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Oklahoma Journeys

The Indian Raid That Never Was

2010-10-02

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It sounds like a really poor 1930s "B" western...a frontier city under attack by wild Indians. In reality that was the fear in the fall of 1890 that Cheyenne Indians from the western part of the territory were headed to Oklahoma City. It's the battle that never was on this week's Oklahoma Journeys from the Oklahoma History Center.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Journeys. I'm Michael Dean.

The idea of Indians attacking a town may sound like the plot of a very poor western movie, but in the fall of 1890 that was the fear. Oklahoma City was just a year and half old that fall when this rumor began. C. A. McNabb, who was an '89er, was in the flour and grain business in this new city of about 10,000. In an article in December 1924 in the Chronicles of Oklahoma, he wrote that he and his wife were in bed sound asleep one night in the fall of 1890, when their neighbor began banging on their front door. It was Judge Stanley, who told them that some Cheyenne Indians near El Reno had been dancing the ghost dance and then, in his words, had gone on the warpath, eluding troops at Fort Reno and were headed to Oklahoma City to massacre the population.

McNabb said that he told his wife of the dangerous situation, instructing her to remain in their home. C. G. "Gristmill" Jones, another neighbor, advised women and children to take refuge in the basement of his mill at what was then SW 1st Street and Robinson. McNabb wrote - and quoting again-"just why they should decide to annihilate a lot of peace-loving folks who never even wished them harm" was never even considered.

McNabb wrote that he headed to the center of downtown, just a couple of blocks from where he lived, to find hardware stores were doling out all sorts of ammunition. He found practically every able-bodied man and boy in Oklahoma City under arms or getting as much ammunition as they could. During all this time, a stream of farm wagons began pouring in to the city, laden with farm families and some bringing cows and pigs. The excited farmers all reported that they could plainly hear the Indians coming. McNabb added that everyone was on tiptoe awaiting the arrival of the Indian advance guard. With pockets bulging with ammunition, ready for duty at a moment's notice, the guard did their duty until about four o'clock in the morning.

It was then that a wagon arrived from the west, bearing a load of a dozen or more young folks. Why, they inquired, was the whole population of Oklahoma City awake and armed with rifles and pistols? It was then that the city learned that the real cause of all the excitement and commotion was a Charivari party...a hundred or more young people had gathered about ten miles west of Oklahoma City that evening and began partying. McNabb wrote that the noises they were making were such as only young minds could devise. He added that the variety and the number of partiers on this occasion convinced neighbors that it could be nothing short of a Cheyenne uprising.

But when the young people arrived at four in the morning after a night of hard partying, the true story was learned; the Indian raid that never was was over, and all the citizens of Oklahoma City and surrounding area were safe.

You can this and many other fascinating stories about our early days in the territory by visiting the research library at the Oklahoma History Center, NE 23rd Street just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Journeys is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean.