Oklahoma Genealogy Trails

The Story of Geronimo and Oklahoma

Geronimo, a Native American (Chiricahua Apache) man, skins a buffalo in Oklahoma. Spectators, some of whom wear feather headdresses, look on. One man holds a staff decorated with feathers. (abt 1909)

Source: Denver Public Library, Western  History Collection (used by permission)  however, newspaper accounts indicate 1905 

A Chiricahua Apache religious and military leader, Geronimo was born in the 1820s, perhaps near present Clifton, Arizona. His Apache name was Goyahkla (One Who Yawns). He achieved a reputation as a spiritual leader and tenacious fighter against those who threatened his people's ways of life. Later he was called Geronimo (Spanish for Jerome), most likely because of the way he fought in battle against Mexican soldiers who frantically called upon St. Jerome for help. He willingly accepted the name. Geronimo's hatred toward Mexicans intensified when Mexican troops killed his mother, wife, and children in 1850. In addition, after the U.S. Mexican War ended, and the United States entered the Southwest, Geronimo faced another enemy that threatened his tribe's existence.

He dreamed he could not be killed by a white man's bullet.  He dreamed he could not be killed by a Mexican's bullet. He even charged at an army armed with only a knife.  No matter how many bullets were shot at him, he was not hit. The soldiers cried to St. Jerome for mercy.  So Goyathlay was renamed "Geronimo." Geronimo took revenge for the death of his family. People were afraid of him and his warriors.  They shook when they heard he was coming.  They yelled a warning.  "Geronimo is on the war path!" Geronimo raided farms.  He saw farmers stealing his tribe's land. The United States wanted the land the Indians lived on. Many settlers were angry.  They felt good land was wasted on the Apache.  Geronimo fought the U.S. soldiers for many years.  He wanted to help his people. 

During the Apache wars Geronimo fought alongside Cochise and other tribal leaders. Their guerrilla-like raids and attacks forced the United States to negotiate treaties that confined Geronimo and his band to the San Carlos Reservation in the 1870s. Finding reservation life unacceptable, Geronimo escaped and resumed his raiding activities in Mexico and in the United States. Gen. George Crook and later Gen. Nelson A. Miles pursued the Apache leader for the next several years. Geronimo finally surrendered to Miles in September 1886.

As prisoners of war Geronimo and his followers were exiled, being sent first to Florida, then to Alabama, and finally to Fort Sill, Oklahoma Territory, in 1894.  Geronimo and 341 other Apache prisoners of war were brought to Fort Sill where they lived in villages on the range. Geronimo was granted permission to travel for a while with Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show and he even visited President Theodore Roosevelt.  Though considered a prisoners of war, the Native Americans did not spend time in cells. Instead, they took on life as farmers, though they always longed for the buffalo hunt. When they  arrived at  Fort Sill, Captain Scott was in charge, and he had houses built for them by the Government. They were also given, from the Government, cattle, hogs, turkeys and chickens. The Indians did not do well with the hogs. because they did not understand how to care for them, and not many Indians even at the present time keep hogs. They did better with the turkeys and chickens, but with these they still did not have as good luck as white men do. With the cattle they did very well indeed, and we like to raise them. They had a few horses also, and have did well with them.

"In the matter of selling our stock and grain there has been much misunderstanding. The Indians understood that the cattle were to be sold and the money given to them, but instead part of the money was given to the Indians and part of it is placed in what the officers call the "Apache Fund." We  had five different officers in charge of the Indians here and they have all ruled very much alike-not consulting the Apaches or even explaining to them. It may be that the Government ordered the officers in charge to put this cattle money into an Apache fund, I one time they complained and told Lieutenant Purington that I intended to report to the Government that he had taken some of my part of the cattle money and put it into the Apache Fund, he said he did not care if I did tell. Several years ago the issue of clothing ceased. This, too, may have been by the order of the Government, but the Apaches do not understand it. If there is an Apache Fund, it should some day be turned over to the Indians, or at least they should have an account of it, for it is their earnings. When General Miles last visited Fort Sill I asked to be relieved from labor on account of my age. I also remembered what General Miles had promised me in the treaty and told him of it. He said I need not work any more except when I wished to, and since that time I have not been detailed to do any work. I have worked a great deal, however, since then, for, although I am old, I like to work and help my people as much as I am able," words of Geronimo about His Own Story About A Prisioner of War.

