Early Oklahoma

Bishinik January 1981 Page 6, 7 & 9

Origins of the Choctaw People Retold from Old Legends

By Len Green

Because of the rush of the Christmas season and in order to get your Bishinik in the mail to you before the holidays, we depart from the origin legends for one month only. Legends will return in the February issue. Instead, we thought you might be interested in what happened in this Choctaw Nation of ours before our ancestors traveled the Trail of Tears to this new homeland. So we present a historic bit written in 1975 as a Bicentennial project. Hope you enjoy it.

While the emphasis of the Bicentennial is on the Revolution and the birth of the United States of America, there was plenty going on in the area where we now live. While we have a tendency to think that our history started with the removal of the Choctaws to this area, beginning in 1831, research indicates that there was much activity here in the Red River Valley during the 18th Century. For instance, there were two wars, one between the Spanish and the so-called Taovayan Indian Tribes and a long and bloody war between the Taovayans and the Osages. And, we also know that there were white men in this area as early as 1719. So, to give you a picture of what the land we now call Kiamichi Country was like 200 years ago, let us stroll through the history of the Red River Valley from 1700 until 1800.

What was Red River Valley like in 1700? The valley, in fact all of what is now the state of Oklahoma, was split into two parts, each very different from the other and each peopled by different types of Indians and each drastically different in terrain and vegetation. This divider was called “The Crosstimbers.” If you drew a line from Waurika in present day Jefferson County north and east through Bartlesville in Washington County, you would almost mark the path of the Crosstimbers. The Crosstimbers was a belt of vegetation extending southwest to northeast across the present state of Oklahoma varying in width from about five miles to more than 20 miles. The Crosstimbers was a belt of closely knit trees, briars, vines and vegetation that was almost impassable, except through river bottoms, forming a natural barrier between the two distinct parts of what is now our home state.

West of the Crosstimbers were open rolling plains, deep in sagegrass and sedge and roamed by large herds of bison (buffaloes). West Of the Crosstimbers, the mountains, such as the Arbuckles and Glass, were craggy and rocky thrusting up from the earth as if to point a tortured finger at the sky. Because of the buffalo herds, the lands west of the Crosstimbers were occupied principally by the so-called “Plains Indians,” who had domesticated the horses left behind by the Spaniards and followed the bison herds.

The Indians occupying what is now present day Western Oklahoma in 1700 were principally of the Shoshonean and Athapascan language families. Representing the Shoshonean language family were the Comanches and the Utes. For many years, the Comanches more or less controlled the area that is now Western Oklahoma and North Central Texas. The Athapascan language group was represented by a branch of the Apache tribe, known principally by historians as the Apaches of the Plains. The Apaches of the Plains were not as warlike as were their southwestern brothers who peopled the areas we now know as New Mexico and Arizona.

Once you had chopped your way eastward through the Crosstimbers or came down what we now call the Red, the Canadian or the Arkansas Rivers, you moved into a completely different world. Immediately after reaching the east side of the Crosstimbers, you would find yourself among rolling hills with open glades of short grasses and clusters of Blackjack Oak, Hickory, Walnut and Sassafras. As you moved further eastward from the Crosstimbers you entered the foothills of the eastern mountain ranges, now known as the Bald Knobs, starting in what is now Atoka County and the Cookson Hills. In these foothills and further eastward into the mountains, you found a land of clear creeks and streams, many springs, open glades and all kinds of timber.

The foothills climbed up into five small mountain ranges building toward the majestic Ozarks of northern Arkansas and southern Missouri, and shortleaf pine kept the mountains green and verdant the year around. These five mountain ranges now bear such euphonic names as Winding Stair, Jacks Fork, San Bois, Kiamichi and Ouachita. These names, themselves, bespeak the cosmopolitan nature of the area. Kiamichi and San Bois are from the French language used by trappers, hunters and traders in the area in the early 18th century, Jacks Fork and Ouachita apparently spring from the Choctaws and the name Winding Stair is attributed to a surveyor hired to pick a route for the Butterfield Stagecoach Company from Fort Smith to Santa Fe.

