Lane Family - Pioneers in Cherokee Strip

Written by Ethyle Ballard, granddaughter of Edwin Carlton and Sarah Tesh Lane

In the summer of 1893 two young men left their homes in southern Kansas and journeyed across the wilderness which at that time was Indian Territory. They were in search of land for homes and a better life for their families.

They had been encouraged to make the trip by the announcement that the government would soon open the Cherokee Outlet for homesteading.

These two men, Edwin Lane and his brother-in-law, Alex Tesh, were guided across the Strip by a young half Indian boy, Henry Starr, a future brother-in-law of the notorious bandit queen, Belle Starr. The men looked over the land then went back to Kansas to await the opening of the Strip and to make arrangements for the ''run" and preparations for their families during their absence.

Edwin Carlton Lane (better known as Ed or E. C. Lane) was born Feb. 7,1860 near Springfield, Cass County, Illinois. His wife, Sarah Tesh Lane was born Aug.18, 1868 near Winston-Salem, North Carolina. They were married Mar. 4, 1886 in Sumner County, Kansas and lived on a farm near Belle Plaine.

Their children at the time of the opening of the Strip were: Shelby, born Feb. 15, 1887; Bessie, born May 26, 1888; David, born Sept. 27, 1889; and William, born Jan. 13, 1893.

Also living with the family at this time were two small nieces, Laura and Martha Tesh, children of Alex Tesh, whose wife had died. Also, Sarah's brother, Rufus Tesh. Later, Sarah's father, James Madison Tesh, who had been wounded in the Civil War would make his home with the Lane family.

Opening of the Strip

Finally the announcement came. September 16, 1893, would be the day.

A few days before the opening Ed Lane and Alex, along with James Tesh, 22 year old brother of Alex, rode across the Cheroke Outlet down the Chisolm Trail. The three men went to the home of Jim and Jennie Martin near Coyle, Okla. Jim Martin was an uncle of Sarah Lane, Alex and Jim Tesh. Coyle, home of the Martins, was in Old Oklahoma, which had been opened for settlement four years earlier.

The Chisolm Trail, a well traveled trace, had for a quarter of a century been a main north-south route across the west part of the Strip. The Chisolm Trail was written into history by the thousands of hoofs of Texas Longhorn cattle driven to Kansas railheads, and by the wheels of lumbering freight wagons, chuck wagons and stage coaches.

The Strip extended for 165 miles along the Kansas border an 58 miles south to the Old Oklahoma line. The Strip had been roughly surveyed 20 years earlier and blocked out into quarter sections.

It was legal to start the run from any point along the borders. But it was necessary to have a certificate from one of the land offices which had been set up at various points.

Long before the stated time - noon, Sept. 16, 1893 - a large crowd had gathered all along the borders. It was estimated that more than 30,000 land seekers were lined up along the Kansas line; 11,000 on the Orlando side; 9,000 along the south side and 5,000 at other points. Also several thousand onlookers had come to watch the spectacle.

Noon -- September 16, 1893

Finally noon came, guns sounded and the biggest land rush in history began. The race was on. Horseback riders were unseated; wagons overturned; bicycles were crushed and some land seekers on foot were trampled. There were buckboards, covered wagons, mules, men and women pushing carts loaded with household goods, and some were even riding cows. Tied to wagons were iron kettles, beer kegs, chicken coops, even feather beds.

The race lasted only a few hours when land seekers from the north began to meet those from the south. By nightfall it was estimated that 15O,OOO people were in the Strip or along the borders.

Perry, little more than a land office at noon was a brawling tent city of 25,000 by night. Aside from the land office, the most important place in town was the Buckhorn Bar in a circus tent, gayest of the 70 saloons in Perry.

But for every successful land seeker dozens were disappointed. By sundown there was a steady trek of unlucky ones making their way back. The next few days and weeks saw a steady stream of horseback riders, wagons and buggies going back up the Chisolm Trail to Kansas-- some to Nebraska and the Dakotas in search of cheap land.

Ed Lane and the two Tesh men made the run on horseback, starting near Orlando, Both Ed and Jim Tesh were fortunate. Ed staked a claim to the S.E. quarter of section 27 in what was later Walnut township. Jim claimed the S.E. quarter of section 28 a half mile west of the Lane claim. Alex was unable to find a claim but was soon able to buy out another homesteader and purchased the N.W. quarter of section 27, adjoining the claims of his brother Jim and his brother-in-law, Ed Lane.

In order to hold onto their claims it was necessary for homesteaders to stay on their land until the hordes of claim jumpers gave up and left. Also they had to begin improvements and get the land ready for spring planting.

Stillwater Creek ran across the west side of the Lane homestead. Ed made a dugout in a high bank above the creek. He began to clear the land and get the ground ready for planting. This was done mostly by hand and at best with horses and a walking plow. Ed was able to borrow a mowing machine from John Payne, who had settled a few miles south of the Lane claim and was able to cut enough good grass for winter hay.