  Still highly regarded as a leader by his people, Geronimo engaged in farming at Fort Sill. His fame grew, and he appeared at national events such as the 1898 Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in Omaha, the 1901 Pan-American Exposition in Buffalo, and the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. In 1905 he rode in Pres. Theodore Roosevelt's inauguration parade. Geronimo received money for his appearances at such events and even sold autographed pictures of himself and other signed items. Geronimo failed to convince the federal government to allow his people to return to their Arizona homeland. He died at Fort Sill on February 17, 1909 of pneumonia, and was buried in the fort's Apache cemetery. Legends say his people dug up his body that night.  They took him home to the Chiricahuas Mountains.  His grave is hidden in Arizona.  Some say the body of his favorite pony is buried in his grave at Fort Sill.

The town of Geronimo, Oklahoma, is named after this Apache brave. Today, soldiers jumping out of planes still yell "Geronimo!"  His name and his courage live on.

The Guardhouse at Ft Sill that Geronimo was first placed.

Geronimo’s wives were Alope, with whom he had three children, all of whom he lost to a Mexican raid in 1858.  After which he married Chee-hash-kish and had two children, Chappo and Dohn-say, then he took a second wife, Nana-tha-thith and her child were killed in a Mexican attack. He later had a wife named Zi-yeh at the same time as another wife, She-gha, one named Shtsha-she and later a wife named Ih-tedda. Some of his wives were captured women he took as a wife, such as the young Ih-tedda. Wives came and went, overlapping each other, being captured and brought into the family, lost, or even given up, as Geronimo did with Ih-tedda when he and his band were captured, at that time he kept his wife She-gha but not the younger wife, Ih-tedda. Geronimo’s last wife was Azul.

Geronimo's Wife, Taz-ayz-Slath, and Child


Governor Will Send Troops
to Prevent Cruelty to Animals--President Roosevelt Send a Telegram to Ferguson About It.

Special to The Oklahoman.
Washington, June 9--A protest against the buffalo hunt for the National Editorial association at ranch "101" near Bliss, Okla., in which it is said Indians will kill thirty-five of the herd, has been filed with the secretary of the Interior and Secretary of war by Daniel Beard, editor of Recreation, a New York publication.  Beard states there are only 350 buffalo in the United States, and he considers the killing of ten per cent of them merely to furnish a sensation an outrage.  He asks the secretary of the Interior to take steps to prevent the slaughter by Indians, and the secretary of war to issue an order directing troops at Fort Sill, who are said to have been detailed to participate in the hunt, to have nothing to do with it.  Secretary Hitchcock sent Beard this reply:  "Telegram relative to alleged proposed killing of buffalo at celebration to be held on 11th instant at Bliss, Okla., duly received.  Department had no previous knowledge of same and has not sanctioned it in any degree.  Application was made to commissioner of Indian affairs by Delegate McGuire of Oklahoma for permission for Chief Geronimo and 100 Cheyenne and Arapahoe Indians to attend the celebration for entertainment of editors of United States to be held at Miller Bros. ranch near Bliss, June 11 to 14, which was promptly denied by the commissioner by letter of May 5, last.  Have caused inquiry to be made of agent in charge of Ponca reservation, nearr Bliss, for any information obtainable concerning alleged celebration and slaughter of buffaloes."  Officals of war department said they knew nothing about United States troops taking part in a buffalo hunt.

Governor to Send Troops

Guthrie, Okla., June 9--Governor Ferguson today received a telegram from the president, saying that a protest had been filed with him by the president of the society for the prevention of cruelty to animals against the Indian dance and buffalo hunt to be given Sunday at the "101" ranch at Bliss, Okla.  Governor Ferguson has ordered two companies of the territorial militia to be on the ground Sunday to insist upon the prevention of cruelty to animals, which may result from the buffalo chase and the steer roping contest.
Source:  The Oklahoman June 10, 1905 Page 1

The grave site of Geronimo, his wife Zi-yeh (left) and daughter Eva Geronimo Godeley (right) are in the Apache Indian Cemetery inside Fort Sill.

