AUTO TRAILS Back Roads into the Past
AUTO TRAILSBack Roads into the Past

Arkansas State Line to Idabel


Arkansas State Line

Between the Arkansas Line and Valliant, U.S. Highway 70 parallels the route of the Texas, Oklahoma & Eastern Railroad. This railroad connected the Kansas City Southern Railroad at De Queen, Arkansas, with the St. Louis & San Francisco at Valliant. Prior to the Federal Highway System, this route was referred to as the Bankhead Highway, part of the Rand McNally Auto Trails system. The Bankhead Highway traversed the southern United States, beginning in Washington D.C. and traveling through Atlanta, Memphis, Dallas, and Phoenix to San Diego. 


Ultima Thule (0.3 mile west of the Arkansas State Line on U.S. 70 at County Road E2040)

In 1831, Little River Lick, one of the western-most post offices in southwest Arkansas, was established in Sevier County, Arkansas, along the boundary between Arkansas and the Choctaw Nation. In 1833, its name was changed to Ultima Thule, Latin for “a distant territory or destination,” because of its location. Choosing this new name was the first postmaster, Joseph W. McKean, a veteran of the Florida Wars and an “intimate friend” of Andrew Jackson and David Crockett. He and his family came to the area on the first steamboat to ascend the Red River after it was cleared for navigation. Shortly after his arrival, McKean opened a general store from which he supplied provisions for settlers on both side of the border. He also represented Sevier County in the 1836 Arkansas Constitutional Convention and served in both the Territorial Senate and the State General Assembly. He was married to Lucy D.G. Kearney. McKean died in 1851 and was succeeded in business by one of his sons, John G. McKean, who was a lawyer, Methodist minister, and a veteran of the Confederate Army.[ii]


As originally established, Ultima Thule lay on the east side of Rock Creek, outside the Choctaw Nation. The Choctaw people could not pronounce Ultima Thule so they called it Yakni-Vlhpisa, meaning "measured land," or "boundary line." Rock Creek flowed by Ultima Thule. The Choctaw people called Rock Creek "Tali Bok." Along with the post office and general store, there was a blacksmith shop and a cotton gin. Below is an account of early life from Peter Hudson as described in Chronicles of Oklahoma (Volume 10, No. 4, December, 1932):


“I remember being at Ultima Thule when I was about eight years old, having helped my Cousin Ebahotema to carry a cow hide there on the promise that she would buy me a straw hat. That was my first hat. John McKean's store was probably 150 yards from the boundary line. Just across Rock Creek into Indian Territory about one mile was an old settled place which I believe was the William Harris place. William Harris was a white man who married one of the sisters of Peter P. Pitchlyn. Going west from Ultima Thule about two miles is what is known as Death Valley where three men were recently killed. In 1880, Jim Billy and Abel Thomas, Choctaws, killed another Choctaw, in this valley, for which they were tried, convicted and sentenced to be shot. There was no jail and the prisoners were kept at the home of Thomas Amos, Sheriff of Eagle County. Just three days before the date of execution Jim Billy ran away. Abel Thomas had the same chance to escape but refused to take it, and was executed. He was the last man to be executed at the Eagle County court house. In November 1897, my brother, Wash Hudson, and my brother-in-law, Thomas Amos, were killed in that valley. They had been to DeQueen, Arkansas, on business and were on the way back home late in the evening, unarmed, when they were attacked by Foster Fobb and Jonas James. Wash Hudson was killed instantly but Thomas Amos was able to drive two miles to Buck Creek where he died. I suppose that is the reason for calling the place Death Valley. The spot where my brother was killed is about one hundred yards from the highway on the right side as you come west from DeQueen. The outcome of this shooting was that Foster Fobb, several years later while awaiting trial at the U. S. Jail at Antlers, committed suicide by slashing his throat two times with a borrowed pocket knife. Jonas James was sent to the penitentiary for this crime.”


County Road E2040 appears to follow the older route of the military road between Little Rock and Fort Towson, which U.S. Highway 70 later roughly paralleled. 


