This factual story was recently published in the Fall 1997 edition of the
Oklahoma State Trooper
magazine. Darlene Platt is also the historian/writer for the history portion of
North Central Oklahoma Rooted in the Past - Growing for the Future
. "Triangle Country" was briefly mentioned as a sidebar in the book.(66-67H)
Here is the rest of the Story.
uring the days of America's Old West, the wide open frontier attracted numerous outlaws. The more adept of those who turned to crime and historically had the longest careers, quickly learned to find safe frontier havens. They found retreats like Hole-in-the-Wall, Wyoming where they could escape pursuing lawmen and posses. Frontier hide-outs provided them with seclusion and distanced them from lawmen and courts. There they were able to recover from wounds, rest and re-supply with some feeling of security, until their next undertaking. Set deep within Indian Territory, Oklahoma had it's own outlaw retreat. It was known as the "Triangle Country". Triangle Country was formed in 1876 when the Pawnee Indians were removed to the Cherokee Outlet. Their reservation divided the Outlet, placing 105,456 acres of heavily timbered, rolling hills east of their reservation. Named for its shape, the area was bordered on the north by the Arkansas River and Osage reservation while on the south it was bordered by the Creek reservation and the Red Fork (Cimarron) River. The rivers meet on the eastern edge forming the point of Triangle Country.
Triangle Country became well known to outlaws and gangs that preyed on surrounding communities. The Barker gang was one of the first to find security in area caves, their openings often times covered by dense brush and trees. The area provided cover and food for both outlaws and abundant game. Men like Bill Doolin, Tulsa Jack, Bitter Creek Newcombe, Charlie Pierce, Red Buck, Nick Nate, Sagebrush Johnny, Frank Holloway, the Dalton gang, and Cherokee Bill all considered the area a haven. Few lawmen would cross the reservations, and those who did had little luck finding the outlaws hiding places.
It was also the refuge of bootleggers from Arkansas City, Kansas, and what would become Payne County, Oklahoma Territory. Thieves robbed the rich bottom land of cedar trees for fence posts, a profitable business of the day. Boomers, considered by many as outlaws, invaded the area to settle illegal homesteads. Indians in the area policed their own but they had no jurisdiction over United States citizens. The native residents of the area lived by Indian laws and did not concern themselves with the white mans courts or the men that used the Triangle as a refuge. On the other hand, outlaws learned quickly to respect Indian laws.
Triangle Country was governed by the Cooweescooee District of the Cherokee tribe. Chief Dennis Bushyhead watched problems with Boomers and outlaws develop in the Outlet. The United States government, quick to make laws regarding the Outlet, was slow to enforce them. In an effort to protect Cherokee rights, Bushyhead requested that Colonel John W. "Cherokee" Jordan move to Triangle Country. Jordan, commissioned as a special agent for the Cherokee Nation, was a member of the Indian Police, and served as a United States military scout and United States deputy Marshal under Judge Issac Parker. Jordan was commissioned to "....enforce all presidential orders in the territory known as the Cherokee Strip and if necessary could call upon troops for assistance without formal requisition."
John W. "Cherokee" Jordan was born December 9,1843, six miles east of Talequah, Indian Territory, now Oklahoma. He was part Cherokee and an only child. Jordan was raised by his maternal grandmother after the death of his mother when he was the tender age of one. As a child he attended school at the Sacred Hearts Academy in Vinita, where he became well versed in both the English and Cherokee languages.
The Civil War erupted when Jordan was seventeen years old. Following in the steps of his grandfather Colonel William Bell and his great uncle General Stand Waite, Jordan served in the Confederate Army, 2nd Cherokee Cavalry under the command of Colonel William P. Adair, Stand Waite Brigade. His life almost came to an abrupt end on July 17, 1863 at the battle of Honey Springs, south of Muskogee on Elk Creek. As the battle raged, a minnie ball entered one side of his body and exited the other side. Critically wounded, Jordan was taken in by a lady that cared for him two months until his health returned. He always felt that if he had been taken to the field hospital that day he would not have survived. Jordan kept the regulation Confederate belt he wore that day with eleven stars surrounding the letters "C.S." and two non-regulation holes made by the minnie ball.
After the war Jordan went to Texas, where he married Sarah Thompson in 1866. The Jordan's returned to Indian Territory in 1873 with their three sons, Tom, Lee and Jim. Sarah died a short time later. Jordan married Tennessee Jane Riley on July 16,1882. The newly wed couple moved to Triangle Country accompanied by Lee Jordan and a full blood Cherokee named Will Keys. They arrived in Triangle Country on January 27,1883 and set to work building a dugout. It was later replaced by a cedar log home built in the fork of the Arkansas River at Cedar Creek. A sixteen square foot blockhouse of hewn timber was also constructed, with a second story jutting up in the middle and gunports under the eaves. It resembled a fort like the ones that dotted the prairie, and on several occasions while being attacked by assailants, the Jordan family sought the safety of the blockhouse.
In 1883 the Cherokee Nation leased Outlet lands to the Cherokee Livestock Association. Ed Hewins and Milt Bennett leased the 105,000 acres of the Triangle. They established the Bar-X-Bar ranch and grazed around ten to fifteen thousand head of cattle. The Bar-X-Bar was rumored to have employed many men of questionable character. Few questions were asked of men that appeared at the Bar-X-Bar. A general thought prevalent in the area was, "Men are known by what they are at the present and the past is a sealed book", making it impossible to distinguish cowboys from outlaws. Red Buck, Kid Newcombe, John McClain, Nick Nate, Sagebrush Johnny, Al and Frank Jennings, Charlie Pierce and Arkansas Jones were all said to have been employees at the ranch.