Like the area west of Crosstimbers, the eastern part of what is now Oklahoma also had its Indians. What is now northeastern Oklahoma and southern Kansas was the domain of the Osage and their poorer cousins, the Quapaw, both of the Siuoan language family. And, the bulk of what is now Eastern Oklahoma was occupied by three tribes from the Taovayan (sometimes called Caddoan) language family. These were the Wichitas, the Caddoes and the Pawnees, with the Wichitas being the most numerous, the Caddo second, then the Pawnees smaller in number and more widely scattered.

Unlike the Comanches, Utes or Apaches, who lived in skin Tipis which could be pulled up and moved along with the buffalo migration, the Taovayan tribes were more sedentary. They generally lived in villages, ranging in size from a dozen or so lodges to city-states covering several square miles. A Wichita or Caddoan “home” was a dome-shaped structure built of wooden posts and bendable saplings, covered over with dirt, which furnished warmth in the winter and coolness in the summer. When the Wichita or Caddo was ready to move on, he simply left. Or if the posts and saplings which held his dirt topped home began to rot, he simply built another lodging a few yards away and moved out, letting nature take care of the old one.

Each Wichita or Caddo village had a common farming area, where all of the women and children worked growing for the village a supply of corn, beans, pumpkins and melons. In addition to agricultural pursuits, each village had its own staff of hunters, who fared forth to kill wild game for the cookpots. Favorite game with the Wichitas and Caddoes were the “woods” buffalo, which was smaller than the prairie variety and did not run in large herds, the bear and the white-tailed deer. A hunting party might stay out several weeks, not returning to the village until all of their pack animals were fully loaded with meat. To preserve the meat, the Indians would construct large outdoor kilns and smoke the buffalo, bear or deer meat on the spot to preserve it until it could be taken back to the villages.

The Caddoes, and very possibly the Wichitas, were reportedly cannibalistic, generally preferring the meat of enemy children between about the ages of eight and 16. When the Caddoes went into battle, they generally tried to capture young people in age group for eating, plus a few older ones to be used as slaves. Possibly this cannibalism, coupled with the plain old nasty nature of the Osages, furnished the Taovayans with the one “fly in their ointment” early in the 1700s. The warlike Osages hated the Wichitas and the Caddoes above all others and never bypassed an opportunity to raid a Taovayan village or city. And, that’s the way it was in the Red River Valley when the white man first set foot in what is now Southeastern Oklahoma.

The era of French influence in the Red River Valley extended from the early 1700s until 1763. Through the 1500s and 1600s, the area that is now known as Oklahoma was claimed as a part of New Spain, but no active effort had been made by the Spanish to establish trade. During the 1600s, several Spanish expeditions had passed through the western part of Oklahoma, most notably the expedition of Coronado to Quivira in what is now Kansas.

In fact, it was not until the French began to capitalize on the rich natural resources of the Red River Valley that the Spanish apparently realized they had been missing a good thing. To develop a picture of the era of French influence in what is now Eastern Oklahoma, we must go back to the year 1682, when the French explorer La Salle explored the Mississippi River claiming the land drained by the great river and all of its tributaries in the name of the King of France.

In 1699, Iberville le Moyne, with grants from the French crown, sailed up the Mississippi and established a post which he called Biloxi (now Biloxi, Miss.). Nineteen years later, in 1718, a cousin of Iberville le Moyne, one Bienville le Moyne founded a port city at the mouth of the mighty Mississippi, which he named New Orleans. Arriving with le Moyne at New Orleans were two other French grantees who would have a great deal to do with the area now called Oklahoma. They were Claude du Tisne and Juan Baptiste Benard de la Harpe.

du Tisne was in 1719 to make his way up the Mississippi to the Arkansas and thence up the Arkansas to make contact with the Osages in what is now southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma. de la Harpe was to make an epic overland expedition, taking him through what is now McCurtain, Pushmataha, Latimer and Muskogee Counties to establish a trade with the Indians that was to last 40 years.