Harris Mill Cemetery (0.2 miles west of Ultima Thule on U.S. 70)

This cemetery is located on private land south of the highway. It marks the only remaining evidence of the plantations and enterprises of Harris brothers in Pre-Civil War Period.


Twomile Creek (1.7 miles west of Ultima Thule on U.S. 70)

The name of this creek is due to its distance east of the Arkansas-Choctaw Nation boundary. The creek lies in Union Valley, also referred to as “Death Valley” by Peter Hudson in his account above. 


Junction with Local Road (0.5 mile west of Twomile Creek on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Buck Creek Landing (Local Road South)

Buck Creek Landing (2 miles south on Local Road at railroad crossing)

This is the approximate site of the Six Town Settlement. This settlement is related to the Okla Hannali (Six Town People), who resided in the southeastern portion of the Choctaw Nation in Mississippi. Greene LeFlore was the first teacher at a school here, and Maurice Cass, a full blood Choctaw of the Six Town Klan (Okla-Hannali-Iksa) was one of the local trustees. As the country was settled by whites, farming under the lease system, the Indians moved farther west and the tribal school was discontinued.[iii] 


Buck Creek (1.3 miles west of Twomile Creek on U.S. 70)

In the Choctaw language, this creek was referred to as "Lapitta Bok." On the east side of the creek, by the side of the road, a Presbyterian Church about 25x36' was built of hewn logs. This church was organized by Reverend Cyrus Byington immediately after he located near there in 1836. This church was called Lappita Bok Aiittanaha, or Buck Creek Church. It was located about one fourth of a mile north of the new modern highway going east and west. The old military road paralleling said road has been abandoned. Many Indians lived around this church and many of them attended the meetings on Sundays and other days. 

Buck Creek Church was an important church in the early days, as so many Choctaws lived around it. The Choctaw Presbytery and big camp meetings used to be held at this church, at which time many prominent Choctaws gathered there. Among those who attended these big meetings were Cyrus Byington, John Edwards, Alfred Wright and Charles C. Copeland, white men and missionaries to the Choctaws; Governor Allen Wright of Boggy Depot one hundred miles away; Pliny Fisk, first Choctaw ordained into Presbyterian ministry, and who took charge of Mt. Zion Church in 1848 when it was organized.[iv]


Junction with County Road N4760 (3.1 miles west of Buck Creek on U.S. 70)

Point of Interest:

Site of Cyrus Byington Homesite (Eagletown Cemetery, 0.2 mile north on County Road N4760, 0.2 mile northeast on County Road D4750)

Cyrus Byington, a native of Massachusetts, went to the Choctaws in Mississippi in the spring of 1821 and remained to serve them as a Christian missionary for forty-five years, thirty-one of which were at Eagletown. When he arrived among the Choctaws, they had no written language. The missionaries opened schools but efforts to teach them in English failed and it was decided that the native language had to first be learned and taught. Byington was detailed to concentrate on learning the language and developing the tools of the written form. He and Alfred Wright, later the founder of Wheelock Mission, cooperated on the project, developed an alphabet and Byington began, with the assistance of a few Choctaws, to develop a Grammar, Dictionary, Definer and Speller of the language. Byington was the first of the missionaries to become sufficiently knowledgeable of the language to preach in it. He and other missionaries began to translate portions of the Bible and several hymns into Choctaw.


When the Choctaws moved to what is now southeastern Oklahoma, Byington, Wright and other missionaries followed. Byington arrived in late 1835 and established his mission a short distance east of where the town of Eagletown is now located. He lived at the site until 1844 when he moved about a mile and one-half north to a point east of where the Eagletown Cemetery is now located. The purpose of this move was to bring him closer to the new Iyanubbi Female Seminary which was part of the Choctaw Educational system. Iyanubbi was originally founded in 1836 as the Stockbridge Missionary School by Byington. From the new site, he supervised the seminary, continued his work on the language, founded several churches and served them on his one hundred mile circuit. He also was frequently called upon to treat his Choctaw parishioners medically, there being no physician in the area.


