Sunday, June 17, 2012

Daisy Colony

Ponca City, Oklahoma-founded in 1892
after the United States opened the
Cherokee Outlet for white settlement
in the Cherokee Strip land run, the largest
land run in U.S. history 
Daisy Colony

Location: A few miles west of Ponca City, Oklahoma, USA

Founded: September 1892, though Annette (or Annetta) Daisy's homesteading efforts go back a few years before that

Closed: Unknown

This is a prime example of one random find leading to another. In other words, after tripping over Bethsheba, Oklahoma, I stumbled upon the Daisy Colony--yet another all-women community founded during the Oklahoma land runs of the 1890s. (While I am highlighting the effort of these white women to form their own communities, it is important to understand the entire context here, which was predicated on the forcible removal of the Cherokee and other native peoples from Oklahoma "Indian Territory" for European settlement.)

That said, meet the incredible Miss Annetta (or Annette) Daisy and her band of armed Amazons, who were biding their time till they could form their own town in Oklahoma.

From the New York Times, April 16, 1892:




EL RENO, Oklahoma, April 15.--The irrepressible Annetta Daisy, who has passed through two campaigns similar to this, again comes to the front in a new role--that of protector. She was shot in the rush of three years ago while "holding down" a claim which she had obtained by jumping from a running train. [Note: This apparently happened during the April 22, 1889 land rush near Edmund, Oklahoma. According to an earlier account in the New York Times, "She pluckily held her own, and, wounded as she was, secured her rifle and drove the intruder away. See link here.] On the eventful April 22 last year, she was thrown from a horse while rushing for a lot in Rocky Chandler and was nearly killed, but she secured the property she sought. [Note: The date is reported incorrectly. This latter incident actually took place in September 1891. See the New York Times story of September 30, 1891 here, which prematurely announced Daisy's death from the aforementioned horse.]

Now she heads a body of eleven female "sooners," all unmarried women, who are encamped in a deep gulch in County F, where they are awaiting the signal. They have escaped the military, so far, and will pretty surely succeed in their intentions, as their camp has been so carefully selected that the troops could pass within forty feet of it and not discover it. In the western part of that county is a series of wooden gulches, rendering the country almost impassable. In one of them, having an opening, but no outlet, and some 200 feet deep, is a little recess facing the south, so effectually concealed by the heavy cedars that not even a hundred searchers would suspect its existence. Here these venturesome young women have formed a camp, fully provisioned, where they propose to remain until they can make the runs for the tracts of land already selected, all in one body.

Each of the young women is armed with a rifle and a revolver, and as a whole they are fully capable of taking care of themselves. They have been there a week and have made for themselves shelters of cedar brush, where they are comfortable and free from all intrusion. Each woman has a horse, the grazing being excellent in the sheltered nook where they have a retreat.

Miss Daisy has been selected as Captain of this little company, her only purpose being to assist them in selecting homes in a new country. Among these women are two graduates from Smith College, cousins, and one graduate from Monticello College, Illinois.  All of them are educated and accustomed in the past to refined homes.

Miss Daisy came for provisions yesterday and departed this evening, intending to make a night's ride of fifty miles. She has with her a horse laden with necessities, with daily papers as dessert. She conversed freely with those of the newspaper correspondents with whom she became acquainted on a former occasion like this, but did not yield up the secret of her exact location. She had come in after a night's ride with a led horse, and after making all her purchases and securing a list of the allotments made to the Indians, she departed for her camp, expecting to reach it about 3 o'clock in the morning. Her company maintains military discipline, keeping an armed guard day and night. The members are not so fearful of intrusion as they are of the troops patrolling all the counties seeking for "sooners," who are ejected as soon as found. Miss Daisy said that her company was organized in Kansas City, and represents six States: Kentucky, 4; Missouri, 2; Texas, 1; Tennessee, 1; New-York, 2, and Illinois, 1. The eldest is twenty-six and the youngest twenty-four. Miss Daisy is a Kentuckian, although she has a claim and home in Oklahoma. She prides herself upon being able to outwit the troops and the army of Government officers who have been directed to exclude the speculators for the benefit of the "honest settlers," which she declares is a misnomer.