de la Harpe kept a complete journal of his expedition through eastern Oklahoma, which gives us a picture of Indian life and the terrain of that time. But more about that later. When he came to New Orleans with le Moyne, de la Harpe held a grant from the French King granting him trading rights in the area drained by the Mississippi tributary we now call the Red River. About 80 miles up the Red River from its mouth, the river was jammed and piled for many miles with masses of logs and brush which was to become known as “The Great Raft.” However, in the early 1700s, a large enough channel existed through The Great Raft to allow Benard de la Harpe and his men to pull keelboats of supplies up the river. At a likely site, de la Harpe established a fort, trading post and town. While the exact site is not now known, it is believed that de la Harpe’s post was the beginnings of the present day city of Natchitoches, La. Not too long after getting his post established, de la Harpe dispatched a trusted aid, named Du Rivage, armed with gifts, upriver to make contact with the Indians of the area. Traveling by canoe up the river, Du Rivage and his small party made as their first contact among the Indians a small Caddo village near the Red River, probably in the area south of the present McCurtain County community of Tom.

The Caddoes in this small village were quite friendly with Du Rivage and his party, and they seemed happy to offer any information the French visitors might want. They told Du Rivage of a large Caddo city about a two day march to the northwest and of a large Caddo village about two days up the Red River near the mouth of a clear stream that emptied into the Red. This could have been either the Caddoan complex near where present day Clear Creek empties into the Red, or it could have been another Caddoan city which signs indicate was located near the mouth of the Kiamichi River. An extensive archeological dig of the Clear Creek Caddo complex was scheduled to begin in the summer of 1976 under the direction of the Herron Research Foundation and the Museum of the Red River. Something unearthed in this venture may establish whether it was this Caddoan city or the one on the Kiamichi which was visited by Du Rivage.

The Caddoes further told Du Rivage that the great Taovayan Council of Chiefs who ruled the Caddoes, Wichitas and Tawconies lived in a big city-state many days march to the north. Because he and his party were traveling by canoe, Du Rivage elected to continue on up the Red River seeking the mouth of the “clear stream” and the large Caddo village there rather than trying to travel overland to the larger village.

The Caddoes seemed delighted with the small trove of gifts Du Rivage gave them, and as the party prepared to leave each canoe was stocked with an earthen pot filled with corn and chunks of bear meat cooked together for the Frenchmen and their guides to eat while traveling on the river. After about two days of travel from the small Caddo village, Du Rivage and his crew found a clear stream emptying into the muddy Red River and there found a rather extensive Caddo village. Du Rivage was later to tell de la Harpe that the village contained about 50 of the dome shaped, earth-covered Taovayan houses, and a larger structure, built in the same style, which was apparently used by the Caddoes for religious rituals and ceremonies.

Du Rivage was again greeted in a friendly manner, and through his Keechi Indian guides who had accompanied him, he was able to speak at length with the leaders of the village. The party was led from house to house, and at each house was seated on a skin or robe on the ground and presented with food and drink by the host. The Keechi guides informed Du Rivage that he was expected to eat in each house visited as failure to do so meant a breach of hospitality and would offend the house owner. After stuffing and burping their way through approximately a dozen lodges, the party was led to a circle made on the ground with stones near the large ceremonial hall. Here they were seated with the village leaders, smoked the calumet and spoke of friendship and trade between the French and the Indians of the area. The Caddo chiefs assured Du Rivage of friendship, and arranged a ceremonial feast at which the Frenchman and his party were the guests of honor.

On the second or third day of Du Rivage’s visit to the Caddo village, a group of Indians obviously from some other tribe, rode into the encampment. Du Rivage was informed that these Indians were Comanches and that they, too, would be friendly to the French. Du Rivage was later to report that “they rode horses with much assurance, their breeches of animal skin were fringed and each carried a long evil-looking lance decorated with feathers as well as a bow and quiver Of arrows.” Du Rivage also noted that several of the Comanches wore necklaces, bits of clothing, headgear and other items which he determined to be of Spanish design and probably stolen from the Spanish by these Indians. “Unlike the Caddoes, who let their hair flow free, the hair of the Comanches was braided, and several of them had braided bright, feathers into their hair. Though they assured our Keechi interpreter of their friendship, their arrogant bearing and the sharp glances they continued to give to us and our equipment made me instinctively mistrust, them,” Du Rivage was later to report to de la Harpe. However, the Comanches departed the Caddo village the following day and Du Rivage was able to hold several more talks with the Caddo chieftains before deciding to return back down river to de la Harpe’s town.