During the early part of his mission tenure, he also farmed to help support his family and raise feed for his stock. Byington and his family were frequently ill with the fevers and respiratory ailments, which afflicted the Choctaws. Both Byington and his wife were critically ill on several occasions. Their eleven years old son died after a short illness in 1840. Their youngest son, only two and half years old, died of a throat ailment in 1846. Byington’s sister joined his mission in 1839 and only lived a few weeks after arrival. Byington’s family in the North tried to persuade him to give up the mission and join them there. He was a trained lawyer and could have expected a fairly affluent and comfortable life had he been willing to join them. Instead, he stayed, responding to their entreaties by saying, “I came for life.” His Choctaw Definer, made up of English words and Choctaw equivalents, was published in 1852 but his Grammar and Dictionary were not printed until after his death.


Byington and his fellow members of the Choctaw Mission were involved in a serious dilemma over the question of slavery. Many Choctaws owned slaves, particularly the more prominent and influential mixed-blood tribal members. At the same time the sponsors of the Choctaw Mission were mostly abolitionists who demanded that he missionaries speak out in condemnation of the practice of slavery. To have done this it would have caused their ousting from the Choctaw Nation. Most chose to pursue their missionary duties and remain quit about the issue. This caused their sponsor to discontinue support. It was to Byington, “like death” to be separated from an organization which had supported the mission for more than forty years.


With the coming of the Civil War, many missionaries left the Choctaw Nation. Byington, however, chose to remain, continuing his missionary functions and his medical efforts among the Choctaws. When the war ended, he hoped to continue his mission but such was not to be. He became seriously ill and was not expected to live. He did survive, however, and in July, 1866, his only surviving son, Cyrus Nye, put him in a horse-drawn wagon and took him the two hundred miles to Little Rock, Arkansas, to board a steamboat for Ohio where his only daughter, now married, was residing. Enroute, he contracted small pox and was quarantined for a month after arrival in Ohio. Though his eyesight and hearing were impaired, he recovered sufficiently to resume work on his Choctaw books and Bible translations.


Meanwhile, Mrs. Byington had remained at the Eagletown mission, hoping to see it occupied by a new missionary. She finally joined her husband in Ohio in the spring of 1867. Byington completed translating the first five books of the Bible into Choctaw and took the manuscripts to New York for printing. He returned to Ohio in the spring of 1868, but later that year became ill and died December 31, 1868 in his seventy fifth year.


At the time of his death, Byington was working on the seventh revision of his Choctaw Grammar. Although the book would not be published until 1871, the various hand written versions had been used by the missionaries for many years. His Choctaw Dictionary was not printed until 1915.[v]


Cyrus Byington was called by the Choctaws, Lapish (Horn) Olahanchi (keeping blowing) or (keeping blowing horn), from the fact that all the churches caused a cow horn to be blown to bring the Indians to church at that time. It stood on a knoll and one could see for ten miles to the north. It is said that when he came in 1836 the Choctaw Indians got together and helped him build his house, which was a story and a half high, out of logs. It had one large flue made out of rock with a room on each side of the flue, making a fire place in each room. There was another room attached to the north side of the main room. The middle room was a big sitting room. The house faced southwest with a porch across the three rooms on the west. The room on the north side was cut up into small rooms, dining room, store room, etc. The whole house was under one roof. A stairway went straight up to the flue and then turned to the right to go to one room and to the left to go to the other room, and another stairway went from the north room to the room above it. About one hundred yards north of the house was a big barn built out of split pine logs, with a hay loft. There was a smokehouse near the house, also built of logs; also a well and other outhouses. Between the front of the house and the military road, there was a fine orchard. It was not large but contained a variety of fruit trees apples, peaches, pears, plums, etc., which bore an abundance of fruit each year.


Another excerpt from an account of early life from Peter Hudson as described in Chronicles of Oklahoma (Volume 10, No. 4, December, 1932):


“My father bought the home place of Cyrus Byington and we lived there until we children became grown and scattered. The house burned down about 1905. There is a pile of rocks where the house stood that can be seen from the highway on the right hand side of the road as you go west. Forty acres of the old Byington place was allotted to Jackson Hudson, my brother. He died about six years ago and I then had about a sixth interest in it. That forty acres was sold with the understanding, and it was so stated in the deed, that at any time the heirs wanted to place markers on the ground to show where Cyrus Byington lived, it could be done. Cyrus Byington died in Ohio in 1868.”


