attended, is not to be found.

A history of the Cloud Chief Methodist Church was written by Su Su Jackson many years ago, and Lydia Merkey wrote a history of the Washita Brethren Church. Both histories are in the Washita County Museum. The staff was most cooperative and allowed me to copy them. The museum also had a record of grave stone etchings for the Cloud Chief Cemetery and Brethren Cemetery they allowed me to copy.

The CORDELL BEACON prints historical articles on the anniversary of the Cheyenne-Arapaho Run that have proven to be most helpful in gleaning information. Jack Humphrey's, Uncle Dudley stories, from old issues of Washita County publications also include history that has been used as a resource for this writing.


While touring the Gettysburg Battleground, my wife and I were escorted through the National Cemetery by a guide who described the horror of those three days on July 1, 2, 3, 1863, when approximately 5 1,000 of the soldiers from the North & South were left as casualties. She would intermittently stop at a grave and say, Let me introduce you to this soldier. She would then say something like: Here lies Pvt. John Smith from Bedford, Pennsylvania. He was born on September 7, 1833, to Bill and Juanita Smith and grew up on a farm, tending to livestock and cutting wood for the stoves. He had blue eyes and brown hair, was 5 ft. 8 in. tall and weighed 145 lbs. He loved to hunt and provide meat for the table. On May 5, 1856, he married Mary Noe, and they had four children before he enlisted in the Union Army on January 20, 1863. On July 2, 1863, a Confederate musket ball shattered his left arm, and he was placed on boards supported by a manger wall and a stall fence where his arm was amputated. The only antiseptic was some whiskey. Infection soon took its toll, and he died on July 28, 1863. What a price to pay what a price to pay. His wife was left a widow, and his children were left without a father to guide them. This is a part of our nation's tragic history - a history of a nation that was made by man, and I wanted you to know something about the men who died here. On that site above us, Abraham Lincoln stood and delivered his famous Gettysburg Address. The guide made several introductions of the soldiers who paid the supreme sacrifice for what they believed to be their obligation to their country. Soldiers from the South had the same feeling.

Like the Gettysburg guide, I would like to introduce you to some people and events whose footprints are deeply embedded in the soil and history of Cloud Chief.

The Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes held Ghost Dances before the turn of the century. They believed the Ghost Dance would return them to the "good old days" when the white man was not present and the buffalo were abundant. Everyone who grew up in Cloud Chief has mentally longed for a return to the "good old days" when we went to school there, shopped at the local store and garage, and received our mail out of the Cloud Chief Post Office. The Ghost Dance did not return the Indians to the "good old days" and neither will our longing for the "good old days" at Cloud Chief be returned, but it never hurts to have good memories of those times in our lives. Perhaps this story will serve as a reminder of those "good old days".

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