Again as Du Rivage and his group prepared to embark back down the Red River, the Caddo women brought earthenware pots filled with cooked foods for the Frenchmen to eat on their way back down the river. The return trip to de la Harpe’s town was apparently made without incident, and Du Rivage met with Benard de la Harpe to report his findings. This was in June of 1719.

de la Harpe listened to Du Rivage’s reports with interest and the pair discussed at length the facts about the Caddoes that had been gained in the talks between the Frenchman and the Taovayan leaders. Then de la Harpe made a momentous decision, one that was to affect the Red River Valley and Eastern Oklahoma for the next 40 years and eventually trigger two wars. de la Harpe decided to explore the Indian country, find the great Taovayan chiefs and see if he could establish trade between the French and the Indians.

On August 11, 1719, Juan Baptiste Benard de la Harpe left his town on the Red River bound for an extensive tour Of the Indian lands in what is now Eastern Oklahoma. de la Harpe’s entourage included his aide, Du Rivage; two Keechi Indian guides, three enlisted soldiers, two negroes and 22 horses, of which six were gift-laden pack horses. Moving overland, de la Harpe and his party soon reached the small Caddo village on the Red River south of the present McCurtain County community of Tom visited by Du Rivage a few months before.

de la Harpe spent the night at Caddo village, leaving gifts and securing Caddo guides who offered to lead him to the bigger Caddo “city” said to be two days march to the northwest. Crossing the Red River at a “ford” shown them by the Caddoes, the party traveled northwestward, spending their first night “on the trail” near some springs in a sandy glade guarded by stately evergreen trees. A new translation of de la Harpe’s journal, checked out by Quintus Herron of Herron Research Foundation, places the first night’s encampment south and east of the present McCurtain County town of Haworth. The references tend to point to the area of Kulli Springs, not far from the Ouachita National Forest’s Kulli Recreation Area, as the most probable site for a “de la Harpe slept here” sign.

On the second day’s march, the group crossed a clear stream (probably our present day Little River) about noon and by mid-afternoon they had reached an extensive Caddoan settlement. The new translation bears out that this was a rather extensive Taovayan city-state which was apparently occupied by the Caddoes and their allies for several hundred years. Cross-checking by Herron with the translator places this village on a strip of high ground east of and adjacent to Little River beginning about two miles north of the present city of Idabel. This village apparently started just upstream from the bend upriver from the old Idabel-Broken Bow highway bridge extending along the river to a point about one mile south of the present Holly Creek community.

As described by de la Harpe, the village was about three miles in length and about half a mile wide describing a gentle curve around the strip of high ground just above the average flood level of the river. The Caddoan’s dome-shaped houses were built in clusters, with each cluster centered with one of the larger ceremonial halls, and the clusters of houses were interspersed with community gardens worked by the women and girls of the tribe. Many local artifact hunters still visit the area of this village frequently, particularly after a rainy period or high flood, finding artifacts dating over a period of more than 300 years. It was at this village that de la Harpe first experienced the Caddo practice of taking visitors from lodge to lodge and feeding them at each stop. He held talks with the city’s chiefs and the chiefs assigned three Caddoan warriors to travel with de la Harpe and show him the trail that would lead him to the Council of Great Chiefs.

After some two days among the Little River Caddoes, de la Harpe’s party moved out in a northwesterly direction, and spent still another night in what is now McCurtain County before moving on into present day Pushmataha County. Statements from de la Harpe’s journal tends to fix this campsite on the banks of present day Glover Creek somewhere near the base Of Caney Mountain., In his journal, de la Harpe records that on August 21, 1719 he personally killed a large bear in what would now be the northern reaches of Pushmataha County. He also notes that late on the same day, the party made contact with a hunting party of some 30 Caddoes and Wichitas, who had killed 46 buffaloes and were “smoking” the meat to cure it for transportation back to their home camps. The buffaloes had been “strung” on green poles and the poles suspended between the forks of two larger trees. Fires had been built on the ground so that the smoke would curl up around the meat preserving it until it could be carried back to the hunters’ villages.