Side Trip to Eagletown (County Road N4760 South, Main Street East, County Road N4765 South)

Eagletown (0.3 mile south on County Road N4760, 0.5 mile east on Main Street, 0.5 mile south on County Road N4765 at 2nd Street)

This community was prominent in regional history from the early 19th century and in the period of Choctaw national sovereignty from the 1830s to 1906, just prior to Oklahoma statehood. White settlers had occupied the fertile lands along the Mountain Fork River in the early 1800s when the area was part of Miller County, Arkansas Territory. When the Choctaw arrived from Mississippi over their Trail of Tears in the early 1830s, they found cleared fields and cabins from which the white settlers had been moved to make way for the emigrants.


The Choctaw did not create dense settlements but instead dispersed near a trading post or mission station, as they did around the place that became Eagletown. The region just inside the boundary was an attractive and logical stopping place for the Choctaw after their arduous trek from Mississippi. The first major group arrived in early 1832 near a "ration point" on the Mountain Fork River, where food was issued as required by the removal treaty. In April of 1832, 852 were being rationed here. Later in the year another large group arrived, and by 1834 an estimated fifteen hundred Choctaw lived in the vicinity.

Christian missionaries serving among the Choctaw in Mississippi were invited to join them in the West. The first to arrive, Loring S. Williams, reached the new territory in March of 1832 (Beth-a-tiara). A second missionary, Cyrus Byington, arrived late in 1835 and established another school and church east of the river (Cyrus Byington Home).


The Choctaw rapidly recovered from the trauma of the "Trail of Tears," and Eagletown became a trading center on the much-traveled Military Trace. In addition to a store, by the 1850s there were several gristmills, a water mill, cotton gins and a saw mill in the vicinity. A ferry operated nearby on the Mountain Fork River. Many prominent Choctaw leaders chose to live in or near Eagletown. Especially notable were principal chiefs George Hudson (1860–1862), Peter Pitchlynn (1864–1866), and Jefferson Gardner (1894–1896). When the Choctaw constitution of 1850 created counties, Eagletown became the court ground for Eagle County. Justice was administered here until 1906.


After Oklahoma became a state in 1907, many white settlers came to the region to farm and help harvest the vast timber resources. Eagletown remained a trading center, and the Choctaw Lumber Company established a "camp" here with housing and other amenities for their workers and families. The company had also built a railroad through the region, connecting in 1921 near Eagletown with their line from Arkansas to become the Texas, Oklahoma & Eastern. In 1921, H. L. Dierks, a principal of the Choctaw Lumber Company, arranged for the surveying and platting of 46.26 acres along the railroad for the town. Residences, a few businesses, and a post office occupied the site at the end of the 20th century, although the town remained unincorporated.[vi]


Luksuklo Creek (0.9 mile west of County Road N4760 on U.S. 70)

The name Luksukla is derived from two Choctaw words, "Luksi" (Terrapin or Turtle) and "Okla" (People), (Turtle people). [vii]


Mountain Fork River (0.9 mile west of Luksuklo Creek on U.S. 70)

This river is called by the Choctaws, "Nanih Hacha," "Hacha" being the old Choctaw word for river. Pearl River in Mississippi is called "Hacha" in Choctaw. [viii]

An excerpt from an account of early life from Peter Hudson as described in Chronicles of Oklahoma (Volume 10, No. 4, December, 1932):


“We are now on the west bank of Mountain Fork River where Rev. Loring S. Williams who came with the early emigrants, established a mission school in 1832 which he called Beth-a-tiara, a Hebrew name, meaning "a crossing," that being the only crossing on Mountain Fork River up or down for miles. Rev. Williams went to Mississippi among the Choctaws in 1820 and emigrated with them to Indian Territory but was compelled to leave in 1837 because of ill health. He had learned the use of the Choctaw language and had done some translating. Beth-a-tiara School ended when he departed. He went to Iowa from the Choctaw Nation where he preached the remainder of his life. He died at the age of 88 years. My father's brother, George Hudson, upon arriving in the Choctaw Nation, located in the vicinity of Beth-a-tiara, and died there. His home place can be seen to the left of the highway on the west bank of Mountain Fork River and his grave is on the right side of the road going east. When we were living north of Cyrus Byington's place when I was four or five years old I remember hearing that George Hudson was dead. He was born in 1808 and died in October or November 1865 at the age of 57 years. He was Principal Chief of the Choctaw.”