LAWTON, Okla., Feb. 17, 1909--Geronimo, the Apache Indian chief, died of pneumonia to-day in the hospital at Fort Sill. He was nearly 90 years of age, and had been held at the Fort as a prisoner of war for many years. He will be buried in the Indian Cemetery tomorrow by the missionaries, the old chief having professed religion three years ago. As the leader of the warring Apaches of the Southwestern territories in pioneer days, Geronimo gained a reputation for cruelty and cunning never surpassed by that of any other American Indian chief. For more than twenty years he and his men were the terror of the country, always leaving a trail of bloodshed and devastation. The old chief was captured many times, but always got away again, until his final capture, in 1886, by a small command of infantry scouts under Capt. H.W. Lawton, who, as Major General, was killed at the head of his command in the Philippines, and Assistant Surgeon Leonard Wood, today in command of the Department of the East, with headquarters at Governors Island.  The capture was made in the Summer, after a long and very trying campaign of many months, in which Lawton and Wood gained a reputation which will be long remembered in the annals of the army. Geronimo was at first sent to Fort Pickens, but was later transferred to Fort Sill. Until a few years ago he did not give up the hope of some day returning to the leadership of the tribes of the Southwest, and in the early years of his imprisonment he made several attempts to escape.  Geronimo was a Chiricahua Apache, the son of Chal-o-Row of Mangus-Colorado, the war chief of the Warm Spring Apaches, whose career of murder and devastation through Arizona, New Mexico, and Northern Mexico in his day almost equaled that of his terrible son. According to stories told by the old Indian during his last days, he was crowned war chief of his tribe at the early age of 16. For many years he followed the lead of old Cochise, the hereditary chief of the Apaches, who died in 1875 and was succeeded by Natchez, his son, who, however, was soon displaced by Geronimo with his superior cunning and genius for the Indian method of warfare.  After trailing the band led by Geronimo for more than ten years Gen. Crook would probably have captured him in 1875 had he not been transferred to duty among the Utes just as success seemed to be near at hand. For seven years after this the situation in the Southwest was the worst ever faced by the settlers. Crook was sent back in 1883. A large body of troops was placed at his disposal, and in a month he had succeeded in driving Geronimo back to his reservation, capturing him and his men on the Mexican border. In 1885 Geronimo broke out again, and this time was surrounded by Crook in the Canon de los Embidos. But the Indians succeeded in slipping away, and Crook was removed and Nelson A. Miles placed in command. Miles had already gained a reputation as an Indian fighter, and while he did not exactly cut the field wires behind him to prevent interference from Washington, stories are told of the frequent disregard of troublesome messages. Lawton and Wood were placed in command of the scouts late in the Summer of 1885. They asked permission to take a picked body of men into the hostile territory and endeavor to run down Geronimo. Gen. Miles finally sent them off with many misgivings. There followed months of privation and hardships which were never forgotten by the men who went with the two young officers. They were gone nearly a year, Gen. Miles often not knowing even where they were or whether or not they had been destroyed by the enemy. On the night of Aug. 20, 1886, the General was sitting at the telegraph instrument in the office at Wilcox, Ariz., waiting for dispatches, when the key suddenly clicked off the news that Geronimo and his men had been surrounded at the junction of the San Bernardino and Baische Rivers, near the Mexican border. Miles hastened there and met the chief on his way north under guard of Lawton. The old warrior was surrounded by about 400 bucks, squaws, papooses, and dogs. They had little else than their blankets and tent poles, and as Gen. Miles afterward stated in his memoirs, "The wily old chief had evidently decided to give up warfare for a time and live on the Government until his tribes gained sufficient strength to return to the warpath." Gen. Miles writes: "Every one at Washington had now become convinced that there was no good in the old chief, and he was, in fact, one of the lowest and most cruel of the savages of the American continent." The people of the West demanded that he be not allowed to go back to the reservation. He and his bucks were accordingly sent to Fort Pickens and the squaws and papooses to Fort Marion, Florida. It was finally decided to keep Geronimo confined as a prisoner of war. His desire to get back to the West was so pitiful, however, that he was transferred to Fort Sill, where he spent the remainder of his days. Gen. Wood tells an interesting anecdote of an incident which occurred one afternoon when he was guarding the old chief while Lawton went in search of his command, the location of which he had lost soon after the surrender: "About 2 o'clock in the afternoon the old Indian came to me and asked to see my rifle. It was a Hotchkiss, and he said he had never seen its mechanism. When he asked me for the gun and some ammunition I must confess I felt a little nervous, for I thought it might be a device to get hold of one of our weapons. I made no objection, however, and let him have it, showing him how to use it. He fired at a mark, just missing one of his own men who was passing. This he regarded as a great joke, rolling on the ground and laughing heartily and shouting, 'Good gun.'" Gen. Miles, in his memoirs, describes his first impression of Geronimo when he was brought into camp by Lawton, thus: "He was one of the brightest, most resolute, determined-looking men that I have ever encountered. He had the clearest, sharpest dark eye I think I have ever seen, unless it was that of Gen. Sherman."