Along the route, de la Harpe and his party visited numerous small Caddo and Wichita villages, arriving at the Canadian River in the approximate area of present day Eufaula on August 29. He mentions that on the 31st day of August, his party met a band of Tawconis (cousins of the Caddo and Wichita) enroute back to their village with the spoils of a hunt, including a number of buffalo, bear, elk and deer. They gave de la Harpe and his group a haunch from one of the deer they had killed and he mentions that the “sweet smoky flavor was a real treat and quite a change from the fresh meats we had been eating.”

Between the Canadian and Arkansas Rivers, de la Harpe and his party visited nine Wichita villages, all seemingly a part of the city-state complex of the Great Council Of Chiefs. At each village the Indians seemed bent on outdoing each other and the other villages by bringing food and edibles to de la Harpe and his men as they progressed closer to the city-state occupied by the Council of Chiefs.

On September 9, 1719, de la Harpe finally met in council with the Great Council of Chiefs, who were the apparent rulers of the Taovayan tribes in what is now Eastern Oklahoma. This meeting occurred at a large Taovayan city-state complex on a hill overlooking the Arkansas River apparently somewhere near the present Oklahoma city of Muskogee. The Council of Chiefs was highly receptive to de la Harpe’s overtures for trade, and he signed a pact with the Taovayan chiefs calling for an exchange of trade between the two parties and continuing friendship with the French by the Wichitas, Caddoes and Tawconis. de la Harpe gave the Council of Chiefs many gifts, including rifles and ammunition and a French flag, which they pledged to fly over their village “forever” as a sign of continuing friendship. And, in turn, the Council of Chiefs presented de la Harpe with a crown of eagle plumes, a calumet of peace (white), a calumet of war (red), a magnificent horse and a young Apache girl who appeared to be about eight or nine years old.

Noting that the young Apache captive had the small or “pinkie” finger missing from each hand, de la Harpe inquired through his Keechi interpreter why her hands had been so maimed. The chiefs explained that the young captive had been intended as the “entree” for one of their upcoming ceremonial feasts and that to test her readiness for the cookpot, the fingers had been bitten off. The chiefs apologized to de la Harpe because the girl had been so maimed, but pointed out that had he arrived a few days earlier, she would have been whole. Or had he been a few days later in arriving, she would have been gone.

As de la Harpe and his party were preparing to depart the Taovayan city-state, a Chickasaw trader from northern Mississippi arrived at the Wichita town to trade with the Taovayans, indicating the extensive trade that was carried on among friendly tribes before the white man came. Instead of returning overland to his Louisiana base, de la Harpe and his men rafted down the Arkansas to the Mississippi and on to New Orleans, where he reported to Bienville le Moyne the willingness of the Indians to trade with the French. Du Rivage was dispatched back to France with reports to the French King from le Moyne and de la Harpe, thus opening the era of French influence in the Red River Valley.

Incidentally, the young Apache girl given to de la Harpe was taken to France by Du Rivage, She was educated in French schools, made a handmaiden to the French Queen and for many years was a favorite in the Royal Court of France.

Between the years of 1720 and 1763, the French were the strongest influence and the axis for the balance of power in the Red River Valley and most of what is now Oklahoma. About the same time Benard de la Harpe was making his historic visit to the Taovayan empire, a fellow French explorer, Claude du Tisne, was making contact with the Osages and the Siouan Alliance in what is now present day northern Oklahoma and Southern Kansas.

The sweep of French influence, though long forgotten by many historians, was very deep in this section Of the country, as evidenced by the many geographical names left behind by the French. Among these are such names as Kiamichi, Poteau, San Bois, Fourche Maline, Cavanal, Grand, Sallisaw, Verdigris, Salina, Illinois, Bayou Menard and Bayou Viande (Vian).

Since this is “Kiamichi Country” and we have our Kiamichi Mountains, the reader may be interested in how these mountains received their name. The mountains were named for a bird which the French trappers called the “Little Horned Screamer.” Only recently was it learned that this title referred to the common Blue Jay. As practically every southeastern Oklahoman will know, Blue Jays have a habit of setting up a fuss when anyone approaches an area where they are feeding or resting. They will often “buzz” you, fluttering down and around your head as if they are about to attack you and chase you off. The antics of this little bird, which can be still found in profusion in the mountains, so amused the French trappers that they named a range of mountains for the noisy little Blue Jay.

