Taken from " Birds of Oklahoma", 1931, pp 224


Margaret Morse Nice.

Passenger Pigeon data on pages 100-101


(315) PASSENGER PIGEON: Ectopistes migratorius
Formerly an abundant transient and winter resident in eastern Oklahoma, irregular in the Arbuckles; now totally extinct.
Records:1820-"several small flocks of the common wild pigeon flew by us in a southwesterly direction" Aug. 27, probably in the Osage (Say, in James, '05: 259) 1832
-about the middle of November at Fort Gibson "a fall of snow, and two or three days' cold weather, were succeeded by a fine genial season;..., those countless bands of waterfowl, and flights of pigeons which had been constantly observed passing to the southward during the prevalence of the cold wind, ceased to attract the attention" (Latrobe, '36: 249) 1850-"common in spring and fall during their migrations" (W5) 1850-vast flocks in December, also May 13, '53 at Fort Arbuckle (Glisan 74: 109)
1860-"One of the largest pigeon roasts in the southwest in earlier days was in Going Snake District, in the Cherokee Nation, in a timbered canyon that debauched into Barren Fork, ten or twelve miles above the Junction of that stream with the Illinois River. At the head of this canyon was a spring called Alum Spring. A Cherokee citizen who lived near this roost said that when he was a boy 50 years ago, the number of pigeons that frequented the locality was beyond calculation. They swept across the sky in clouds, darkening the sun. At night their chattering swelled into a roar. Struggling for a place to alight, the birds dropped onto each other's backs in the greatest confusion. As their number and weight increased, the branches would bend until finally they broke with a loud snapping, and the fluttering pigeons went whirling into the air.
This roast on Barron Fork was most populous about the time of the Civil War. This Cherokee saw them there as late as 1873. In 1874 the main roast had shifted to what was known as Hildebrand's Hill', on Flint Creek, a stream now known as Cow Creek. In that year one hunter hauled two wagon-loads to Vinita and shipped them to market. This same observer saw a few wild pigeons near Stringtown in 1881" (Barde, '12: 110-111); 1872-"After the building of the M. K. and T. railroad carloads of pigeons were shot and shipped from Atoka. I was away at college from 1879-1884; upon my return, the thousands of wild pigeons, which formerly had descended in great flocks around the vicinity of Old Baggy Depot in the autumn, had almost entirely disappeared." (Dr. E. N. Wright, Olney, Okla.); 1877-"James V. Bennet, a famous pigeoner, left Pennsylvania for Arkansas in search of a pigeon roast there. He found at Highcove, Indian Territory a roast estimated to be 15 miles wide by 40 miles long" (Forbush, '27: 69). 1886-A large number of pigeons from Indian Territory were used for pigeon shoots at John Watson's Grand Crossing, Chicago (Mershon, '07: 135). 1887
-"Pigeons were in Cherokee Nation near Westville, Adair Co. Came in countless thousands. They began to come in September, just 2 or 3 up to a dozen at a time. If feed was plentiful they came later in larger numbers. They went north in spring about last of March or April 1st. They roasted in flat woods and fed every day on black jack and post oak acorns, going out in different directions about sun-up and returning about sundown; usually flew out against the wind if feed was in all directions. It was said they once did a nesting in Indian Territory. A Mr. J. K. Little of Cartersburg, MD. came to Indian Territory about 1886 and introduced the netting of them. He could tell new arrivals when caught as they would be gaunt and thin from a long journey. We caught them on beds we made on water, used a stool pigeon and fliers-real live birds-for decoys. Then we fattened them and killed them and shipped them. There was a very large body of pigeons up to 1888 or '89; they came back for a few years, but never nearly so many, and finally disappeared altogether" (letter from J. E. Kelly, Kellyville, Okla. Mar. 23, '28). 1889-4 Canadian River, Jan. (I&2) in National Museum;-2 Fort Holmes, Hughes Co. Jan. (Seton '08);-2 Canadian River Nov. 10 (R2); in American Museum; 1892-93-"I was in New York in the latter part of Nov. 1892 and was then assured by Mr. Rowland, a well known taxidermist, that he had recently seen several barrels of pigeons that had been condemned as unfit for food; they had come to New York from the Indian Territory and I believe had had their tails pulled out to permit of tighter packing. Mr. Win. Brewster has recorded the sending of several hundred dozens of pigeons to the Boston Market in December of the same year, and in January, 1893; these were also from the Indian Territory. These are the last records we have of the passenger pigeon as anything more than the casual migrant" (1. H. Fleming, '07: 236).
All the records come from eastern Oklahoma with the exception of two from the Arbuckles. Dr. Glisan wrote of his experiences at Fort Arbuckle from September 1850 to Nov. 29, 1854: "Pigeons are rarely to be found in this vicinity, but occasionally make their appearance in vast flocks, as was the case for a few days in the latter part of last December (1850). They were attracted hither by the mast or post-oak acorns" ('74: 64) On May 13, 1853 he noted the "first appearance of wild pigeons in the neighborhood. It was not long ere the pigeons could be seen in every direction skimming along the surface of the hills and dales about tree-top high." ('74: 109).
Specimens of Passenger Pigeons from Oklahoma are rare; there are only six in the principal museums in the country, and two in a private collection; there is not a single one in any museum in this state.
The Passenger Pigeon, the finest of all Pigeons, once perhaps the most numerous of all birds, has been utterly exterminated by man. It was relentlessly persecuted both in its winter roosts and on its nesting grounds, and even after it had disappeared from most of the country, was followed to its final refuge in Oklahoma and the last flocks slaughtered. There is no blacker page in American history.

Contributed by Jim Forrest


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