Sunday, February 13, 2011

Early Outlaw Camp Rumored

Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
December 1, 2009

Site near Manitou may have been early outlaw camp

Could a site in Tillman County have been a hideout for outlaws? Early rumor and lots of speculation make it a possibility.
The following story about early rumors of a pre-statehood outlaw campsite in the area of today’s Lake Frederick was published in the Frederick Leader on December 13, 1961:
“A bullet-riddled tree at a dugout in a creek bank and an old Dutch oven… these are the props for a dramatic story of Tillman County’s early days in the Manitou community.
“The creek is located five miles east of Manitou and the particular point of interest which involved a small island on the base line. In 1932, the land was known as the George Wyatt farm.
The island consisted of three or four acres surrounded by water – when rains filled the branchings of the creek.
The creek comes down from the west, branching northeast and southeast. And still another creek connects the two branchings a little further down, forming the island. Three tall trees and hills aid in forming a fortress wall and three goodsized branches account for the doors.
“In the banks of the creeks on two sides, which are approximately eight feet high – are four large dugouts, which were at one time partially boarded up with rude timbers.
“’They say’ this was once the refuge of the famous James boys when every other place was too hot for them.
“Other outlaws were reported to have found it an ideal hideout as well.
“Old utensils which must have been used by the men for cooking, and old gun parts have been found in the caves. One appears to have been used as a stable.
“Very real evidence of a battle said to have taken place there many years ago still remained in the early 1930s. In the center of the island was an old tree stump, with bullet holes and even bullets still embedded in the wood. A depression near the stump was made by excavators hunting for discharged shells. It was there that some pieces of gold were uncovered.
“Wyatt says he once dug up an old Dutch oven, which he discovered when the ring on its lid became visible above ground. The bottom had rusted away. Might it have been a pirate chest?
“Gold is heavy and sinks gradually through the years. Perhaps it was once hidden in the old Dutch oven.”

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