When the French came, and probably long before, a constant state of war had existed between the Osages of the Siouan Alliance and the three Taovayan tribes occupying the area. In fact, it was for mutual protection against the Osage that the Wichita, Caddo and Tawconi tribes had formed the Taovayan empire and the so-called Canadian-Arkansas Alliance. And it was for this reason that the tribes of the Taovayan empire lived in city-states and that smaller villages were located in a cluster around such Taovayan complexes.

Before the coming of the French, the best weapon held by the Taovayan tribes, however, was a continuing alliance with the Comanches who roamed the plains of what is now Western Oklahoma. The Comanches were fierce fighters and implacable enemies. Above all other tribes, they hated the Osages. And, above all other tribes, the Osages feared the Comanches. Trade with the French brought a new dimension into the continuing Taovayan-Osage wars, however. This was that, through the French and for the first time in their history, the Wichitas, Caddoes and Tawconis could acquire firearms and enough powder and ball so that every Taovayan brave and warrior could be armed. Through their trade with the French, the Taovayan tribes became rich and powerful, and during the 40 years of French dominance the Taovayans were top dogs of what is now Eastern Oklahoma and the Red River Valley.

The Taovayan Empire quickly developed into a series of large city-states, well fortified and existing almost wholly through and for trade with the French. The largest and most powerful of these Taovayan city-states were Fernandina, San Bernardo and San Teodoro, all of which you’ll read more about later. Fernandina was located in what is now Northeastern Oklahoma near the site of the present city of Newkirk. Often called the “twin cities” San Bernardo and San Teodoro were located just across from each other on opposite sides of the Red River, with one in what is now present day Jefferson County, Oklahoma, and the other in what is currently Montague County, Texas. Ranging out from these city-states, the Wichitas, Caddoes and Tawconies harvested furs, nuts and other desired items which were traded to the French for guns, ammunition, cloth and other trade goods.

The Comanches killed the plains buffaloes, which were larger than the mountain woods buffalo, bringing the buffalo skins to the city-states such as San Bernardo or San Teodoro for trading with the French. in addition, hundreds of French trappers or “coureors de bois” descended on the Kiamichi, Jacks Fork, Winding Stair, San Bois and Ouachita Mountains to trap beavers from the streams and kill the bear, deer, woods buffalo and elk for a thriving trade in furs. Some of the trappers took Indian wives, living among the Caddoes, Wichitas, Tawconis and even Osages and using the Indian villages as trading bases.

For the many others, however, French traders set up “rendezvous” points, with trading posts where the trappers could sell their loads of furs and pick up supplies, traps and other needs for their next foray into the mountains and woodlands. Naturally, then, the first more or less permanent settlement to be established in what is now McCurtain County and Southeastern Oklahoma would be one of these rendezvous points. The French called it Bayou Galle. We call it Perry Creek. The site was on a point of higher ground in what we might call the “second bottom” of Red River about nine miles southwest of the present city of Idabel. From descriptions furnished in French writings the site was described as “far enough from Red River to not have to fear floods, but near enough so that the creek could handle canoes at any time of the year.”

We can also find references to a grove of maple trees which surrounded the log buildings that served both as trading post and fort in case of attack. There are also references to a large round well, dug continental style to about eight to ten feet in diameter and walled in with native stone quarried and carried from what we now call Perry Creek.

The rendezvous point at Bayou Galle was probably founded about 1730, although it could have been established as early as the young 1720s or as late as 1740. The trading post at Bayou Galle continued to flourish for a number of years, probably being abandoned by the French sometime between 1755 and 1763. Most probably, the site of old Bayou Galle evolved into the site of McCurtain County’ s old Shawneetown, which continued in existence until Oct. 15, 1929, when the post office was abandoned and the last business house closed. It is known that after the French abandoned Bayou Galle the buildings were occupied for several years by a band of Absentee Shawnee Indians, who liked the protection of the log fort there during the Osage-Taovayan Wars.