Says That General Miles Did Not Capture Him, as Claimed--Never Had But One Wife---Only a Leader in War---Presents Unique Appearance

Special to the Oklahoman.
Lawton, O. T., April 16,-Geronimo denies the statement of General Miles that the general captured him.  The old warrior says that somewhere up in the mountains when he was on the war path two white came to him and told him General Miles wanted to see him.  The men accompanied him to the camp of the general and he was made a prisoner.  Geronimo says he thinks it was in Arizona, the territory of his birth.  Anyway, he sait it was up in the mountains.  He says he submitted to the arrest and went along like a little man.  "He is learning to talk English," said one of the Apache tribe in speaking of the old chief today.  "People have said he could talk English but was too modest to talk to the white man.  But he can't talk and sometimes says he wishes he could.  He talks Spanish a little, but he only delights in talking in his native tongue and only to members of the tribe."  The tribal relations of the Apaches have been dissolved and they no longer look upon Geronimo as their chief.  They consider him as a childish old man who is too senile to advise them.  It is a fact that he was never the chief of the tribe but only a leader in war.  To his guidance all submitted and not one of the questioned his authority.  But since he has been a prisoner of war and the Apaches have become civilized Indians he is no more to them than an aged grandfather whom they feel bound to protect and support, said that he has several wives but is disputed by members of the Apache tribe.  The wife who recently died was the only one he had.  There may have been others before her, but Geronimo is a widower indeed now.  He has one daughter away at the Indian school and one, whose age is nine, is with the Indians on the reservation attending the Apache mission school.  The old warrior lives among different Indians at various places on the reservation.  He spends his time in making bows and arrows and other trinkets to sell on the streets of Lawton and in rambline over the prairies and along the streams.  His bows and arrows are readily sold, not only to visitors who chance to meet him on the street but to residents of the city who desire them to send away to the states or to keep as souvenirs of having met and dealt with Geronimo.  His figure, while a common one on the street, is very conspicuous and around him crowds gather and purchase his trinkets and attempt to get him to talk.  He appears to be pleased with the honor shown him and with a no saba smiles in answer to all inquiries.  He is quite often asked to give an exhibition of his skill as a marksman with the bow.  This he readily consents to do provided a nickle is made the target and is to become his own in case he hits it.  His nerve is steady and he makes but few failures at the mark.  Many a man has been made to remark:  "I paid a dollar to see that old scamp at Buffalo. Geronimo (next is unreadable until) of the furrows of old age.  He waslks squarely though with a slow tread.  His places of abode vary from five to ten miles from the city, yet it is no uncommon occurance for him to walk in, do his trading and go back the same day.  While he is considered childish by his people, yet he does not need their care and attention, for he is abundantly able to take care of himself.  Several years will yet crown his head and they will do it slowly with white, for his hair is as black today as it was twenty years ago.  Geronimo desires to go to the World's fair but he will not go without several dollars is first put in his pocket.  He is willing to make a part of the big show but he must have something like five thousand a night, a shower of bouquets after each act, carriage to and from the theater, and an oyster supper with the manager after the performance.
Source: The Oklahoman April 17, 1904 Page 20