The combined capital of her company is $2,500. To prove it Miss Daisy showed her bank book. Their determination is to make homes for themselves, and in the prevailing style of Western men and women they propose to build a town, which appears to be an ambition that some time or another will be gratified. They do not want a town from which the male sex is to be excluded, but they have correspondents and friends who will join them in controlling it. When questioned regarding the "sooner" class of the law, Miss Daisy said they could conscientiously take oath, as they were not in lands upon which man can even live and they are simply camped there for self-protection.

There is no man in the camp, and if the party are accidentally discovered they will not permit any to even visit them. The known character of the Captain would prevent any man who has resided in this Territory any length of time from forcing his attentions upon them.

Given Annetta (or Annette) Daisy's easy familiarity with the press, it is not a big surprise to find out that she wrote for the newspapers herself. (This September 16, 1893 article in the New York Times on the Cherokee land run has been attributed to Daisy, though there is no byline.) 

In a December 23, 1893 article in the Star 
(in New Zealand!), the following progress report was provided on Daisy's Amazons:
A new feminine Utopia, from which man is excluded, has been established in the Cherokee Strip, U.S., and it bears the appropriate name of the Daisy Community. It was generally told in the newspapers prior to the opening of the Strip that Miss Annette Daisy, a Kentuckian of some celebrity as a boomer in previous land openings, was camped on the line with some forty spinsters and widows, and purposed [sic] leading them into the Strip to secure a section or so and establish a women's settlement. Miss Daisy and her project were lost sight of in the shuffle and scramble that followed the rush over the boarder. But the missionary found twenty-two of the Daisy Colonists settled on three-quarter sections, aggregating about 480 acres, a few miles west of Ponca. They had erected two houses and four rough shelters, and had begun to improve the land.  A horrid man secured the off quarter of the section, and they have been trying to buy him out, but he seems well pleased with his neighbours and declines to leave.

Then there was article that appeared in the Philadelphia Record on December 30, 1893:

Of the thirty-six women who, under the leadership of Miss Annette Daisy, made a run into the Cherokee Strip when it was opened last September, 22 have proved undaunted by the difficulties of their undertaking, and are busily engaged in perfecting a home with no man to make or mar. They are hauling the lumber themselves for a house of 15 rooms, which they will occupy, and are prepared to to do their own plowing, planting, etc. in the well-watered timbered section of 480 acres which they hold. They already have three teams, two cows, chickens and other stock, and neatly dressed in short skirts that come just below the knee, and are met by heavy woolen leggings that cover the legs from knee to ankle. They appear in fit condition to hold their own and carry out their plucky plan.

The same story appeared in the Daily Oklahoman, Edmond Sun-Democrat, and Cherokee Advocate (quoted here) in February 1894, and in many other papers as far away as Wanganui, New Zealand.

Ponca City (1930s)
This report, if accurate, suggests that the April 1892 homesteading effort (described in the long passage above regarding Daisy's Amazons) did not take, but that an effort commencing in September 1893 with a larger group did sustain itself--at least for a few months.

Some scholars have wondered if the Daisy Colony could have been the same settlement as Bathsheba, but since Bathsheba was reportedly long gone by 1894, that seems unlikely.

In the odd words of her premature 1891 obituary in the New York Times, Daisy was saluted as "a Kentucky girl and a Bohemian in every sense, with a spirit of gentleness in her little body that endeared her to all who came in contact with her." No doubt she was all of that and more.

Additional thoughts: Ever since I discovered Annette Daisy, I keep thinking how her life would make an amazing movie. Maybe the first-ever real lesbian Western? Not that Hollywood would touch it. But maybe some independent feminist and/or lesbian film maker?

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.