An 1892 manuscript plan of Dover Oklahoma, perhaps the oldest surviving plan of this important town on the Chisholm Trail. Such early manuscript plans of Oklahoma towns are very rarely encountered on the market.
In the late 19th century drovers moved vast herds of cattle along the Chisholm Trail from Texas to Kansas, from whence they were shipped by rail to Eastern stockyards. In the late 1860s or early 1870s the Collins Cattle Company built a ranch northeast of where the Trail crossed the Cimarron River, in what was then known as the Indian Territory. The ranch changed hands a couple of times, eventually coming under the ownership of “a licensed Indian trader named John G. Chapin, a veteran of the northern army from Oquawka, Ill.” (Mitchell) Chapin established a trading post and post office, known variously as “Red Wing” and “Red Fork,” after the nearby Cimarron River.
During the Land Run of April 1889, Chapin filed a claim for the quarter-section (160 acres) of land on which the Red Wing sat. One source asserts that the Federal Government confirmed his title in 1896 (Everett), while another asserts that Chapin’s status as a “Sooner”—that is, a resident of the area prior to April 1889, as such ineligible to claim land—rendered his claim problematic for many years. (Mitchell) In any event, the area’s development was given further impetus by the arrival in October 1889 of the Kansas and Nebraska Railway (owned by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific), whose track was laid directly through Chapin’s claim. On May 2, 1890 the Oklahoma Territory and Kingfisher County (where Dover was and is located) were established by act of Congress. One writer gives a colorful description of the area at the time:
“It was a rendezvous for cowboys and Indians and a camp ground for freighters and drovers on the trails. From the top of the sand hills west of the railroad at the southwest corner of town, Cheyenne Indians watched for trail herds coming up from the Lone Star country and begged “wohaw” [cattle?] from the cowboys. Experience had taught trail drivers that disappointed Indians had ways of stampeding their herds and that it was better to give them a beef or two than to run the risk of a midnight stampede. Bull Bear, Old Bull, Roman Nose, and even Black Kettle and Heap O’Birds, were by no means strangers at Red Fork. To the great open spaces also came certain other gentry who found the climate back in the states growing too hot for their comfort, and decided to emigrate. Some of these boys changed their ways and their names and became good citizens. Others of them turned to horse stealing, cattle rustling, train robbing and general outlawry.” (Mitchell)
Unperturbed by his “Sooner” status and his dubious claim, Chapin (and perhaps others) sought to capitalize on the area’s development by changing the name of the settlement to Dover, establishing the Dover Townsite Company, and arranging for the platting of a new city on the Plains.
Plan of the CITY OF DOVER Kingfisher Co. Oklahoma.
Offered here is an 1892 plan of Dover, perhaps the original plat commissioned by Chapin or a very early copy thereof. The town has been laid out in the classic grid pattern seen on 1000s of western towns, subdivided into 56 numbered blocks, each of which has been further divided into individual lots. A few street names were included on the original map (Oak, Pearl, Pine and Hickory), with more names added in pencil by an early owner (Some of these, such as Chesnut and Cherry, are still in use today.) The layout is unrelieved by civic amenities such as parks or squares, or even a block allocated for a church, but the all-important depot of the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific Railroad is included. It’s worth noting that in April 1895 Dover was the site of the last robbery by the Wild Bunch gang, a failed attempt on a Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific train, after which Dalton Gang alum “Tulsa Jack” was killed by a posse.
The plan was drawn in June 1892 by one N V. Cook, at the time the Surveyor of Kingfisher County. Oddly, the inscription at lower left certifies that it was recorded and notarized by B.C. Wells, Notary Public, in Neosho County, Kansas in May 1893… more than 200 miles distant. Apparently by then Cook had already left Oklahoma and moved to Neosho County, Kansas:
“The friends of N. V. Cook, of Walnut Grove township, are urging his claims for surveyor on the Populist ticket, and from what we can learn of him, he would make a strong candidate. The Coming Events of Enid, Okla. has the following to say of him: “N. V. Cook, formerly an old and well known resident of Oklahoma, is being pushed by his friends of Neosho county, Kansas, for County Surveyor. Bro. Cook served one term as Surveyor in Kingfisher county with credit to himself and the satisfaction of the people. He was the Alliance candidate, and although Kingfisher county was and has been a strong Republican county, he received a handsome majority. He was renominated by acclamation for a second term but at the opening of the A. and C. country received the contract of surveying and platting Ioland, the county seat of Day county, and in consequence, declined the nomination.” (Erie [Kansas] Sentinel, Sept. 6, 1895, p. 4)
In all, a rare cartographic survival from the colorful early years of the Oklahoma Territory.
Dianna Everett, “Dover” in The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed at okhistory.org, May 2020. J. E. Mitchell, “Red Fork Ranch at Present Site of Dover Was Trading Post”, in The Kingfisher (Okla.) Free Press (April 17, 1939), p. 38.