The Absentee Shawnees reportedly occupied old Bayou Galle from about the mid 1760s until about 1820, when what is now McCurtain County was dubbed as Miller County, Territory of Arkansas, and white settlers began moving into the area. We also know that about 1836, the old Bayou Galle site was one of three chosen by Col. Robert M. Jones as the site for one of his three general mercantile stores and cotton gins. Jones called the spot Kukkichukchu (which may be translated from the Choctaw language as “maple tree springs.”) Since the old French writings referred to a grove of maple trees this would tend to fix the site as the same. After Jones’ death, the community continued as Kullichukchu, and a post office charter was granted to the community in that name on January 18, 1882. However, for reasons best known to the Love family, heirs of Col. Jones, on August 7, 1882, just six months later the name of the post office was officially changed to Kulli Inla. The name of Kulli Inla translates into English as “new or strange spring.” It has been supposed by some historians that this might refer to the remnants of the large, circular well dug by the French more than 100 years before. Be that as it may, ten years later the Kulli Inla post office was discontinued as of August 16, 1892, and on that same date the post office was rechartered as Shawneetown. As the townsite was on the “Doaksville Road” which stretched from Fulton’s Landing (now Fulton) in Arkansas to Doaksville and Fort Towson in the Indian Territory, it thrived until the Choctaw & Arkansas Railroad (later Frisco) was built in 1902. With the coming of the railroad and the shift from water and wagon transportation to rail transportation, the path of the town was downhill until it was abandoned in 1929.

Troubles began to mount for the French-Taovayan Alliance during the 1750s. As has been previously noted, the Osages hated the Taovayans and attacked them at every opportunity despite the fact that both the Caddoan Alliance and the Osage-Apache alliance traded with the French. After seeing the little gold mine the French had found in trade with the Indians of the Red River Valley, the Spanish wanted the French out and wanted to monopolize this trade for themselves. However the trade treaties between the Taovayan tribes, Wichita, Caddo and Tawconi, and between the Comanches and the French excluded Spain from getting a foothold in the Valley.

The Spanish did sign a treaty for trade with the Apache of the Plains tribes, but such trade did not become fruitful for Spain. The reason for this was that almost constantly the Wichita and Comanche warriors were raiding Apache villages taking captives to work in the Taovayan city states or to be sold as slaves. The three largest and most extensive of the Taovayan city-states were Fernandina in northeastern Oklahoma near the present city of Newkirk and the twin cities of San Bernardo and San Teodoro, near the present location of the small town of Ryan and not far from Waurika.

Because the sweep of the Red River Valley left a wide gap in the Crosstimbers, San Teodoro and San Bernardo were almost as much Comanche city-states as they were Wichita and Caddo. This was not true in the case of Fernandina, as only a few trails through the Crosstimbers could be utilized by the Comanche to visit the northernmost of the giant Taovayan city-states. The Osages probably realized this in the late 1740s, but took their time to build up their forces and their firepower to a point where they might be assured of victory. Thus in 1757, a force of almost 4,000 warriors from the Osage-Apache Alliance descended upon Fernandina, sacked it, looted it and burned the French stockade there to the ground, sending French, Wichitas, Caddoes and Tawconies fleeing to San Bernardo and San Teodoro.

In 1758, a large Comanche-Wichita war party attacked the Apache mission of San Saba, looting and burning the mission and the Spanish trading post there and taking all young women, children and able bodied Apaches not killed as slaves. The Spanish living at San Saba were able to save themselves in the attack by forting up behind the stone walls of the Presidio of San Luis de las Amarillas. News of the attack so incensed the Royal Spanish Governor in New Madrid that he ordered Diego Ortiz Parilla, military commander of San Luis de Bejar (now San Antonio, Tex.) to attack and destroy the twin city-states. Though generally ignored by most state historians, the event might be called one of the major battles fought in the Red River Valley and marked the high point of the history of the Taovayan-French Alliance.

Fortunately, a full report of the battle still exists in the form of the report forwarded to New Madrid by Diego Ortiz Parilla following the battle. Commander Parilla marched out of San Luis de Bejar in early September of 1759 at the head of a force of 300 men, including 100 Spanish Cavalrymen and 200 foot soldiers. Adding to the fire power of Parilla’s force were two cannons with cannoneers, six wagon loads of powder and ammunition for cannons and small arms and a full supply train.