In the meantime Sarah, the young wife and mother, was still in Kansas awaiting the return of her husband.

As soon as he could leave the claim Ed went back to get his family. And so the young family was together again and starting for their new home.

They Came in a Covered Wagon

Today we are inclined to think of the pioneers who traveled to new frontiers in covered wagons as being very romantic and on a big adventure. But how many today would have the stamina to endure such an experience much less find it glamourous.

It was winter when they started out in the covered wagon that would be, not only their transportation, but their home for many months.

In addition to the family, their bedding and few clothes, they had 1,000 lbs. of flour; stone jars of lard; crocks of lye soap; cooking utensils and a huge iron kettle; three extra horses; a coop with a few chickens; two cows and a cultivator.

When they arrived in Perry on the day before Christmas Ed had 35 in money. He spent 25 for Christmas candy for the children and arrived at their new home with only 10 in his pocket.

At the claim Shelby and Rufus slept in the dugout with Ed, Sarah, the two Tesh girls, Bessie and the two youngest boys slept crosswise on feather mattresses in the covered wagon overjet. Harvie, the Lane's fourth son, was born in the covered wagon overjet on Aug. 10, 1895.

The family had planned to build their new home just above the creek bank. But when they dug a well the water was bad. So they had to locate another place.

A black man named Graham told Ed that he could "witch for water" and could guarantee to strike water within 22 feet of the surface. Graham did witch for water and did locate an excellent water supply near the east side of the claim. Here the first home, a large log room over a cellar was built. Here the next two children were born, larvin on July 3, 1899 and Daisy on Feb. 10, 1901.

Later the larger white frame house was built and became Grandpa and Grandma Lane's house to many grandchildren who always looked forward to happy times there. Here Lillie was born Aug.3, 1903 and Melvin on July 30,1908. Melvin died in infancy.

The well located by "witching" was very important to the Lane family. It provided good cold water for drinking. It also provided water for cooking, washing clothes, and bathing and was the only refrigeration for many years. Grandma Lane would hang the cream in the well to cool. Then after the cream was churned the butter was hung back in the well to keep sweet and good. "Musk" mellons and watermellons were cooled in the tank by the well.

Harvie, first child born after the family moved to the Strip recalls some early neighbors. They were Carter Pole, Buchanion, Fillmore, John and Henry Payne, Maytield, Hoggett, Jennie Dawson, Settles, Graham, McQuain, Kellogg, Doxey, Frimire, Corbett, Dent, Randolph, Hamilton, Sinclair, Shockey, and Long.

Daisy Lane Berry, daughter of the Lanes, recalls her parents telling of a time when they were living in the dugout that a mad dog ran across the yard and darted into the cave. Grandpa had no choice except to grab his shotgun and shoot into the dugout killing the dog. Many black people settled in the area and when Ed Lane bought the NW quarter of section 26 in 1904 he deeded a half acre of the land to the Bethlehem Colored Missionary Baptist Church. The rock church that was built there held church services and revivals for many years.

Law enforcement in the new settlements was strict. Ed Lane served on the first jury trial held in Noble County. This was the Armstrong case where a man was tried and convicted. He was sentenced to hang for killing a man and taking his team and wagon.

One of the more colorful people in the neighborhood was Banjo Mayfield, a black man who lived across the creek. He took his banjo with him everywhere, even to the cotton fields. An enthusiastic crowd always gathered when he played on the streets of Perry or Stillwater. Banjo made up most of his songs and often combined his own words with songs he had heard. His theme song was "My Name Is Banjo Bill--Never Did Do No Work And Never Will", A favorite song was his own version of "Make It To My Shanty If I Can".

Lillie, youngest of the Lane children, recalls that the family often walked to Sunday School, about a mile "if we cut across", two miles by road. Sometimes they rode in the wagon.

There were Literary Meetings where different people recited poems or read essays. Sometimes there would be home talent plays, usually directed by the school teacher with loca1 people playing different characters. Also, the family attended revival meetings at different c'nurches and schools, usually riding in a wagon.

In the winter when the ponds and creeks were frozen the young people of the community organized skating parties. Among highlights of the year were Christmas programs and last day of school programs and picnics at Oak Hill school.

All year the Lane children looked forward to the 16th of September when there was a big celebration of the "Opening of the Strip." The family would get up early and start for Perry at 4 a.m. They would have a picnic on the courthouse lawn, play with other kids, listen to speeches, sometimes ride on the merry-go-round. They would stay until after the fireworks at night. Then they would pile into the wagon, sometimes sleeping on pallets, and would arrive home around 2 a.m.

Three of the Lane children, born in the Strip while it was still a territory' are still living in Oklahoma in 1980. They are Harvie Lane in Stillwater; Daisy (Mrs. Raymond) Berry in Ponca City; and Lillie Sloan in Bethany. The Lane farm, so rich in family tradition and so dear to the many Lane descendants who gather every year in a family reunion, now belongs to the City of Stillwater and is under the water of Lake McMurty.

Tesh Family Page