Friday, March 18, 2011

Hunt participants were important men

Sent to the Frederick Leader and the Frederick Press
April 13, 2010

The 1905 hunting party. President Roosevelt is standing 2nd from right. Jack Abernathy is standing in center, holding dead wolf. Comanche Chief Quanah Parker is kneeling left of Abernathy.
Men of 1905 Roosevelt hunting party
were wealthy and influential
Last weekend in Frederick (April 10, 2010) we celebrated the 105th anniversary of President Theodore Roosevelt’s visit to Frederick for an Oklahoma Territory wolf hunt. The President’s private train arrived in Frederick on April 8, 1905, and he spent the next five days east of Frederick hunting wolves with Jack Abernathy in the then-unsettled Big Pasture. He departed Frederick on April 13, 1905.
Roosevelt was the most famous man of his time, so his visit to Frederick, than a raw, three-year-old town on the Oklahoma prairie, was a momentous event. Roosevelt did not come alone.
With him as members of the hunting party were some of the richest, most influential, well-connected people of the day.
Following are some basic facts about several members of the hunting party.
Samuel “Burk” Burnett was 56 at the time of the hunt.
He had established the Burnett Ranch in Wichita County of North Texas in 1875, between the Red and Big Wichita Rivers. In 1900, he had bought the “Four Sixes” Ranch which he enlarged to nearly a half million acres in four divisions.
In the early 1890s Burnett became a friend of Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and negotiated leasing rights to more than a million acres of land in the then-unsettled Kiowa and Comanche lands of Oklahoma Territory. This greatly benefitted not only Burnett, but also other large northern Texas ranchers who were able to secure grazing rights to the vast expanses of rich green prairie.
Burnett and Chief Quanah Parker had met with Theodore Roosevelt some years before the wolf hunt.
When the federal government had initially required cattlemen to vacate their leased lands in Oklahoma Territory to prepare the land for settlement, Burk Burnett had traveled with Chief Parker to Washington and convinced President Roosevelt to grant a two-year stay so that the ranchers grazing in the lands could have a more orderly transformation from the loss of their lease interests.
At the time of the hunt, Burk Burnett lived in Fort Worth where he had many business and social connections.
Tom Burnett, Burk’s son, was 34 at the time of the wolf hunt. At 21, he had served as a wagon boss on his father’s herds in the Kiowa and Comanche lands. Chief Parker and Tom became close friends. They worked cattle and hunted together on the Comanche prairies.
Cecil Lyon of Dallas was an enormously rich and powerful man. In 1905, he was the owner of many lumber yards and hardware stores, a bank director, a director in Great Southern Life Insurance Company, and a close personal friend of the President.
He was head of the Texas Republican Party and a member of the Republican National Committee. As chair of the Texas party, Cecil Lyon was responsible for distribution of federal patronage in Texas under Republican Presidents. This was an enormously powerful position.
Lyon remained a major force in Texas politics for many years and was a very loyal friend of Roosevelt, even in future years when Theodore Roosevelt broke with the traditional Republican Party to run again for President as a member of the Bull Moose Party.
It was Lyon who first told Roosevelt about the wolf-hunting abilities of Jack Abernathy.
Sloan Simpson was the Harvard-educated son of an enormously rich, influential Texas ranching and banking family.
He had served in Roosevelt’s regiment of Rough Riders in Cuba during the Spanish-American War. In 1907 Roosevelt appointed Simpson as Dallas postmaster.
William Thomas Waggoner, 54, was owner of the famous Waggoner Ranch. His land holdings and cattle empire were vast and, like Burnett, Waggoner and his son had leased more than a half-million acres from the Comanches.
In 1910, Waggoner’s land holdings were around 1,000 square miles.
By World War I he would be recognized as the “Cattle King of Texas”, with cattle, land, banking and oil interests worth $50 million.
In the 1920s Will Rogers was a frequent ranch guest. He quipped that each cow on Waggoner’s ranch had 40 acres of grass and its own oil well.
At the time of the hunt in 1905, Waggoner lived in Fort Worth.
 “Al” Bivins, 53, was an Amarillo rancher and oilman. By 1920 he would be the largest individual cattle owner in the country and the largest landowner west of the Mississippi River.
He reportedly once rode 90 miles from Dalhart to Amarillo without leaving his property.
General Samuel Baldwin Marks Young, 65, had risen to the rank of general in the Union Army during the Civil War. After the war, he secured a commission in the regular Army as a captain and was posted to the Southwest along the Indian frontier.
In 1898, he was promoted to Brigadier General and served with Roosevelt in Cuba. In 1901 he became the first president of the Army War College, and was appointed in 1903 as Army Chief of Staff. He had retired from that post in 1904.
Dr. Alexander Lambert was the President’s personal physician. He accompanied the President on his travels, which were extensive. Like Roosevelt, Lambert was a prominent citizen of New York. He would later serve as president of the American Medical Association and head of the Medical Research Department of the American Red Cross.
Chief Quanah Parker was in his mid-50s at the time of the hunt.
He was the son of Comanche Chief Pete Nocona and Cynthia Parker, a white girl who was captured in Texas by the Comanches in 1836 when she was nine.
Parker was born around 1850 in the present Texas panhandle. He became a warrior after his father’s death in 1862 or 1863.
General William Tecumseh Sherman ordered Army troops to capture his band of Comanches. In 1871 and 1872 Quanah Parker successfully led raids against and continually escaped from the Army troops. In 1874, though, he led the tribe at the Battle of Adobe Springs. His horse was shot from under him and he was wounded in the side.
In 1875, most Kiowas, Cheyennes and Comanches were forced to surrender and travel to Fort Sill.
In 1878, rancher Charles Goodknight advised Quanah Parker about raising cattle and gave him some cows to start a herd. He was becoming a rancher when he gained his friendships with Burk Burnett and the Waggoners.
For more information about the wolf hunt and about members of the hunting party, the Pioneer Townsite Museum has two books that make for fascinating reading.
Struggles in a New State by Larry Lewis is a hard-bound volume that contains information about the hunt and the Abernathy boys, as well as political and social developments in Oklahoma in the early 19th Century.
Catch ‘em Alive Jack by Ron Ward is a large paper-bound book that tells the story of Jack Abernathy in great detail.
Both books are great reading and would make great gifts for anyone who has an interest in history. For more information about either book, call the Pioneer Townsite Museum in Frederick, 580-335-5844.
Frederick area men depicted the original 1905 hunting party at an April 10, 2010 Tillman County Historical Society celebration at the Pioneer Townsite Museum.
 Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society Board of Directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at

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