Jordan knew the outlaws who sought safety in Triangle Country. Formal law by incorporated bodies was overpowered due to isolation and self-preservation. Jordan instituted a simple code everyone was to live by. "We had an understanding in the Triangle that no crime was to be committed here and that men on the scout who sought safety here would find no foe among us." It went on to say that there would be no locked doors, tobacco could be found on the mantel and food in the pantry for those in need, but they were not to molest anything else. The informal law worked well for few crimes were ever committed in the Triangle. He told the outlaws he would not go out of his way to turn them in unless they brought it on themselves. Needless to say, he was well respected by them and they knew he meant what he said.
But remaining objective about the outlaws who frequented the Triangle Country, Jordan felt, Cherokee Bill was one that he considered "...the most cruel, the most criminally vicious..." He felt Cherokee Bill was "...never anything but an outlaw....a natural criminal without human sympathy."
Jordan maintained a high regard for three Bar-X-Bar employees, Bob and Grat Dalton and Bill Doolin. Bob and Grat Dalton both went on to carry deputy marshal commissions for Judge Issac Parker following the line of duty death in 1887 of their brother deputy marshal Frank Dalton. Bob, Grat and their younger brother Emmett cowboyed with Bill Doolin and it is possible the three often rode with Jordan to help police the Outlet. He considered the Daltons "...good officers...". Fate caused them to go on the "scout" when their pay was withheld by the United States government. When on the run they were good to those that helped them and they kept many friends that would help them when the need arose. Jordan said of Bill Doolin, "He was one of the quietest fellows you ever saw." He stated "I believe it was a false accusation that drove him to the bad." Jordan maintained an understanding with both the Daltons and Doolin that they could take what they needed according to the code but they were not to stay near his home or property. On one occasion while the Dalton's were on the run, they went to the Jordan home and replaced their worn out horses with some of Jordan's. He sent word to them that if they did not return his horses, he would join the posse that was looking for them. Legend has it that the horses were soon returned with an amount of cash tied to the mane of one of them. Throughout the years the Daltons maintained the code ofthe Triangle.
After Jordan surrendered his commission as a deputy United States Marshal, Heck Thomas and a posse arrived at the Jordan home in pursuit of the Daltons for robbing a train at Red Rock. Thomas and the posse rested and were well fed at the Jordan home. Thomas asked Jordan to ride with them in pursuit of the Daltons but he refused saying he was out of the business. He further said "...the boys were friends of mine, and I do not want to help." He went on to tell Thomas, "Furthermore you are on a cold trail. They (Daltons) went down into the breaks on the Cimarron." Knowing the area as he did, he warned Thomas "..you can't get them. Nobody has been able to get anyone out of there and they won't be taken alive. "
Thomas came to appreciate the unique nature of the Triangle and quickly understood what Jordan meant. Returning to the Jordan home empty handed, Thomas told Jordan, "I'm not setting myself up for a target." Jordan considered Boomers to be relentless outlaws. They wanted the Cherokee Outlet opened for white settlement and fought to get it open by way of invasion and court battles. They filed a suit in Fort Smith, Arkansas known as the Conell Rogers case. They claimed the Outlet lands had been abandoned by the Cherokees therefore it was "public domain" of the United States and should be opened for settlement. Federal Judge Issac Parker knew the Jordan family resided in Triangle Country and that Jordan was an active member and an agent of the Cherokee Nation. Parker ruled in favor of the Cherokees stating the Outlet had not been abandoned. He further ruled that cattlemen leasing the Outlet area were considered Cherokee agents and that the Outlet had been given to the Cherokees "perpetually" for their use. Angered Boomers decided to rid the Outlet of the Jordan family.
Unsuccessful with their court action a group of Boomers instigated an attack on the Jordan fort home. In the battle that followed, Jordan and his sons Lee and Jim, armed with Winchester rifles and ten-gauge shot guns, thwarted the attack. In the process they killed three Boomers from the security of the Jordan blockhouse.
By 1889, other Cherokee families had moved into the Outlet area. The Boomers once again tried to remove the Cherokees. They convinced the Acling Conunissioner of Indian Affairs, Robert V. Belt, to rule that the "...Cherokees had no right to locate farms in any part of the Outlet." Jordan responded to Indian Agent Leo E. Bennett stating "With the principle of Arnerican independence and the love of my family in my heart, I am compelled to refuse to surrender my house and sacred rights to an unjust cause. We own the land by the strongest possible title on earth and have strong treaty guarantee of possession and jurisdiction until sold." When the Outlet was later sold by the Cherokees to the United States, Jordan represented the Cherokee allottes.
Jordan was a founding father of the town of Cleveland, Oklahoma and the townspeople wanted to name the town after the modest man that helped build it. Jordan insisted they name the town after the president who signed the proclamation for settlement of the Cherokee Outlet. If the Colonel had not won out the Oklahoma town located on U.S. 64 between Tulsa and Pawnee would today be known as Jordan, Oklahoma.
Colonel Jordan and his family were precedent setters in the Cherokee Outlet. Their home was not only the first legal permanent residence in the Outlet, but also it is considered the only Indian fort ever built. Jordan's daughter, Dixie, born February 22, 1888 was the first legally born child in the Outlet. She was followed by four more children, all born in Triangle Country, today known as Pawnee County, Oklahoma.
Jordan died in his sleep November 27, 1923 after living a long life. Although little known today, he was an important Cherokee pioneer and made signification contributions to the settlement of that part of Indian Territory. In addition to being historically irnportant, he was a well-respected man who showed honor and integrity throughout the years. Citizens of Cleveland considered Jordan "...a warm hearted man, generous in spirit, charitable in disposition."
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