In 1937, George Conrad, Jr. was interviewed by the WPA's Federal Writer's Project. Born in slavery on February 23, 1860 at Connversville, Harrison County, Kentucky, Conrad joined the army in 1883, where he learned to read and write. He used this skill to meticulously document dates, which he shared with the interviewer as he recounted his service from 1883 to 1885 as a "Buffalo Soldier" stationed at Fort Sill (Comanche County, Oklahoma) and in Nebraska.
I thought I'd share his travels around the Red River area, and what his duties were in Oklahoma Territory - mainly, removing immigrants (i.e., non-Native American people) who were squatting on reservation land around Fort Reno.
His full interview can be found at the Library of Congress, page 39 (in digitized format, it's actually page 43). https://www.loc.gov/resource/mesn.130/?sp=43
"They sent us here to Oklahoma Territory to keep immigrants from settling up Oklahoma. I went to Fort Riley the 1st day of October 1883, and stayed there three weeks. Left Fort Riley [Kansas] and went to Fort. Worth, Texas and landed in Henreytta (SIC) Texas on the 14th day of October 1883. Then, we had 65 miles to walk to Fort Sill. We walked there in three days. I was assigned to my Company, Troop G. 9th Calvary, and we stayed and drilled in Fort Sill six months, when was was assigned to duty. We got orders to come to Fort Reno on the 6th day of January 1885 when we was ordered to Stillwater to move five hundred immigrants under Captain Couch. We landed there on the 23rd day of January, Saturday Evening, and Sunday was the 24th. We had general inspection Monday, January 25, 1885. We fell in line of battle, sixteen companies of soldiers, to move 500 immigrant to the Arkansas City, Kansas line..."
My favorite line is at the end of his interview: "I've been married four times. I had one wife and three women... I mean the three wasn't no good." I found his divorce paper from his fourth and last wife at OHS, but unfortunately, is has not been digitized.
However, I was able to find Mr. Conrad's enlistment and dismissal record in the U.S. Army Record of Enlistments. I still haven't found his grave... please share if you can sleuth it out!
The photograph is of an unnamed "Buffalo Soldier" from the 9th Calvary, taken in 1880 in Nebraska (LOC). The term "Buffalo Soldier" apparently originated with Native American warriors, who likened African American hair to that from bison. This comparison was in no way derogatory. Identifying humans through animal traits was traditional and respectful with Plains Natives.
George Conrad's enlistment and dismissal records from the U.S. Army Record of Enlistments. I have not been able to find his grave, though.
This photograph is not of George Conrad but is of an unnamed "Buffalo Soldier" with the Ninth Cavalry, taken in 1880 in Nebraska (LOC).