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A Place to Call Home

Artist's deptiction of the removal of the Indians from Texas
From Walter Prescott Webb, 1935, Texas Rangers: A Century of Frontier Defense.
prairie north of the Brazos
Prairie north of the Brazos River through which the U.S. Troops escorted the Caddo, Anadarko, Hainai, and a few Wichita and Delaware in 1859 on their way to Indian Territory. The troops protected the Indians from vigilante settlers. Photo by Susan Dial.

For twenty years following the 1835 Treaty ceding Caddo lands in Louisiana to the United States, the people of the ancient Caddo Nation were without a safe place to call home. In 1855, the State of Texas permitted the United States government to open an Indian reservation on the Brazos River in present Young County. The Caddo, Anadarko, and Hainai in Texas, along with fragments of Wichita and Delaware tribes, moved there, believing they would have a safe, permanent home. That prospect was shattered late in 1859. Caddos had good friends among established frontier settlers who knew them well, but another group of Texans had an avowed intent to destroy the Brazos Reserve and exterminate all Indians. State authorities failed to give support against their violent activities. Major Robert Neighbors, Special Agent for Texas Indians, acknowledged the impossibility of protecting the Reserve Indians without armed conflict between U.S. troops and a mob of three to four hundred lawless men. He urged the U. S. Commissioner of Indian Affairs to authorize a removal to the safety of Indian Territory. The Commissioner approved the exodus from Texas but thought it was first necessary to build a military post in the district to be occupied. Before that could be accomplished, the situation on the Brazos reached crisis and the order was issued for immediate removal.

mesquite-covered prairie
The mesquite-covered prairie in Young County, Texas near where the Brazos Reserve existed for a few short years. Photo by Susan Dial.

Click images to enlarge


Grandpa and grandma said they made a treaty other there and my [husband's] father's brother was interpreter. . . they just said they had to move out of Louisiana to come to Oklahoma somewhere and when they brought them instead of bringing them here they brought them to Texas. . . and from there they had to move from Texas because the people were mean to them.

Sippie Edmonds 1968

I heard my mother, many times. They talked about the hard times they used to have. . . she said all this was told by her mother. . . I heard them talking that they moved to the Brazos River. . . I heard them talk about when they were in Texas that they, the government, wanted them to move and they had the soldiers to move them out of Texas. . . they were driven out of Texas . . . To Oklahoma . . . that the soldiers was very kind to them and they were the ones that moved them . . . a lot of them had to walk and some horseback and they really had a hard time.

Caroline Bird 1968

Lange map of 1854
Lange map of 1854 showing Texas and the Indian Territory (published in Germany). Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.
Jackson map of 1869
1869 map by Henry Jackson showing the Indian Territory. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.

Indian Territory 1859-1867

Caddos, Anadarkos, and Hainais camping on the south bank of the Washita River near present day Anadarko, Oklahoma on August 17, 1859, were resting from an arduous journey. They had traveled 170 miles since leaving their reservation homes in Texas on the first day of August. There had been one birth and one death along the way. The escort of federal troops that protected them from attack by Texans below Red River and bands of angry Comanche and Kiowa Indians roaming north of the River had been recalled to their Texas post. Major Neighbors issued the last of the rations supplied for their flight. He would leave as soon as their new agent arrived.

The trail from the Texas Brazos Reserve brought the Caddo, Anadarko, and Hainai families to a part of Indian Territory known as the Leased District. The area acquired the designation in 1855 when the Choctaw-Chickasaw Nations leased that part of their assigned lands to the United States for the purpose of providing a home for the Wichita and "such other tribes of Indians as the Government may desire to locate therein". S. A. Blain, previously appointed U. S. Agent for the Wichita, unexpectedly had the Caddos, Anadarkos, and Hainai added to his Wichita Agency. Historical confusion would have been avoided if it had been properly designated as the Wichita-Caddo Agency.

Major Neighbors turned his census over to Blain—462 Caddos, Anadakos, and Hainais. Not counted were those who fled the Brazos Agency after attacks by Texans in 1857. Neighbors also gave Blain an inventory of property left behind on the Brazos Reserve. The inventory included 76 grass and log houses valued at $3545. The self-proclaimed protectors of Texas ranging the perimeter of the Reserve had made it too dangerous for Caddos to gather all their livestock. He fully expected that Indian owners would be reimbursed for their forfeited property and stock.

Kemble map of 1857
Kemble map of 1857 showing north Texas and the southern Indian Territory. The"Caddos, Wacos, and Andakas" are shown in north Texas well north of the Brazos Reservation but south of the Red River. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.
detail of Jackson map of 1869
Detail of 1869 Henry Jackson map showing area where Caddo and Wichita peoples moved in 1859. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.

. . .when they moved them out of Texas to Oklahoma . . .they had to take only a few things that they could carry in their wagons, and it was quite a struggle for them to travel in those days . . . our mother told of hearing her mother telling of moving a sow and pigs. They carried the pigs in the wagon and the old sow walked until her feet bled and they had to make room in the wagon for her. . . .my mother would always speak and look forward to the time when the government would reimburse them and she would refer to it as a bag of money hanging on a rope, and the rope was just about to break and of course my brother and I would tease her and tell her that the rope was really cable, and that cables were seldom broken. We made it a joke, but now as I am reaching the age of 60 I wonder if truly it might be a cable.

