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An evolving Who’s Who of this Staked Plains/Palo Duro saga and its aftermaths (In progress… Please add your players!)

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John George Adair

A notorious Irish evictor who comes to America in 1866, marries a New York society widow, Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie, and, together, return to America where they invest royally in Texas Cattle Ranching. This allows them to maintain a high Victorian lifestyle based, ultimately, on Sheridan-Mackenzie’s dispossession of Commancheria from the Panhandle and, specifically, from Palo Duro Canyon.

Cornelia Wadsworth Ritchie Adair

A daughter of New York landed elites, Cornelia lost her husband and father, within a few month, to the US Civil War. As a mother rearing two children, she marries Adair in 1866 and leaves the US to live in Victorian style in Ireland and England. In 1874, they return on a buffalo safari, and she keeps a diary of the trip.

Francisco de Coronado

One of the famed Conquistadors who, in 1540-42, projected Spanish power into the “New World” by undertaking a great trek across the Staked Plains, the Panhandle, and Palo Duro Canyon in search of gold.

Charles Goodnight

A giant of Texas and Panhandle history and lore, this trailblazer and rancher entered a contract in 1876 with John Adair, and together launched and expanded the JA Ranch. He was bankrupted by the Panic of 1873, until Adair’s financing put him back on his ample feet. In his final years, wrongheaded investments led back to virtual bankruptcy. Ironically, he allied with Texas Confederates in the US Civil War; while his partner, Mrs. Adair, was daughter of a Yankee hero-general.

Jot Gunter and Bill Munson

The first purchase of the JA Ranch was 12,000 acres bought by Adair from surveyor-speculators Gunter and Munson at seventy-five cents per acre, with an option to buy 12,000 additional acres. Operating from their home office at Sherman in Grayson County, Jot Gunter, William B. Munson, Sr. filed or controlled major surveys across the Panhandle and with John S. Summerfield. They obtained title to vast tracts of Panhandle acreage by locating their land certificates and surveying on a partnership basis for other land companies. Using money borrowed in Illinois to supplement their own funds, they were among Texas’s foremost purchasers of land certificates. Adair and Goodnight had to go through them to have and consolidate the JA.

Quanah Parker.


Gen. John Sherman

In 1868, the top General of the Army, William “Tecumseh” Sherman, granted Phil Sheridan the power to ensure that “these Indians, the enemies of our race and of our civilization, shall not again be able to begin and carry on their barbarous warfare,” endorsing a harsh winter campaign, even if “it ends in the utter annihilation of these Indians.” Sherman extended Sheridan complete freedom of action, promising to “back you with my whole authority, and stand between you and any efforts that may be attempted in your rear to restrain your purpose or check your troops.”

Lt. Gen. Philip Sheridan.

After the Civil War, Gen. Phil Sheridan was headquartered in Chicago to oversee Reconstruction and Indian Management. To suppress Commancheria’s uprising of 1873-1874, he designed a multi-column, “strategy of convergence.” Simultaneously launched from five surrounding forts in the Texas Panhadle, it was carried out by General Nelson A. Miles, Col. Ranald “Bad Hand” Mackenzie, Lt. Col. John W. Davidson, Lt. Col. George B. Buell and Major William R. Price.

Col. Ranald “Bad Hand” Mackenzie.

In the Red River (Buffalo) War of 1874, Mackenzie uprooted the tribes from Palo Duro Canyon and destroyed a minimum of 1500 Commanche and Kiowa horses, breaking the back of their resistance; and - after that winter’s relentless “wrinkled-hand chase” - forcing their eventual return to the reservation and the forced exile of their leaders to Florida.