Saturday, March 19, 2011

Roosevelt Visit, April 1905

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press
March 23, 2010
Jack Abernathy (L) with President Theodore Roosevelt during the 1905 Wolf Hunt east of Frederick, O.T.

1905 Roosevelt Wolf Hunt Preceded Statehood

President Theodore Roosevelt arrived in Frederick aboard a private five-car train on Saturday, April 8, 1905. When he departed on April 13, 1905, the President promised to make Oklahoma a state. That is a promise that he kept more than two years later on November 16, 1907, when Oklahoma became the 46th state. Oklahoma was the only state admitted to the Union during Roosevelt’s presidency.
John R. “Jack” Abernathy, who lived west of Frederick with his wife and family, was famous for his wolf catching abilities, most notably for catching them alive. The President, always a sportsman and adventurer, had heard stories of Abernathy’s amazing wolf-catching abilities and planned the hunt in Oklahoma Territory to meet Abernathy and see the amazing skills for himself.
The land surrounding Frederick had been opened to settlement in the land lottery of 1901. The Frederick area was considered part of Comanche County, Oklahoma Territory, until Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Tillman County, which Frederick serves as the county seat, was created at statehood.
The hunt took place in the Big Pasture. The western edge of the Big Pasture, which encompassed 480,000 acres, began several miles east of Frederick and was not opened for settlement until December 1906. The Big Pasture area was therefore unsettled at the time of Roosevelt’s visit in 1905.
The hunting party camped at Panther Springs on the west bank of Deep Red Creek near a natural spring. The site is located some distance south of the current Deep Red Bridge on State Highway 5.
Abernathy captured several wolves during the President’s visit, genuinely impressing the President and beginning a lasting friendship between Roosevelt and the Abernathy family. Soon after the hunt, Roosevelt appointed Abernathy as U.S. Marshal, and Abernathy’s sons Bud and Temple visited Roosevelt during their famous solo trip to Washington, D.C. and New York City in 1910.
Numerous dignitaries accompanied Roosevelt and Abernathy on the hunt, including Comanche Chief Quanah Parker, Texas oil man and rancher Burk Burnett, and rancher Guy Waggoner.
Although Roosevelt had visited Oklahoma City before becoming President, his 1905 hunting trip in the Frederick area was his only visit to Oklahoma Territory (the western part of present-day Oklahoma) during his presidency.
During the days immediately preceding the Frederick visit President Roosevelt had attended a Rough Riders Reunion in San Antonio, Texas. On April 5, 1905, his train had briefly passed through several communities in Indian Territory (now Eastern Oklahoma) enroute to South Texas. Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were merged to become the State of Oklahoma in 1907.
Roosevelt’s presidency ended in 1909. Following his presidency, in 1912 Roosevelt campaigned in several communities in the central and eastern part of Oklahoma during his failed run for re-election as President as a candidate of the Progressive Bull Moose Party.


To provide what must surely be one of the most accurate accounts of Roosevelt’s visit, following is a story written on April 14, 1905, (the day after Roosevelt’s departure) by R.H. Wessell for The Frederick Enterprise. The Enterprise was the forerunner to the Frederick Press. Wessel was a Frederick journalist for many decades.

THE FREDERICK ENTERPRISE -- Frederick, Comanche County, Oklahoma Territory. Friday, April 14, 1905.

PRESIDENT ROOSEVELT ARRIVED IN FREDERICK LAST SATURDAY (April 8th, 1905) afternoon and welcomed by about 6,000 Oklahomans


Was driven to his Camp in the Big Pasture where he has spent a delightful time hunting Wolves, and other game – seventeen wolves Captured and Abernathy displays his prowess by catching some alive – Gov. Ferguson, Dennis Flynn and Cong. Stevens, here.

When President Roosevelt reached Oklahoma soil last Saturday afternoon he beheld a canopy without a single cloud, a green velvety carpet stretching as far as eye could see and when about twenty minutes later as he talked from the grandstand to the 5,000 to 6,000 eager auditors not even the faintest zephr was in evidence to interfere with his oratorical effort. All nature seemed to be inacced in making an ideal day for this the greatest event that has happened in the history of the new country. Despite the fact that those here who knew of the President’s coming nearly a fortnight before were importuned not to make it public, nevertheless parties were here from as far east as Lawton, to the west as far as Altus, to the North from Hobart, and to the Lone Star state on the South. The hotels and eating houses were crowded, for miles around the farmers left their fields to come to Frederick and get a glimpse of their chief executive.
At a meeting of the citizens, about twenty deputies were employed in addition about half this number of mounted police, with C.C. Shive, as marshal of the day. The crowd was an exceptionally orderly one and the marshals experienced little difficulty in keeping perfect order.
President Roosevelt during the 1905 hunt.
About 100 soldiers who had worn either the blue or the gray in the great war of the Rebellion marched side by side to do honor to their common president and testified more convincingly than volumes of the friendship that exists between all sections of the country. It was a sight long to be remembered to see the smoke from the pilot engine curling up into the azure some miles to the South, while still farther away could be discerned a faint dark smoke from the engine that the expectant throng knew was bringing the president. Five minutes after the pilot engine, the President’s train, consisting of five handsomely equipped coaches, glided to the crossing on Grand Avenue. When the President emerged from the car, dressed in his outing suit, he was met by the reception committee and after he descried the decorated grandstand two blocks up the street, he was glad to address the assembly. He took a seat beside Mayor Kelly, and was driven behind Ed. Carter’s span team to the grandstand. The remaining members of his party were brought in other vehicles which were furnished by the reception committee. Atty. Geo. Ahearn introduced the President, who spoke in part as follows:

“The next time I come to Oklahoma I trust I will come to a State and it won’t be my fault if this is not soon. I greet the veterans of the Civil War, who come here today to greet the President because we are one people and one country, not to be divided forever. I am glad to see Quanah Parker here, who has done so well with his farm. One thing of which I am proud is that I have tried to give a fair deal to every man. Give the red man the same chance as the white. This country is founded on the doctrine of giving each man a fair deal to see what there is in him. I have traveled four days in Texas, and am now in what will soon be a great state of the Union.
“There is nowhere I feel more at home than in a town like this. I have confidence in the character of the men and women who have come here. Ever since the Revolution we have been making new States. Now we are about at the cole of this period. I don’t feel that I have to explain my policies to the Oklahoma people. You like to have the American people play a big part in the world, and then play that part well. I know the western people are with me when I say we must build the Panama Canal. You don’t think I shoud be quiet while the American people are being held up. We want our right not as a favor, but as a right.
“I had a middling busy three and a half years. I have liked my job, I enjoyed it and was thankful to the people for telling me to go on with it. Now I want four days’ play. I hear you have plenty of jack rabbits and coyotes here. I like my citizens, but don’t like them on a coyote hunt. Give me a fair deal to have as much fun as even a President is entitled to. Good-bye and good luck.”
At the close of the speech, he entered Burnett’s carriage and was rapidly driven to the camp, accompanied a portion of the way by members of the mounted police.
It was about dark when the party reached the camp, eighteen miles southeast of here nestled cozily in the timber skirting Deep Red Creek. Sunday morning the President was up early and when he first beheld the beautiful panorama of virgin prairie without a sign of civilization except that of the camp, he said he felt perfectly at home. He did little during the day except to exercise his horse. His doctor, however, took a number of views of the party with their dogs and horses which will be used to illustrate the article which Mr. Roosevelt will write concerning the hunt.
The President killed a huge rattlesnake.

The hunt for which the president has been yearning as anxiously as the pack of dogs chained in camp who made the night hideous with their yelps, was begun Monday morning. From the start the President was invariably in the lead and even the cow boys and veteran troopers from Fort Sill were astonished with the ease with which he kept his seat while going at breakneck speed over ravine and hill. By noon the pack had caught three wolves and the party returned to camp with an appetite which left but little of the picked yearling which had been take out that morning. In the afternoon the President saw John Abernathy catch a wolf which the dogs had harassed.
Once on Monday, after the long chase in the hot sun, the President spied some water in a buffalo wallow, he spurred up his horse and beating the dogs to the spot, leaped from the saddle and lapped up the refreshing liquid in good old-fashioned cowboy style.
“The next day he ran over a six foot rattler, which sprang at him four times before he had dispatched it with his 18 inch quirt.
The President was particularly pleased by the manner in which the public heeded his admonitions regarding a square deal and remained from the pasture. He says this would be impossible in many sections of the country, and this, in addition to the rare sport which he enjoyed in the chase, may cause him to return to the spot at some time when he wants real uninterrupted hunt.
The President concluded his big wolf hunt in the big pasture yesterday at 4 o’clock P.M. (April 13th, 1905) and shortly afterwards started for Frederick with his party. He has become very much attached to John R. Abernathy, the famous wolf hunter, and desired to see his family. When the President discovered that Abernathy, who is but a man of 35 years of age, but has a wife and five children, he declared he was a man of his own heart. Mrs. Abernathy and the children were sent for and the president met them near the pasture gate where he spent a very pleasant half hour.
It was expected that the president would speak in the grand stand in Frederick where he spoke last Saturday. The reception committee were seated in this grand stand while Cong. John H. Stevens, of Texas, was addressing the crowd, as the president and his party mounted on their charges, rode into town.
The President and his party rode past to the train on a gallop but a courier returned to the grand stand and announced that the president would speak from the rear end of the platform. The President dressed in his brown trousers and hunting jacket, appeared like a private citizen out for a hunt. Gov. Thos. B. Ferguson introduced the president who spoke in a happy vein as follows:
“My friends and fellow citizens, I thank you for as pleasant a five days outing as any president ever had; I especially thank the people of Frederick for giving me such a pleasant time and letting the party alone during the hunt. It was the kindness of the people especially of Frederick, and of Oklahoma, and Texas, in general in not disturbing our party; for hunting and crowds don’t go together. One reason I hesitated coming here was because I was doubtful if I could hunt here unmolested.”
“You never had a guest who enjoyed himself better than myself, and I will come to Oklahoma again. I especially thank your citizen John Abernathy, for his hunting ability and the party who entertained me; Also Ed Gillis, Taylor and Billie More, As remarkable an exhibition of pluck and skill as I have ever seen has been shown by your townsmen carrying a wolf five miles in his gloved hands, but he beat it today by getting a wolf which he tied to the back of his saddle, and then after a seven mile chase, getting another which he brought to camp alive. I will come to Oklahoma again when I hope you will be a state with your senators and congressmen. Good night, Good luck and many thanks.”
The president was extremely pleased to meet his old friends, Ex-Delegate Dennis T. Flynn, and Cong. John H. Stevens, and chatted pleasantly with them.
After these gentlemen retired he ate his dinner, and looked at some papers. At 8:25 the train left for Vernon. The President came on the rear platform and smiling to those at the depot, said Goodnight until out of hearing.
Cong. Stevens accompanied the train to Vernon where he resides.
The train left Texline at 8:20 A.M. today and will arrive at Colorado Springs at 7:30 P.M.
John Abernathy and C.B. McHugh, of the hunting party were left at this place where they reside.
Col. Lyon, Sloan Simpson, the Burnetts and the Waggoners will leave it at Vernon, to go to their respective homes.

Joe Wynn serves as a member of the Tillman County Historical Society Board of Directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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