From the collections at the Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum. Reprinted with permission from The Leavenworth County Historical Society and Museum and the Leavenworth Times. Donated by Debra Graden.

Dave Payne, The Oklahoma Boomer, Gets A Permanent Memorial

In New Biography


"Land Hunger," by Carl Coke Rister, Uncovers Forgotten Episodes in Career of Stormy Figure Who Led Movement to Open Indian and Cattle Country--Great Adventure Shared by Ma Haines, His Faithful Companion and Common-Law Wife.


Dave Payne was more than an individual--he was a manifestation of an era and a people.

He has been called the Father of Oklahoma, and he perhaps deserves that designation, for it was his persistent agitation, his continual defiance of courts and laws, and his Messiah complex, that resulted in stirring the public opinion to the point where the government was forced to open the Indian and cattle lands of Oklahoma to settlement.

But he was in himself a personification of the hard-drinking, loose-living, gambling frontier, the frontier which was created by the restless land hunger of the pioneer fringe of our population. For that reason Carl Coke Rister made a happy choice in his title "Land Hunger," for the biography he has published of the Oklahoma boomer.

David L. Payne was in all respects a remarkable figure. He stood 6 feet 6 inches in his sock feet, 250 pounds of bone, muscle and sinew. Contemporary photographs show him to have had a wonderfully handsome face, and C. P. Wickmiller of Kingfisher, Ok., made mention of his hypnotic eyes, which had "peculiar yellow-gray flecks in them," unlike anything Wickmiller had ever seen.

The blood of the pioneers was in Payne. He was related to both Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett. When he was 18 years old he ran away from his Indiana home to join Albert Sidney Johnston's army in the "Mormon war," and thereafter he was a Westerner.


He took a homestead in Doniphan county, Kansas and hunted and trapped through the rockies. When the War Between the States broke out, he enlisted in the 4th Kansas volunteers, and fought through that conflict on the Union side.

After the war he tried politics, and then Indian fighting, marching with General Custer and his southern plains campaign against the Cheyennes and Kiowas. The year 1871 found him living in Southern Kansas, between Towanda and Wichita, having established "Payne's Ranch," a stage stop.

At "Payne's Ranch," the future boomer made an association that lasted through his life. A woman named Rachel Anna Haines came to the ranch as housekeeper. Later she said that she and Payne always had been sweethearts, and had become attached to each other shortly before he left Doniphan County. Whether or not this is true, she became his mistress and later his common-law wife, and shared his adventures throughout his career. They never were legally married, although they were making plans for marriage when Payne died in 1884.

It is remarkable that they did not get around to this sooner. The woman never was known as Mrs. Payne, but was called Mrs. Haines--although she never had been married. that apparently being her maiden name. Sometimes she was called Ma Haines, and frequently Anna. The relationship between the couple did not offend the society in which they lived. Apparently it was not an uncommon thing. A newspaper, the Indian Chieftain, said of them in 1884:

"Years ago Payne and Anna formed a mutual attachment, swore eternal fidelity, and though without the sanction of law have since lived as man and wife and as a fruit of such an alliance a son was born who in now 14 years old."


It was while holding a political job in Washington that Payne became interested in the idea of opening Oklahoma, then almost the last of the valuable soil left unsettled in the United States. And with that interest began the career which was to make him famous.

Dr. Rister has given a complete and fluid account of the whole boomer movement which, fortunately, will preserve that remarkable manifestation of an interest began the career which was to make him famous.

Dr. Rister has given a complete and fluid account of the whole boomer movement which, fortunately, will preserve that remarkable manifestation of an instinctive surge of a population for future students of primitive sociology.

Rister's book "Land Hunger," uncovers many unknown or forgotten episodes in this movement. He locates for all time the sites of settlements, camps, fights and other events which had been in danger of complete oblivion. As an example, by a piece of photographic detective work he proved that "Camp Alice," one of the early boomer settlements, was not in the present site of Oklahoma City, as had been believed, but was northeast of the city, south of Arcadia. The identification was made through an old photograph which showed a peculiar hill formation in the background--a formation clearly identifiable today.

No less than nine times in the ever-persistent boomers flow into Oklahoma and establish claims, churches, homes, schools, towns. Each time they were driven out by soldiers. Sometimes Payne and other leaders, such as his greatest lieutenant, W. L. Couch, were imprisoned.

Eventually the boomer leader died of heart disease, probably induced by the hard life he had led and the hard drinking he had done. He was not even in Oklahoma at the time, and was buried in a cemetery at Wellington, Kas., where his simple headstone still may be seen. The burial lot was owned by Mrs. Haines.


And here is a curious piece of irony. Both Payne and Mrs. Haines had located claims in the present city limits of Oklahoma City, and on land which now is rich with oil. Mrs. Haines's claim was located in 1889 in the first land rush, known as "Harrison Hoss Race."

But her claim was disputed, it was alleged that she had entered the territory before the time set, and so she was deprived of the land.

Now, to go back to Payne's death. At that time he and Anna were making definite plans for their belated marriage. At her request the Wichita Eagle had printed an explanation of her relations with Payne, stating that they had deferred marriage until Oklahoma was opened for settlement so that each could acquire a 160-acre tract under the Homestead Act. But at this time, 1884, the opening seemed far in the distance, so they had decided to become legally married.

The marriage did not take place, and Anna buried Dave in Wellington.

Years later Oklahoma began to recognize its debt to Dave Payne, and the Oklahoma Payne Memorial association was formed. The association desired to build a monument to Payne in Oklahoma and remove his body there for burial.

But Rachel Anna Haines balked. Until her death she refused to permit the removal of Payne's body--unless the Oklahoma "farm," which is now a populous part of the state's capital, was returned to her. She died in 1912, penniless and with few friends remaining. But she never gave permission for the transfer of the body of the man with whom she had shared so many stormy vicissitudes.

Rister's book will be a memorial for Dave Payne which should be more lasting and greater than any monument of bronze or marble.



LAND HUNGER: David L. Payne and the Oklahoma Boomers. By Carl Coke Rister, (245 pp. Ill. with photographs. The University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, Ok.)

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