Maude Simmons, 1968

Fort Arbuckle
Old Fort Arbuckle in Indian Territory established 1851, closed 1870.

Reunion and Resettlement

A month before their final departure from Texas, Major Neighbors brought head men from the Brazos Reserve to Fort Arbuckle in Indian Territory for a council with the Southern Superintendent of Indian Affairs. The Council brought together the Caddos who moved to Texas soon after their Louisiana homeland was ceded to the United States in 1835, and a group detained in Louisiana until 1840. The latter group became known as Whitebead Caddos because an elder woman named Whitebead held the group together during a long journey across Indian Territory.

white beads
White beads, like these trade beads, were the namesake of the elder Caddo woman who held her group together on the journey across Indian Territory in 1840.

They stopped there, Kiamiche, and just the Whitebeads, they stopped round what you call Pauls Valley. They come across—just like you cut through the pasture. They did not follow the road, they angled like, follow this creek. They call it Washita today. From Red River, they just kinda cut across and follow Washita.

Julia Edge, Whitebead descendent, 1978


The Whitebeads first went to old Red River Caddo country near the mouth of the Kiamichi River. It was no longer Caddo country when they arrived. It was Choctaw country, part of the Indian Territory assigned to the Choctaw Nation by treaty with the United States in 1830. The arrival of the Caddos was tolerated but resented by Choctaws. Traveling on west, the Whitebeads came to Fort Washita, stayed a while, then went on up the Washita River to settle on Wildhorse Creek. They were living eighteen miles below Fort Arbuckle when Neighbors escorted headmen from Texas to the council held there. The present Oklahoma town of Whitebead west of Pauls Valley is the approximate site their former community.

The council at Fort Arbuckle convened June 30, 1859. Superintendent Elias Rector had just returned from an exploration to locate sites for the new agency, a military post, and tracts of land suitable for settlement by the Caddos being moved from Texas, the Whitebead Caddos, and the Wichitas. Fear of Comanche attack had caused the Wichitas to take refuge near Fort Arbuckle in October 1858.

Rector and Neighbors "fully conferred" before opening the council. Then, speaking to the gathered chiefs and headmen, they expressed regret for the hasty removal from Texas, assured payment for all losses incurred, and pledged that after removal they and their children would live in a country "as long as the waters should run, protected from all harm by the United States.

Photo of Julia Edge
Julia Edge, Whitebead descendent; Whitebead Caddos were among the last to leave the ancient territory of the Caddo Nation. Photo by Cecile Carter.
map of Fort Arbuckle and surrounding territory
The Whitebead Caddos followed the Washita River and formed a community near Fort Arbuckle. If you look closely, the Whitebead community is depicted on this 1869 map by Henry Jackson (just south of Washita River). Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.

the great pain and regret felt by the government at being compelled so hastily to remove those in Texas to another country; but assured them that they would be paid for all losses thus incurred; and that, after removal, they would occupy a country belonging to the United States, and not within any State, where none could intrude upon them; and they would remain, they and their children, as long as the waters should run, protected from all harm by the United States.

Washita River
The Washita River near Anadarko, Oklahoma where the Caddo settled in 1859. Photo by Cecile Carter.
cemetery at Ft. Belknap
Cemetery at Fort Belknap where Major Neighbors is buried. Photo by Susan Dial
Fannie Brown house
A late 1800s Caddo wood-plank house still standing in 1978. Photo by Cecile Carter, whose Great Grandmother, Fannie Brown, lived in the house.

Rector recommended a site on the south side of the Washita River for the Agency. The "Texas Indians" (Caddo, Anadarko, Hainai, and Delaware intermarried with them) could locate their homes above and below the agency or, if they wished-along Sugar Creek on the north side of the Washita where the Whitebead Caddos and Delawares living among them indicated they wanted to settle. The chiefs and headmen were already familiar with the country described, they trusted the words spoken by Neighbors and Rector and so accepted the Fort Arbuckle Agreement concluded July 1, 1859. Though descriptions of the proceedings and specific details of the agreement were recorded in government reports, no formal document was written and signed. It was many years before a permanent boundary of the land assigned to the Wichita, the Caddo, and their affiliated tribes was officially defined.

Major Neighbors, who never failed to back Caddo efforts to lead peaceful, settled lives on the Brazos Reserve, transferred their care to Agent Samuel Blain and left for Texas on September 6. Eight days later he walked into the town of Belknap where he was fatally shot by a white man who hated him for being a friend of the Indians.

The first Agency building was located near the present town of Fort Cobb. The military post, Fort Cobb, was established October 1, 1859, one mile east of the present town with that name. Assured of protection from marauding Kiowas and Comanches, the Caddos, Anadarko, and Hainai selected home sites and set to work building shelter for the winter.

