Saturday, February 12, 2011

Hobo Claim was Early Frederick Mystery

Column sent to Frederick Leader and Frederick Press
February 23, 2010

1932 Holloman Letter Provides
Account of Area History

The western part of Tillman County was opened by land lottery in August 1901.  After sixty days, land that was unclaimed or abandoned was put up for claim again.
One piece of land that became known as the “hobo quarter” was the 160 acres that would eventually join the new town of Frederick on the south. This property would later become the southwest part of Frederick. The man who originally claimed the property was known as Hobo, but he suddenly disappeared causing many rumors about what happened to him.
The next claim on the property was made by Ira J. Holloman who would become a prominent figure in early-day Frederick.
By 1932, Holloman had left Frederick and was living in Pasadena, California, when R.H. Wessel, editor and publisher of The Frederick Press, asked him to recount his memories of Frederick’s early years. The letter, published in the Press in 1932, is a fascinating picture of how things were done in the newly opened territory.
The 1932 letter from Ira J. Holloman follows:
“At the time of the opening of the Comanche reservation in 1901, I was with the Waggoner ranch at Electra, Texas. As you recall, Mr. Waggoner had leased from the government the western portion of the reservation for ranch purposes but was later given notice to remove all cattle in a given length of time. I was given the task of helping with the big round-up. Some of the cattle were shipped to market, some returned to the Texas side, and the remainder drifted east into what was later known as the Big Pasture.
“After this job was completed, I returned to my duties on the ranch at Electra. This was the nearest railway point to the land opening from the Texas side, and people by the hundreds came to cross into the ‘Promised Land.’ A sudden demand for transportation in the territory developed. Mr. Waggoner, seeing an opportunity and need for a stage line to transport these home-seekers, propositioned me to put in a stage from Electra, Texas, to Lawton, Oklahoma, and other major points. I then made a counter proposition: if he would furnish the necessary capital, I would operate same and divide the profits with him. To my surprise, he accepted so quickly I was bewildered, but went right on with the deal.
“He asked me to select teams as I wanted from hundreds of fine horses – which I did – and the next day I made a trip to Fort Worth and purchased a carload, six in number, of the latest type yellow-wheeled Studebaker stage coaches, the capacity of each being 12 to 16 passengers. Mr. Waggoner owned a harness shop, and we fitted out six of the finest turnouts you would chance to see and were soon operating a stage line transporting people into the new Oklahoma Territory.”
“All this time the BES line railroad company, known now as the Frisco, was building their new road from Vernon, Texas, toward the Red River. We made arrangements with Dan Healy, one of the first construction conductors, to sell tickets from Vernon to any part of Oklahoma. Here we met the train, as the bridge was not yet completed. We forded the river with four horses hitched to one coach, as it was very treacherous with quicksand. The white dry sand from the river channel to the main land was so deep that many times these four fine horses could not draw the load through the sand, and we were forced to unload some of our passengers. After a time, hay was spread over the sand making the footing better.
“It was during this time that I learned through the Waggoner cowboys, who were friends of mine, of what was known as the ‘hobo claim’ and, as I recall the story, this so-called hobo had filed on what later became my homestead. He filed under the name of Robert Lawson, which proved later to be an assumed name. This information came to me from the cowboys at Suttle Camp, one of Mr. Waggoner’s cow-camps where the hobo stayed for a time (This was located just west of Frederick where the lake is now located. There were also a fine spring and a dugout there where Johnny Williams, the Vernon sheriff, shot it out with a band of outlaws in the early days.) I never met Lawson, but learned he had filed on land previously to this under his own name which was Thomas, but I do not recall the initials. When he filed under the name Lawson, he gave as his address Elgin, Illinois, and his occupation as watchmaker, writer and artist. The name ‘Hobo’ was given him by reason of his filing at Lawton by map before seeing the land and making the 50 miles out to the land by foot.
“It was said on arriving his earthly possessions were a dog, gun and frying pan. I learned from the cowboys he was a real ‘artist’ when it came to dealing from the bottom. As the story goes, he loved his ‘rock and rye’ and, as they could have no luck when playing the various games of chance with him, they proceeded to frame him by making it possible for him to imbibe too much White Mule. While under the influence, he told his past life and how he was putting it over on the government by filing under an assumed name. After sleeping this off, he realized he had talked too much and became frightened and told the boys he was ‘on his way and they could have his claim.’ They, like the rest of us who had been in that part of the country so long, could not visualize the land ever being of any value, and only because of Waggoner’s insistence and learning of a possible townsite being located there did I file on the contest claim. At this time living there were only I.E. Stout and family, D.B. Pearson and family, S.N. Gosnell and family and R.L. Gosnell who was not married at the time.
“The night before the last day for filing on abandoned claims, I drove to Lawton, taking with me W.S. McCurdy and two husky cowboys from the Waggoner Ranch for witnesses and assistance. I was all set to file on the “Hobo Claim” as well as several others, as we had all been camping on the claim long before time for filing under the impression we could hold it by prior settlement. I went to the land office in the afternoon before the filing was to take place the next morning. As soon as the doors were closed at 5 p.m., I mounted the steps and took my seat on the doorsill and remained there through the night and until the doors were opened at 9 in the morning. McCurdy acted as ‘best man’ serving me with hot coffee and sandwiches throughout the night.
“The crowds began to gather, and by midnight there were several hundred in line for this and other claims. Mr. Greenwade, who was after my claim, stood next in line to me. We had both been camping on the claim with several others. He was a large man, weighing 200 or more, and I then weighed about 135. McCurdy, seeing the situation, placed one of the cowboys next in line to Greenwade and kept the other cowboy in reserve for any emergency, as he (Greenwade) was trying to crowd me off the doorsill, which was three or four feet off the ground. It was understood the cowboy was to tackle Greenwade if he undertook to unseat me. We were all armed and ready for anything, but thanks to Providence, we came through without a scratch.
“Next morning there was a free-for-all down the line when the door was opened at 9 a.m. I had some advantage as I was holding the doorknob and felt the key slip in the lock. I gave the cowboy the signal. He threw his arms around Greenwade and went to the ground with him while I went in for the first filing.
“On my return to the claim, encouraged by my successful filing, I erected a more permanent camp and built corrals for my horses, using this for headquarters for the stage transportation. During this time the government townsite of Hazel was platted on the south of my claim and the BES line townsite was on the north, later known as Frederick.
“During the rivalry of the two towns there was effected in 1902 a compromise in which the Hazel townsite was moved to Frederick, and Mr. Waggoner and I were given two lots, corner Eighth and Grand, where we erected the old frame building and continued to operate until the railroad moved on northward and at which time the stage line was discontinued.
“I opened a farm loan and real estate office and Frisco immigration agent office. This brings us down to the opening of the Big Pasture (in 1906) when I turned my efforts to locating claims for new homeseekers, establishing camp at Panther Springs. Feeling the need for more modern transportation, I purchased what I believe to be the first automobile that came to Frederick and used same to transport my homeseekers to the Panther Springs camp.”
“Yours very truly, Ira J. Holloman”

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