Junction with Local Road (0.2 mile west of Mountain Fork River)

Point of Interest:

Jefferson Gardner House (0.3 mile north on Local Road)

This still handsome two-story frame house of Jefferson Gardner dates only from the mid-1880s, but its site on the west bank of the Mountain Fork River just south of the old Fort Smith-Fort Towson Road played an important role in almost all aspects of life in the Choctaw Nation from 1832 until the nation itself was dissolved with statehood in 1907.


George Hudson, who became Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation in 1860, was probably the next to live here after Loring Williams departed. On this site, too, in 1850, the first Eagle County Courthouse was built, a log affair. It served until 1884 when it was replaced by a square frame building that was used until the Choctaw government was abolished. Though it stood for many years, largely unused, it is marked now only by a few foundation stones. Immediately to the northeast of the Courthouse site, between it and the Beth-a-tiara Mission site is a stone believed to be the Choctaw’s Execution Rock. About 200 yards to the northeast, just to the north of the old military road, still stands the road's surest landmarks, a 2,000-year-old cypress, the state's largest (an official breast-high 43 feet, 7 inches in circumference). Under it, legend has it, the Choctaws made their first stop in what is now Oklahoma. In any event it was a familiar sight to tribal members making their tragic "Trail of Tears" westward to new homes in the wilderness.


Jefferson Gardner was born near Wheelock (some 25 miles to the west) in 1877. Both his parents were mixed blood Choctaws. Well-educated for his day, he entered public service early in life, serving in a variety of governmental jobs while farming and ranching in this area. In 1878, he went into the mercantile business at Eagletown. In 1884, the year he became treasurer of the Choctaw Nation, Gardner moved to the Beth-a-tiara Mission site, built a store and the comfortable house that still stands. Records show that he owned over 1,100 acres of land in this area at one time. In 1868 he was chosen circuit judge, a position he filled until 1894, when he was elected Principal Chief of the Choctaw Nation,  Ironically, his reaching the Nation's highest position marked the beginning of the end of his successful career. Pressure was beginning to build for the Choctaws to accept allotments of land and open the Nation to all comers. Gardner vigorously opposed the move. The Nation was badly divided on the issue and he lost in his bid for re-election in 1896. His political loss was matched by financial losses. He retired to Eagletown, a broken man. He died in 1906.


Gardner was only a one-half blood Choctaw, but he had "the vision of the full blood in tribal affairs," according to John Bartlett Meserve. "He lingered from an age which was rapidly departing, being the last chief of the old regime." This may well have made him "a political misfit" so far as the allotment controversy is concerned, Meserve admits, "but be it said to his credit, he stood adamant in his support of the age-old traditions of his people as he understood them. . . .The honesty and integrity of Jefferson Gardner was salvaged from that hectic period."[ix]


Junction with Craig/Joiner Road (0.6 mile west of Gardner House on U.S. 70)

Point of Interest:

Tiner School (Southeast corner of U.S. 70 and Craig Road)

The Tiner School is one of the few remaining one-room schoolhouses in Oklahoma. The building was used as a school from 1921 until 1938 when the students were transferred to the nearby towns of Eagletown or Broken Bow. The school is a one-room frame building with a hipped roof. It is clad in wood clapboard siding and has double-hung wood sash windows.


