Film premiere comes to Pampa

Story of the German Girls recounted in "The Contested Plains"


A new docudrama about a fascinating event in Gray County history will premiere in Pampa on September 4th at 5:30 PM at the M.K. Brown Center. “The Contested Plains,” which explores the story of the John and Lydia German family, was filmed in Wichita, Kansas, near Oakley, Kansas, and near Pampa, Texas. The film was produced by the
White Deer Land Museum Foundation, in association with Fall River Productions out of Wichita, Kansas. General admission for the premiere is $10, while a limited number of VIP tickets are available for $25. VIP admission includes light refreshments and a meet and greet prior to the film. A silent auction will be available for all ticketholders from 4:00-6:30. Tickets are available locally at the White Deer Land Museum, through the Museum’s Facebook page, and at General admission
tickets can also be purchased at the venue the day of the show.

On September 22, 1874, near Fort Wallace in Kansas, a group of Southern Cheyenne Indians massacred John German, his wife, and three of their children, taking four remaining daughters captive. The girls were subjected to exposure, malnutrition, and cruel treatment. They were eventually taken into the Texas Panhandle where the two youngest girls were abandoned. Surviving on their own for six weeks, the two sisters were found by Grey Beard’s band, which was camped north of McLellan Creek, about 14 miles south of Pampa. “The Contested Plains” is a poignant recreation of the girls’ struggle and their subsequent rescue by Lieutenant Frank D. Baldwin and his men. Approximately 145 years after the massacre, local WDLM director, Anita Gullett, was cultivating new relationships with historians and museums in Kansas when she garnered the notice of respected writer, director, and educator Ken Spurgeon. The result of their initial discussions and the subsequent three years of hard work is the docudrama that brings the German girls to the Panhandle once again.

“The Contested Plains” encompasses the plains of Kansas, Indian Territory (Oklahoma), and Texas. The project uses professional historians, educators, and a well-crafted dramatic presentation to tell this important story. Fall River Productions’ treatment of the story goes beyond a simplified tale of captured and rescued girls and reveals the complexities of the challenging period of the Plains and Red River Wars. For example, “The Contested Plains” reveals that the band of Cheyenne that attacked the family was part of a group who had lost family members in the Sand Creek and Washita massacres. The result is a film that acknowledges the nuance of issues like tribal in-fighting, the difficult 6-month search for the surviving girls, and the Cheyenne’s struggle to survive, while never diminishing the suffering of the German family or the bravery of the military men who rescued them. We see the struggle of both the girls and the Native Americans, all of whom are fighting to survive in an impossible situation. In the end, both groups
are captives.

Attendees at the premiere may recognize distinguished actors Mary McDonough (The Waltons, New Adventures of Old Christine), Buck Taylor (Gunsmoke, Hell or High Water, Yellowstone), and Mo Brings Plenty (Yellowstone, The Good Lord Bird, Hell on Wheels). Other notable cast include Darby Hinton, Wyatt McCrea, R.W. Hampton, Cody Jones, Delno Ebie, Mark Mannette, Nora Dooley, and Olivia Prue. Careful viewers may also
spot some Pampa friends and neighbors among the cast. Actor and awardwinning western performer R.W. Hampton, who portrays Nelson A. Miles in the film, said “‘The Contested Plains’ is a true American story that must be told, and the time is now! For good or bad, it was their story and after all these years, it is OUR story.”