The telling of scary stories around a campfire is a tradition that is likely nearly as old as mankind itself. While tales of ghosts, goblins, and murderous psychopaths can rattle the cage of nearly anyone, what better subject for a campfire story could there be than a cannibalistic and murderous sasquatch? The story of a haunted house might be creepy, but unless you are actually staying in the house in question it is easily and quickly forgotten once the marshmallows, chocolate, and graham crackers appear at the fire. Tales of a creature – a creature many people regard as being real – stalking the very woods in which you have pitched your tent, however, are not always so easy to put aside. One such terrifying tale is the story of a “bigfoot war” that allegedly took place in eastern Oklahoma during the mid 1850s.The story of the LeFlore County bigfoot war is one I have heard bits and pieces of through the years. I finally decided to look into the matter, gather as much information as I could, and make a determination as to whether the tale might have some truth to it or was an outright fabrication. Following is what I was able to find out.
It is said that in or around 1855, a band of Choctaws in what is now LeFlore County and farmers in what is now Arkansas were experiencing some terrifying events. It all began in a rather benign way with the theft of vegetables, a few head of livestock, and other foodstuff by stealthy bandits in the night. The thieves were cagey, quiet, and never seen. They were also smart, as somehow they never ventured into Choctaw encampments on nights when a watchman was in place. Neither did the bandits ever fall into the traps set for them by farmers outside of Indian Territory. Those charged with finding and capturing these marauders began to develop a begrudging respect for the wiliness of their adversaries as time went by and the petty thefts continued. While the thefts were annoying and did cause some hardships, neither the Choctaw or the neighboring Anglo farmers were afraid of the food bandits; however, things changed once women and children began to go missing.
Spurred by reports of these kidnappings, a group of 30 Choctaw cavalrymen was organized to hunt down the abductors. The group was led by Joshua LeFlore, a man of mixed Choctaw and French blood, who was deeply respected by his fellow tribesmen. Also joining the search party was a Choctaw warrior named Hamas Tubbee and his six sons. The Tubbees were huge men – all approaching seven feet in height and weighing in at more than 300 pounds each – and were regarded as fierce warriors and expert horsemen. The Tubbees were so effective in mounted warfare that despite their massive size, they became known as the “Lighthorsemen.” The contingent of searchers, armed to the teeth, set out into the region known today as the McCurtain County Wilderness Area to search for the kidnappers.
After riding all day, the searchers finally arrived in the area where they believed the bandits to be hiding. LeFlore brought his troops to a halt, stood up in his stirrups, and surveyed the area with a spyglass. It is unclear exactly what LeFlore saw but whatever it was, he ordered his men to charge toward a stand of pines roughly 500 yards distant. LeFlore and the Tubbee men led the attack. As the troops closed the distance between themselves and the stand of pines where the kidnappers were thought to be hiding, they were assaulted by a tremendous stench, the unmistakable odor of decay and decomposition. The horses of most of the men began to buck and rear, tossing their riders. Only the mounts of LeFlore and the Tubbee men were disciplined enough to remain composed, allowing the eight men to continue through the pines. As the men cleared the small wooded patch they came upon a large earthen mound. Scattered across the mound were the bodies of children and women in various stages of decomposition. LeFlore and the Tubbees caught a glimpse of a number of the murderers fleeing into the tree line on the opposite side of the mound. Only three of the killers stood their ground to meet the charge of the “Lighthorsemen.” It was at this time that the cavalrymen realized they were not going up against any human foe; rather, standing before them, snarling and beating their chests, were three huge, hair-covered creatures. Despite what must have been a shocking sight to him, LeFlore drew his pistol and sabre, spurred his mount, and charged. As LeFlore approached the nearest ape, it took a mighty swipe and struck his horse in the head, killing it instantly. LeFlore managed to roll off the falling horse, quickly jumped to his feet, and fired multiple shots into the chest of the creature. Once his pistol was empty, LeFlore attacked the ape with his sabre, opening up gaping wounds on the animal which roared in rage and pain.
LeFlore’s assault on the creature was so quick, and the shock of seeing hair-covered monsters so great, that the Tubbee men hesitated, completely stupefied, before entering the fray. This delay allowed one of the other two apes to get behind LeFlore, who was intensely focused on the ape he had engaged. The second beast grabbed LeFlore’s head with two huge hands and ripped it from his shoulders. The horrible sight jolted the Tubbee warriors into action and they opened fire on the three sasquatches with 50-caliber Sharp’s buffalo rifles. Two of the beasts were killed instantly, dropping in their tracks. The third creature was wounded but turned and fled before the lethal shot could be fired. Robert Tubbee, only 18 years old but already 6’ 11” and well over 300 pounds, spurred his horse, ran down the injured ape, and dispatched him with his hunting knife.