Lawton, Okla., June 3,--Geronimo's recent participation in a public horse race mark the beginning of a new era in the advance life of the old Apache chief, for it is a fact that not once before this, sin his reputation as a prisioner of war on the Unived States military reservation at Fort Sill, has he ever entered a race, nor had he before given ear a single one of the thousand invitations that had been extended him since the advent of the whiteman to the Apache and Comanche country.  While Geronimo has been across the continent several times and has been the exhibition of most note at many fairs and functions, he has never before so eliminated his inherent dignity and suave, reticense and appeared as a "boy" among th boys, unmasked for  not the pleasure of passing away the time in making them.  Geronimo's racer is a sorrel steed, fifteen hands high, with long legs, slender body, protruding hip bones, graceful head, and has been christened by his master as "Geribuni."  The horse looks altogether too large for the possession of the qualities of fleetness that won for his master the purse, and the absence of the conventional fristiness and eagerness to run, that snorting, broncho sort of qualities, served to regulate betting down to extreme moderateness.  While an Indian enviomay, like his master, appear lazy and, unfit, like his master there is no telling the stenuosity that is normant within him when a test of skill arises.  Geronimo refused all applications of inders in the race.  His age of seventy and more years has taken little of the vitality and agility from his old body and he swings to the inner circle, spurs and lashes with the alacricity of a hunderd-pounder professionally taught for at times it appeared that the Indian's horse was a number not to be cousidered, but suddenly there was a storm of spurring and lashing and yelling came from the rider and a neck was gained.  The half mile did not exhibit the racing qualities of the Indian's horse but the second half taught racers that there was something in the long legged sorrel.  Geronimo rode off the track as proud as a boy and soon after returned to the reservation with the honors of the day upon him.
Source:  The Oklahoman June 4, 1905 Page 3


Aged Apache Chief Signs His Name in Printed Characters Like a Schoolboy

O. J. Krouse, manager of the Pawnee Bill wild west show, was in the city yesterday, on his way home from Lawton, where he secured a contract from the famous Apache Chief Geronimo to appear with the show, which will start on the road the latter part of next month.  "It required a great deal of red tape work to make the arrangements." said M. Krouse, "but I finally landed the Indian.  When we visited Lawton last season Geronimo and members of his family visited the show and the old chief said he would like to travel with us this year.  We gave the matter little attention at the time, but in arranging for the attractions this year the Indian's suggestion recurred to us and we got him, together with several members of his family.  The old chief is "hard up" and he really needs the job."  Geronimo will join the show next month and uring his engagement will be constantly under military escort.  Manager Krouse exhibited to an Oklahoman represenative the contract signed "Geronimo" in uneven capital letters just as a child would print his name.  It is said the aged Apache warrior is not alone interested in traveling with a show to better his financial condition that because the life constantly recalls the thrilling days when he enjoyed unfettered freedom and could shoot the buffalo or raise scalps at the impulse of his barbaric fanov.
Source:  The Oklahoman April 6, 1906 Page 6

Geronimo, Apache Scourge, Dies,

Still Bitterly Hating Palefaces

Burial of 86-Year-Old Chieftain Captured by Gen. Miles Will

Be Conducted With Christian Ceremonies at Fort Sill

"LAWTON, Okla.. Feb. 17. - Geronimo, the noted Indian chief, died today in the hospital at the Fort Sill army post, where he has been held for twenty-two years as a prisoner of war. He died of pneumonia after two days illness.

"To the last Geronimo was full of hatred for the white man. . . . Geronimo was captured with his band at Skeleton canon, Ariz., by General Nelson A. Miles, who, with his soldiers, had pursued him for months. News of Geronimo's death was sent out from Lawton, which was named after the late Henry F. Lawton, the general who, as a member of Miles' command, led the 3,000-mile chase that resulted in the chief's surrender."

The photo of the Apache chief apparently was taken at the request of Miles, who told of Geronimo's capture in a second story:

" 'I got pretty well acquainted with Geronimo at the St. Louis fair,' " the report quoted Miles. " 'I had his picture taken. The picture shows him with a hat on. Apaches never wore head covering, not even a feather in their hair. The blanket he has over his shoulder is one I gave him.' "
Source: The Rocky  Feb. 18, 1909 Page 4



Lawton, Okla., April 22--Asa, son of Whoa, has been officially appointed chief of the Apache Indians, to succeed Geronimo, the noted warrior who died last February.  Asa has been acting chief for two months but his incumbency was made permanent at a council meeting today by a vote of 52 to 27.  Th election will be submitted to the war department for approval.
Source:  The Oklahoman April 23, 1909... Page 14


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