Neither the weather nor events forecast prosperous settlement during the first year. The thermometer reading at Fort Cobb fell to 5 degrees below freezing in February and rose to 115 degrees in August. No crop could be raised for the first winter. Deer, turkey, and a great number of buffalo ranged the area but hunting was hampered by a shortage of horses and weapons. Starvation was staved off by government rations. Raiding Kiowas and Comanches and recurring reports of threats and invasion by Texas frontiersmen kept the Agency tribes in an anxious state.

Despite such difficulties, Caddos managed to build 23 "picket houses" covered in grass, 18 log or plank houses. Anadarko constructed 33 "picket houses" covered in grass, five board houses. Iesh (Jose Maria) of the Anadarkos, Tinah of the Caddos, and Showetat (Caddo George Washington) of the Whitebead Caddos each had log houses built for them.

vicinity of Fort Cobb
Vicinity of Fort Cobb, where the first Wichita Agency building was located and near which many Caddo settled. The military post, Fort Cobb, was established October 1, 1859, one mile east of the present town with that name. 1869 map by Henry Jackson. Courtesy David Rumsey Map Collection.
marker at grave of Major Neighbors
Marker at grave of Major S. Robert Neighbors, a man whose fairness as an Indian Agent cost him his life. Photo by Susan Dial
picket-wall house
This picket-wall house in Chief Long Hat's camp is probably very similar to the 33 "picket houses covered in grass" that the Andadarko built soon after moving to Indian Territory. 1872 photograph by William Soule, courtesy Smithsonian Institution.

There are three different kinds of houses that were used by the Caddos. The log cabin, the grass house, and the Bark house. All of the Caddo houses were oblong, and all faced the east. The log cabins were very much like a white person's with doors on any side, but always one in the east and west. The grass house differs from the Wichita's' by having a door in both the east and west, while theirs have only the one in the east and their houses were round. The Caddos also had openings rather high up on the north and south for air. The bark house was not really made of bark but it was roofed with bark. The walls were made of split logs stood on end and plastered with clay and cattail reeds. These reeds were ground to a pulp and mixed with the clay. On the top of the house there was a frame made of slippery elm and on this the bark was fastened. The bark had to be well seasoned. It had to be kept flat while seasoning so it wouldn't warp. It usually took several months for the bark to season. These houses had doors only in the east and west. The doors to the houses were made of cedar if it could be gotten, if not they used dogwood.

Mrs. Frank Cussins, daughter of Tall Woman who was the last surviving Caddo Indian woman who came over the Trail of Tears

George Washington
George Washington, Whitebead Caddo leader, was at the head of the Caddo Frontier Brigade during the Civil War. 1870s photograph taken at Fort Still by William Soule. Courtesy Oklahoma Historical Society.

By September 1860 they had cultivated seventy-three and a half acres.

The Civil War Years 1861-1867

Peace, however, was not to be cultivated. The Civil War intervened. Union troops at Forts Washita, Arbuckle and Cobb were ordered to Fort Leavenworth, Kansas on April 17, 1861.Confederate troops from Texas established headquarters at the Agency near Fort Cobb. Still fresh memories of maltreatment by Texas troops compelled most Caddos, Anadarkos, and Hainais to seek refuge in Union controlled Kansas. Some sought safety as far away as Colorado. Smaller numbers went to live with the Seminoles in Indian Territory or to Whitebead Hill among the Chickasaws. A few could not let go of the place where it was promised, "they would remain, they and their children, as long as the waters should run". They signed a Confederate agreement that promised protection, food and supplies, and continued residence on their assigned lands in Indian Territory.

Caddo George Washington, leader of the Whitebead Caddos, Caddo George Washington served as Captain of the Indian spies the Confederates mustered to protect the Agency. Near the end of the War, when Confederate military authorities organized a Reserve Squadron of Cavalry to protect frontier Chickasaw settlements from marauding Comanches, he held the rank of major in command of two-companies designated as the Caddo Frontier Guard. The venerable Anadarko Chief Jose Maria, who honorably struggled to maintain peace during the turbulent years in Texas, is described as a sub-chief and Captain of the Caddo Frontier Guard. Caddos say he died before the Civil war. No matter who, Caddos soon recognized that the Confederate government could not or would not meet its obligations.

Five years of hunger, severe weather exposure, and disease took their toll before those who followed the federal troops into Kansas were escorted back to their Indian Territory home in 1867. They returned to find houses ruined, fields destroyed, and great portions of their land assigned to other, less peaceful, tribes. Though destitute and physically weakened, they set to work rebuilding the Caddo Nation.

Follow Caddo History

land designations after Arbuckle Agreement
The Federal Government gave large sections of land first assigned to the Wichita-Caddo and affiliated tribes in the 1859 Arbuckle Agreement to warring Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes who signed peace treaties.
"Soldiers," a painting by T.C. Cannon, son of a Kiowa father and a Caddo mother. Courtesy of the Tee Cee Cannon Estate and Joyce Cannon Yi, estate executor.
Washita River
Edward Curtis photo of Washita River.