From the Annals of the Llano Estacado – In 1874, the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon put an end to most of ongoing conflict between the last of free-ranging Plains Indians and the U.S. Army. After the battle, most of the remaining southern Plains Indians (Comanches, Kiowas, Kiowa Apaches, Cheyennes and Arapahos) settled in reservations in Indian Territory. These tribes had camped in Palo Duro Canyon a regular wintering ground. Col. Ranald Mackenzie led his Fourth Cavalry Unit in the attack. Mackenzie reached the edge of Palo Duro Canyon on September 28 guided by the Tonkawas under Chief Johnson. Mackenzie planned to take the encampment by surprise at sunrise on September 28. Comanche leader Red Warbonnet, however, discovered the soldiers and fired a warning shot and was killed by the Tonkawas. The camps were scattered over the vast canyon floor. Mackenzie picked them off one by one with the Indians unable to rally together. The battle was really a series of skirmishes against a number of war parties from various tribes.
The battle resulted in very little loss of life as many of the outnumbered warriors and followers fled the canyon. One soldier and three Indians were killed. The main effect of the battle was to capture the winter supplies and an estimated 1400 horses. Without supplies and horses, the tribes were in an untenable position and were forced to return to the Indian Territory.
From the Annals of the War Chiefs – In 1875, Kiowa chief Tsen-tainte (“White Horse”) surrendered at Fort Sill. White Horse and his followers were notorious for their numerous raids across Texas, Oklahoma and New Mexico. He was considered to be the fiercest of the Kiowa chiefs. Along with Satank, Satanta, Zepko-ete, Mamanti and Big Tree participated in the Warren Wagon Train raid at Salt Creek Prairie in May 1871. He also fought in the second battle of Adobe Walls in June 1874. After that he fought with Quanah Parker and Guipago in the Red River War. After the battle of Palo Duro Canyon in September 1874, he became convinced that further resistance was futile. When Gen. Philip Sheridan demanded that Chief Kicking Bird designate men for imprisonment in the east, White Horse was chosen. Along with other he was imprisoned at St. Augustine, Florida. He became a practitioner of Ledger Art while in prison. He was released in 1878 and returned to the reservation near Fort Sill.
From the Annals of the Panhandle –In 1874 Col.Ranald Mackenzie and the Fourth U.S. Cavalry attempted a surprise attack on Comanche, Cheyenne and Kiowa encampments in Palo Duro Canyon. Although known as the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon, the attack involved little loss of life as it was primarily a raid to seized Indian horses and property. Assisted by Tonkawa scouts, the cavalry wanted to surprise the Indians who were settling into their winter camps. However, the Indians were warned by the Comanche leader Red Warbonnet, who discovered the soldiers and fired a warning shot before being killed by the Tonkawas. Cheyenne chief Iron Shirt, Comanche leader Poor Buffalo, and the Kiowa chief were left in charge. The camps were located in various parts of the vast canyon which did not allow the Indians to mount a united defense. As a result most of the Indians retreated leaving behind over 1400 horses and most of their winter stores. Only three Comanche were killed as was one soldier. The BOPDC was the last major event in the Red River Wars and resulted in the confinement of southern Plains Indians in reservations in Indian Territory.
From the Annals of Song and Dance – In 1965, the Texas Panhandle Heritage Foundation opened the show “Thundering Sounds of the West” in an outdoor amphitheater in Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The show ran until September 6, 1965. The success of the show led to the first annual presentation of the musical Texas in 1966. Texas has been performed annually ever since in the Pioneer Amphitheatre. The show runs from the first weekend in June until mid-August every summer.
From the Annals of the Conquistadors – In 1540, the Spanish Viceroy of Mexico, Antonio de Mendoza, commissioned Francisco Vázquez de Coronado to lead an expedition to search for the Seven Cities of Cíbola. The Spanish were intrigued by the report of Álvar Núñez Cabeza de Vaca who had described the cities after finding his way back to New Spain following his long wandering through Texas, New Mexico and northern Mexico. Another explorer, Marcos de Niza, later confirmed Cabeza de Vaca’s report. Coronado and 1,000 men set out from Culiacan April of 1540 and he did not return for more than two years. He found Cíbola – but they were the Pueblos of western New Mexico and there was no gold. Undaunted, he was induced by the captive El Turco to search for gold in Quivira located somewhere in present day Kansas. Quivira turned out to be a village of the Plains Indians eking out a subsistence living. in his wanderings, Coronado did explore the Llano Estacado in the Panhandle and Eastern New Mexico and “discovered” Palo Duro Canyon and the Caprock in West Texas.
Photo from the top of the Caprock in Caprock Canyon State Park.
From the Annals of Local Government – In 1888, Randall County was organized. Among its first settlers were Lincoln Guy Conner and his wife, who grazed cattle in the vast Palo Duro Canyon area in the Panhandle. The Conners bought their land for three dollars an acre, built a half dugout, and established a general store and post office. When the county was organized, the dugout was a polling place. The Conners’ daughter was the first white child born in the county. In the spring of 1889 Conner laid out the townsite of Canyon City. He donated town lots to anyone willing to build a home or a business. Over the next two decades he became one of the growing city’s most prosperous citizens.