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Alfalfa County

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Alfalfa County, Oklahoma

The U Ranch Site
Map of the Cherokee Outlet

At the 1835 signing of the Treaty of New Echota, Georgia, by a faction of the Cherokee, the US government promised the tribe, in addition to new lands in the northeast corner of Indian Territory, a perpetual outlet from their territory to hunting grounds in the west. The New Echota treaty led to the forceable eviction of most of the Cherokee from their ancestral lands in the infamous march known as "The Trail of Tears" which claimed a variously estimated 2,000 to 8,000 of the 17,000 people removed to Oklahoma.

The 60 by 200 mile strip below the southern border of Kansas promised as a hunting outlet became known as the Cherokee Outlet or the Cherokee Strip. At the end of the Civil War, in which the Cherokees had joined the Confederacy, they were forced to re-negotiate their treaties. The new treaty signed in 1866 gave the US government power to take Cherokee lands which they did to settle other tribes including the Osage, Ponca, Kaw and Tonkawa. These tribes in the eastern part of the Outlet effectively closed off the land to the Cherokee. Meanwhile, Texas ranchers, using trails through the area to move cattle to Kansas markets, often allowed their cattle to linger along the trail to fatten on the good grasses.

The Cherokee who found themselves unable to use these lands began making an effort to collect grazing fees for all the cattle finding their way onto the Outlet. These collections were necessarily haphazard and cattlemen often moved their cattle for a short while up into Kansas to avoid paying fees.

One rancher who had moved into the Outlet instead chose to pay the fees and negotiate directly with the Cherokee. He was Major Andrew Drumm who had extensive experience in the cattle business and had become wealthy selling cattle to San Franciscans during the Gold Rush years. In 1874, Drumm selected as his ranch headquarters a location between the Salt Fork and Medicine Rivers, a location a few miles north of present day Cherokee, Oklahoma. This ranch covered 150,000 acres, and Drumm paid leasing fees to the Cherokee of 40 cents a head for cows, 25 cents for two-year old cattle and nothing for calves.

These arrangements between ranchers and the Cherokee came to the attention of the federal government when conflicts between ranchers forced the attention of the Department of Interior. Drumm and some other ranchers had begun using the recently invented barbed wire to fence off portions of the Outlet. The Cherokee approved of this development since it made it easier for them to collect the leasing fees they were owed and prevented non-paying cattlemen from using the rangeland. When a Kansas rancher complained to Interior that Drumm had fenced property for which the Kansas rancher had paid leasing fees, an investigation followed. Although Drumm prevailed, it was clear that pressures were building which threatened the large ranches of the area.

In 1883, Drumm and several other prominent ranchers met in Caldwell, Kansas to form an organization to protect the ranchers' interests. Called the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association, Drumm was elected a director of the group. He helped negotiate a lease agreement with the Cherokee for a five year lease for Outlet lands for the sum of $100,000 per year. Every six months, a lease payment of $50,000 in silver dollars was transported in wagons from Caldwell to Tahlequah.

Meanwhile, political pressures were building in Washington to open the Outlet to the so-called "Boomers." The Boomers believed the government should open unoccupied "Indian Territories" for settlement by farmers and homesteaders.

At the end of the five year lease, the Department of the Interior notified the Cherokee tribe that no leasing arrangement of the Outlet by the Cherokee was valid. The government negotiated a purchase of the 5 million acres from the Cherokee, who had been left with no other options, for $1.40 an acre. Eventually, the federal government ordered all permanent structures removed from the Outlet and in 1893 the Cherokee Strip Land Run took place.

Andrew Drumm, always an astute businessman, had already moved his cattle operation further south so that he did not have to dump his cattle on a depressed market as so many other ranchers had. His business interests were widespread and he eventually bought a house in Kansas City. At his death, his will founded the Drumm Institute in Independence, Missouri for the care of orphaned and indigent children. The Institute is still in operation today.


"Major Andrew Drumm: Cowman, Businessman, and Visionary," by Bonnie Haas and Joyce J. Bender, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 79, No. 1, 2001.

"Of Cattle and Corporations: The Rise, Progress, and Termination of the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association," by William W. Savage, Jr., Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 71, No. 2, 1993.

"The Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association," by Edward Everett Dale, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 5, No. 1, March, 1927.

"Range Riding in Oklahoma," by Ralph H. Records, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Volume 20, No. 2, June, 1942.

Number of Prehistoric Sites in Alfalfa County Identified by Time Period*

Chart of Prehistoric Sites in Alfalfa County, Oklahoma

*There are 20 sites identified in Alfalfa County at this date (August 2005). Eight of these are unaffiliated prehistoric, eight are historic, one is believed to be Plains Village (in the chart above) and three are of uncertain age. The lack of sites in Alfalfa County is believed to be a result of very little archaeological reconnaissance work having been done there rather than a reflection of the actual number of archaeological sites in the county.


Paleo = ?-8,000 BP / Archaic = 8,000-2,000 BP / Woodland = 2,000-1,000 BP / Village 1000-500 BP
BP (before present)


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