As the rest of the troop, after gathering their panicked horses, joined them, the “Lighthorsemen” surveyed the area. The bodies of dead women and children, most partially devoured, littered the area. The smell of decay, along with the terrible odor of the beast’s feces, caused many of the men to vomit. After composing themselves, the men gathered the remains of the unfortunate women and children and buried them. They also buried their leader, Joshua LeFlore. As for the three ape-like monsters, their bodies were placed upon a huge bonfire and burned. Their hellish task complete, the Choctaw warriors returned to Tuskahoma, where it is said even the mighty Tubbee men were plagued by terrible nightmares for years afterward.
Some story, is it not? But is any of it true? While I could not find much, it does appear the Tubbees existed. So, too, did a man named Joshua LeFlore. What I could not find was any mention – at least in any official documents – that Leflore died in battle. For that matter, I have been unable to find any information leading me to believe that the LeFlore County bigfoot war took place anywhere outside of the realm of folklore.
Having said that, is it possible that the LeFlore County incident was actually based on a real event that took place in a different location? According to a bigfoot researcher named Jim King, the answer might be yes. King believes the LeFlore County story is based on an event that took place much farther west in Kiowa territory, an event related to him by an Indian elder. According to the story, Kiowa women were placed in a special teepee or tent on the edge of camp when they started their menstrual cycle. The women stayed there, being tended to only by older women, until their cycle was complete. The elder told King that women were considered “unclean” during their cycles and Kiowa warriors were not only forbidden any physical contact with the females during this time, they were not even to look upon them (This seems harsh but it not too different than the way many cultures treated menstruating women in the past.) The elder said that once, long ago, there had been trouble with ape-like creatures who were attracted by the scent and pheromones emanating from the tent where the menstruating women were housed. Since the tent was on the edge of the encampment, it proved to be an easy target for renegade apes who are said to have entered and carried off women on several occasions. To make a long story short, the Kiowa leadership decided this was unacceptable and put together a group of warriors to hunt down the kidnappers. The searchers did manage to track an ape back to its lair and killed not only it, but an entire family unit.
Could the LeFlore County story have its roots in the tale told to Jim King by the Kiowa elder? Is there any truth at all – even the smallest of grains – in either tale? I have heard many put their faith in the LeFlore County version simply due to the name of the unfortunate Joshua LeFlore. “They wouldn’t have named the county after him if it wasn’t true,” and other similar statements abound. I, however, have not been able to find anything saying LeFlore County was named after Joshua LeFlore. According to the Oklahoma Historical Society’s website, “The name honors the prominent LeFlore family of the Choctaw Nation.” Could Joshua LeFlore have been one of the “prominent LeFlore family?” It is certainly possible, but there does not seem to be any documentation singling out Joshua or his actions as the reason for the naming of the county.
The story of the LeFlore County bigfoot war, even if totally fictional, does seem to point to the fact that enormous, hair-covered, ape-like animals have been thought to reside in the region for a very long time; a time long before the Patterson-Gimlin film brought bigfoot into America’s consciousness. Add this to the beliefs of many other Native American tribes from across the North American continent who have long told stories of these creatures snatching women and children and the anecdotal evidence stack grows taller. Truth be told, the idea of child- or woman-snatching sasquatches continues to thrill, terrify, and enthrall us to this very day. One needs to look no farther than the success of David Paulide’s Missing 411 books to confirm this.
It may very well be the tale of the LeFlore County bigfoot war was inspired by actual, less dramatic events (think the siege of Honobia, the Ape Canyon incident, etc.) Over the years, such a story would be embellished and grow to mythic proportions. It is all but inevitable as a good scary story is irresistible. Do not be too hard on those who might have added to the original facts. After all, we all know the most frightening types of campfire stories will always have one thing in common…
...they could really happen.
The LeFlore Horror/Bear [Radio series episode]. (2018, April 18). In World Bigfoot Radio #53.
Swancer, B., & Seaburn, P. (2018, June 06). The Strange Case of the Human-Bigfoot War of 1855. Retrieved August 21, 2020, from https://mysteriousuniverse.org/2018/06/the-strange-case-of-the-human-bigfoot-war-of-1855/
Nashoba, D. T. (2002, January 6). The Legend of Sacred Baby Mountain [Scholarly project]. In Google Groups. Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://groups.google.com/g/alt.bigfoot.research/c/tD56ttwlfik?pli=1
Le Flore County: The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (n.d.). Retrieved August 20, 2020, from https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=LE007