In mid-October 1759, Cdr. Parilla and his force approached the twin Taovayan city-states and began preparations for an attack upon them. According to Parilla, each of the “cities” was surrounded by a moat, filled with water crossable only at one point by an ankle-deep ford. The two fords were well protected by breastworks, rendering them almost impossible to attack. Each village was centered with a well constructed fortress of palisade logs, over which fluttered the French tricolor and a red and white banner Parilla took to be the Taovayan flag. Adjacent to and surrounding the fort were clusters of the grass houses of the Taovayans side-by-side with the animal skin tipis of the Comanches. Each of the cities also had, inside the moat, several gardens containing corn, beans, pumpkins and melons, along with numerous wells, making a siege also an impossibility. After studying the situation, Parilla decided to station his two cannons on a hill about one fourth mile from the San Teodoro southern moat, and using them to demoralize the enemy, to launch a simple frontal attack northward at the village.

As Commander Parilla began to set up forces for his attack, he noticed small bands of Indians crossing the ford and coming out of the village. But, as these small bands of Indians rode off in different directions after crossing the ford, Parilla and his subcommanders assumed them to be hunting or foraging parties. Parilla, after deploying his forces, ordered his cannoneers to open fire on the Indian village. But most of the cannon shots fell into the open area between the moat and the outermost clusters of dwellings and gardens. One lob did land in a garden, bursting several melons. The Indians within the compound, seeing how ineffective the cannon fire was, began to jeer and utter catcalls or to dance and wave their arms at the Spanish soldiery. Disgusted, Parilla ordered the cannons to cease fire, after only 11 rounds had been discharged from each of the big guns. He then ordered his infantry to move forward.

Out from the fort came a lone rider, mounted upon a magnificent horse and dressed entirely in white, whom Parilla assumed to be the leader of the Taovayan forces. As the Spanish infantrymen moved into range of the Indian rifles, a line of Taovayans suddenly burst from a breastworks just out of rifle range, raced to the edge of the moat, knelt and fired taking a heavy toll among the advancing Spaniards. After firing, this group of Taovayans raced back to the breastworks to pick up loaded rifles, passing still a second line of Indians racing the moat edge to fire at the oncoming Spanish. Fearing that his infantry line was about to break, Commander Parilla committed his 100 cavalry men to the battle to help shore up the faltering infantrymen. It was then that Parilla discovered he had made still another error in judgment, by thinking that the small bands of Indians observed leaving the city had been hunting parties. They had apparently met at some pre-arranged point outside the view of the Spaniards, formed into strike forces and now attacked the flanks of Parilla’s small army.

Caught in a withering crossfire, Parilla’s army was rapidly being cut to pieces, while the “white rider” wheeled his horse and chanted war orders to his Taovayan warriors. Many of the Spanish soldiers, both infantry and cavalry, began trying to surrender and begged for mercy, but the Indian attack continued without quarter. Suddenly the Spanish broke and what had been a battle line turned into sheer panic as Parilla’s army, still being chopped to pieces from behind, fled pell mell southward. Parilla was forced to abandon his cannons, his ammunition and most of his supply train and retreat as rapidly as possible to the south after his fleeing forces.

Several weeks later, it was a bedraggled group that staggered back into San Luis de Bejar. Of Parilla’s 300 man force, less than one third made it back to San Luis de Bejar, and many of these had festering and inflamed wounds that would eventually lead to their death. By early 1760, only about 60 veterans of the march to San Teodoro” were still alive to tell of the horrors of the battle with the Taovayans. Of course, the English colonists on the Eastern Seaboard of North America, even if they had heard of the battle of San Teodoro and San Bernardo, paid little attention to the event. They were involved in a war of their own, which in your history books is recorded as the French & Indian War and which the French called the Seven Year War.

Parilla’s defeat was also an exercise in futility in still another way. Four years later, at the end of the Seven Years (or French & Indian) War in 1763, the Spanish king demanded reparations from the French crown for aid given to France during that war. So, as payment to Spain for help in the war, France ceded all of its claims in Louisiana Territory to Spain as part of the Treaty of 1863. France got its claims to Louisiana Territory back from Spain in 1800 through the Treaty of San Ildefonso, only to sell it to the United States in 1803.