Roger Mills County History
“Free land, Cheyenne Arapaho Country, open noon, April 19, bring saddle, can borrow horse” read the telegram received by one prospective land runner from his brother. He hastily traveled to Texas, borrowed a horse and met his brother. Toward the evening of April 18, the weather turned colder. A bunch of cowboys, ranchers, their families and businessmen, sat around campfires too excited to sleep. Up at the crack of dawn on the big day, it was spitting snow, with an overcast and misty sky. At noon the cavalrymen fired their guns and it was the beginning of one of the greatest horse races ever run. There were people in wagons, on horse back and on foot; each carrying their stake with their mark on it, trying to be first to place that stake in the best piece of land they could find. After staking their 160 acres, they picked up a corner stake, which had the section number on it. After living on their land for five years and making improvements, they were able to receive the title. Because the government sent men to interview the homesteader and two of his neighbors to verify these events had happened; it sometimes took as many as eight or ten years before a land runner would receive his patent. (The interview was recorded and can be obtained from the National Archives by requesting Application #84 at http://www.archives.gov/contact/inquire-form.html).
Every five years Cheyenne celebrates the land run with an Old Settlers Reunion. This began in 1912 and continues today with a week of old-fashioned events; such as fiddlers and whiskers contests, style show, quilt show, parade, rodeo, dances, etc. The little town of Cheyenne swells from 900 to several thousand people. The Old Settlers’ Queen must be from the lineage of a land runner. We remember our pioneers and their struggles.
Cheyenne was incorporated after an election on December 15, 1908 in which the first county officials were elected. Threatened by the loss of the county seat to a newly established town (Strong City) at the end of a railroad line, Cheyenne’s businessmen rallied and built their own tracks in 1912, connecting these two points. This saved Cheyenne as the county seat and has never been repeated in America’s history.
Our county experienced a gas boom in the 1980’s to a bust by 1986. Today we have returned to a mini-boom.
Farming and ranching have been the backbone of this county since its settlement. Wildlife is in abundance and we have found ourselves to be a hunter’s paradise full of deer, turkey and quail.
The Washita Battlefield National Historic Site is west of Cheyenne where Lt. Col. George A. Custer and Chief Black Kettle engaged in a skirmish at dawn on November 27, 1868 at the time of the Plains and Indians Wars.
We have seven museums in our Cheyenne City Park dedicated to preserving our history—our heritage. They are: Santa Fe Depot Museum, Chapel, Roll One Room School, Strong City-Kendall Townsite Log Cabin, Slief House, Veterans and Communities Museum and the Pioneer Museum.
From a rugged pioneer beginning, we have passed from dugout days through a time of depression, drought, dustbowls and floods. The strength of our county lies in the continuing pioneer spirit of our people.
Who was Roger Mills?
Roger Quarles MILLS was the son of Charles Henley and Tabitha (DANIEL) MILLS. He was born in Todd County, KY on 30 March 1832. Later MILLS moved to Jefferson, Texas and then to Palestine, where he studied law. He was an engrossing clerk for the Fourth Texas Legislature. After being admitted to the Texas bar in 1852, he began his law practice in Corsicana, Texas. Later he represented Navarro County in the House of the Seventh Texas Legislature. Many families who made the run into Roger Mills County or later moved here were from Navarro County, TX. They and others were instrumental in the naming of Roger Mills County.
From 1873 until his resignation in 1892, MILLS represented Texas in the U. S. House of Representatives. In 1887, he became chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. He wrote the Mills Tariff Bill in 1888. MILLS, against Prohibition and free sliver, was defeated fir the Speakership in the Fifty-Second Congress. In 1892 MILLS was elected to the U. S. Senate to fill a vacancy and was re-elected the next year. He retired at the end of his term in 1899 and returned to Corsicana .
On January 7, 1858, Roger MILLS married Caroline R. JONES. They became the parents of five children. MILLS wrote various essays including "The Speakership" and "The Gladstone and Blaine Controversy." Washington and Lee University gave him an honorary LL.D. degree in 1894. He died on 2 September 1911 and was buried in Oakwood Cemetery in Austin, Texas.
Biography from "A 100-Year History of Cheyenne and Roger Mills County, Oklahoma". Used with permission.