Cowboy Strike of 1883 and the Ghost Town of Tascosa

Image credit: Boston Globe, Marcy 24, 1883

In the spring of 1883, the newspapers like the Boston Globe reported that hundreds of cowboys went on strike for higher wages. The next day, a Wyoming newspaper gave more details, repeating the $50 per month demand. This article alluded to the possible threats of danger facing cowboys who declined to participate in the strike, but gives the number of strikers to be two hundred. Both have typographical or transcription errors. “Tosasa” in the Boston Globe article is probably a misspelling of Tascosa. The Wyoming article calls the county of the strike “Lascasa” and places it near the Texas-New Mexico border. The articles begin to settle down in a few days and give the location to be Tascosa.

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Shankleville Love Story

Shankleville is an unincorporated community located about as far east in Texas as a person can go, since in that area the border follows the river which takes a bend to the east. The community is situated in Newton County, a long and narrow county that extends to the Sabine River which at that point marks the border between Texas and Louisiana. Shankleville itself sits a few miles north of Newton, the county seat, and less than ten miles west of the Sabine.

Shankleville was founded by formerly enslaved people, Winnie and Jim Shankle and their friend Stephen Alexander McBride. By this time, many people have heard the story of Jim and Winnie Shankle, but it bears repeating.

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Mow-way (Shaking Hand or Hand Shaker)

This individual was a Comanche leader of the Kotsoteka branch or band of the tribe. He is thought to have been born about 1826 and he died in 1886. He was known to have been a warrior and participated in some of the earliest treaties between the tribe and the Confederate government in 1861. The Confederate negotiations were led by Albert Pike (1809 – 1891) who had been appointed in March of 1861 to serve as Indian Commissioner by Confederate President Jefferson Davis to attempt to draw up agreements with the tribes west of the Arkansas River. Pike was trained as an attorney and in the past had represented other tribes in negotiations with the United States government. In the summer of 1861, Pike worked on treaties with the Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole, Osage, Senaca and Shawnee. In August, 1861 he met with representatives of four bands of the Comanche tribe and Mow-way was a representative of the Kotsoteka. The agreement with the Comanche tribe seems to have been that they would give up their captives and receive compensation and confine themselves to agreed areas. Pike went on to serve in the Confederate Army. He eventually resigned his command after a disagreement over leadership decisions and did not serve to the end of the Civil War.

Mow-way is mentioned again as a Comanche leader who participated in a meeting with Union authorities at Walnut Creek in Kansas in another attempted to formalize an agreement with Comanche and other tribes. However, hostilities resumed including one notable attack by Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, and Arapaho on a group of ninety-five freight wagons. Some people escaped but others were killed in what is referred to as the Walnut Creek Massacre. Mow-way is not mentioned in connection with this particular event, but it set the stage for the United States Army to order a series of punitive raids against the various tribes later in 1864.

Raids and reprisals continued for several more years, including reports that the Kotsotekas of Mow-way were participating as well. The government had already delayed the flow of goods for the Cheyenne, Arapahoe, Kiowa and Comanche tribes and it stopped them completely due to the hostilities but an 1867 peace commission was created to get involved. It was comprised of four civilians including the commissioner of Indian Affairs and three generals from the United States Army to once again attempt to meet with tribal leaders to end the hostilities. This led to the Medicine Lodge council in Kansas in that year. Ten chiefs of the Comanche and Kiowa were signers to the agreement. Mow-way was not a signer for the Kotsotekas. Despite the Medicine Lodge Treaty, the difficulties continued. Some members of the tribes were unwilling to be forced to change their historic behavior, their way of life and give up their access to lands that they had hunted on and lived in for confinement to the reservations and receiving inadequate and often substandard goods.

The government authorized raids in the early 1870s designed to subdue and cripple the tribe’s resistance, led by Colonel R. S. Mackenzie. Mackenzie carried out a relatively successful campaign that sought out and attacked camps and villages including one of Mow-way while he was away attending a council at Fort Cobb.

One hundred years later, the Pampa Daily News issue of October 1, 1972 reported that an official Texas historical marker would be placed in northwest Texas the following October 22 to commemorate Col. Ranald Mackenzie’s raid on Mow-way’s village. The inscription was to read as follows: “Battle of North Fork of Red River (Site is about 3 miles north of here). On September 29, 1872, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie (1840-1889) found in this area a 262 tepee village defying treaties that sought to confine them on Indian Territory Reservations. Mackenzie’s 231 U. S. Cavalry and infantrymen captured the village in half an hour and routed Chief Mow-way’s warriors, who made a desperate resistance from sheltering creek banks. That night the Indians succeeded in recapturing their horses from an Army guard detail. This taught Mackenzie a lesson that led to his eventual victory in the 1874 campaign to subdue the Indians.” The last sentence is a reference to Mackenzie’s later policy of destroying horses captured from the tribes when he had the opportunity.

There is a report that the Comanche, Kiowa and other tribe members met in the summer of 1874 for a war council. However, as the decade unfolded the Army was more and more successful, including what was called the Red River War in 1874 in which Mow-way, Kotsotekas and Quanah Parker’s Quahadi bands took part. As the campaign continued, the Army could replace its lost personnel and replenish its supplies whereas the tribes increasingly could not.

Mow-way and others received representatives of the Army and under an agreement in the spring of 1875, he and some of his followers surrendered at Fort Sill. Mow-way is mentioned in a long article in the Galveston Daily News as having surrendered on May 25, 1875. After he came to Fort Sill in 1875, he is thought to have remained in the area for the rest of his life. As part of the agreement, he received amnesty for any prior actions and was allowed to live in peace. He gave up his tribal leadership and lived on a farm south of Fort Sill. He died of pneumonia in 1886 and was buried in an unmarked grave near his home.

The March 24, 1963 issue of the Lawton Constitution and Morning Press posted the image below, taken on the occasion of the opening of Mow-Way House, on Fort Sill in Oklahoma. Two of the chief’s grandsons were in attendance.

Image credit: Lawton Constitution and Morning Press

The house was built on the chief’s former home, down inside the grounds of Fort Sill. There is also a Mow-way Road on the fort.

Sources include “Comanche Barrier to South Plains Settlement” by Rupert Norval Richardson and “The Last Comanche Chief, the Life and Times of Quahah Parker” by Bill Neeley.

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Buck Ramsey

Kenneth Melvin “Buck” Ramsey was born January 9, 1938 in New Home, Texas to David Melvin Ramsey (1909 – 1985) and Pearl Lee Williams Ramsey (1913 – 2004). Buck was a well known cowboy poet and singer. The nickname “Buck” was given to him by his father. Buck was the author of “Anthem” and many other poems and songs that describe the cowboy way of life. He also made numerous musical recordings and made personal appearances around the country reciting his poetry and singing his songs.

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Gale Storm

The actress known as Gale Storm was born Josephine Owaissa Cottle in Bloomington, Texas on April 5, 1922. Her middle name was not an ancestral name. The family legend is that it was an Indian word suggested by an older sister and that it meant “blue bird.” Her parents were Walter William Cottle (1886 – 1923) and Minnie Lee Greenhaw Cottle (1887 – 1978).

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