Junction with Spencer Road/County Road N4703 (3 miles west of Craig/Joiner Road on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Oka Achukma Church (County Road N4703 South)

Oka Achukma Church (0.6 miles south on County Road N4703)

The name "Oka Chukma," means "Good Water." This church was probably organized by Cyrus Byington. In 1868, Alex R. Durant, who was a young man at that time, taught neighborhood school at "Ok-Achukma," which is two miles east of what is now Broken Bow. The school was right on the military road. Mrs. Sallie Durant, wife of Alex R. Durant, was my cousin, her mother, Eliza, being a sister of my mother, Ahobatema. I went to school there in 1868 and I stayed with Alex and Sallie Durant. [x] 


Yanubbe River (1.7 miles west of County Road N4703 on U.S. 70)

Iyanvbbi (Yanubbe) (Iron Wood) was named for a clan of Choctaws in Mississippi. Three prominent Choctaw brothers lived on that creek, namely Pesachvbbi, Mihataya and Atuchinvbbi. It is said that they married four sisters, Atuchinvbbi having two wives. The family name was Pesachvbbi but one of the sons named William went to Spencer Academy in 1870 and instead of William Pesachvbbi was named by the school superintendent William Wilson. So the name Wilson was then adopted as the name of the whole family and many of the Wilson's around Broken Bow and Smithville are of that family. [xi] 


Broken Bow (1.5 miles west of Yanubbe River on U.S. 70 at U.S. 259)

The town of Broken Bow began as a private development of the Southern Land and Townsite Company, a subsidiary of the Choctaw Lumber Company owned by Herman and Fred Dierks. The original town, consisting of 230 acres, was platted in 1911. A public auction was held in September of 1911 to auction off the prime lots in downtown Broken Bow. The Choctaw Lumber Company then built a large timber processing mill at the south edge of town, and, in the area just to the west, homes were constructed for its employees. The Dierks sawmill was known as one of the largest mills in the United States.


The Dierks family also contributed to the development of Broken Bow by donating land for churches and schools. An entire city block, which had been set aside for a courthouse, was given to the city of Broken Bow for a city park. That city block was later given to the school for a building complex. There are numerous other contributions of the Dierks family to the town of Broken Bow. They built a company hospital and their company doctors provided medical treatment for the entire community. They also built the Texas, Oklahoma & Eastern Railroad, they built a dam at Yashau Creek which provided water for the town, and they installed an electric generating plant at their mill site where coal was used to generate the electric power for the mill and for the city of Broken Bow. Also, the Dierks mill in Broken Bow led to the establishment of dozens of smaller mills in the area, which were very important in the development of the town. Among the best known of these mills were those of the Ross family, the Story family, the Huffman family, the Thomason family, the Clouse family and many others.[xii]

The Dierks Lumber & Coal Company, renamed Dierks Forest Incorporated in 1954, was always family owned. It had undertaken a number of innovative projects to capitalize their investments and maintain profits, including the construction of box factories, facilities for the production of pressure-treated wood products, facilities to make fiberboard and a small paper mill. By the late 1960s, these operations were still managed by the grandsons and one great-grandson, Peter Dierks Joers. The family stockholders, now numbering in the hundreds, had diverse interests and small shareholdings. When approached by Weyerhaeuser, the offer of $317 million in cash and preferred stock was too much to pass up. In September of 1969, Dierks Forests Inc.’s 1.8 million acres of land, three sawmills, paper mill, treating plant, wood fiber plant, gypsum wallboard plant, two railroads and smaller facilities were sold to Weyerhaeuser.


Point of Interest:

Yasho Cemetery (1.6 miles west of North U.S. 259 on Sherry Lane)

A World War I hero, Joseph Oklahombi (Choctaw for man-killer or people-killer) was born May 1st, 1895, in the Kiamichi Mountains of McCurtain County, Oklahoma. A full-blood Choctaw from Bismark (present Wright City), Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory, he served in the Thirty-sixth Infantry Division's Company D, First Battalion, 141st Regiment, Seventy-first Brigade during World War I. During the October of 1918 Meuse-Argonne campaign, German intelligence successfully intercepted Allied military correspondence. To combat the problem the 141st, 142nd, and 143rd Infantry Regiments utilized Choctaw soldiers, including Oklahombi, to translate messages in their native tongue. At headquarters, they "decoded" Choctaw into English and communicated messages to those in the field. These Choctaw were the original "Code Talkers."


At St. Etienne, France, on October 8th, 1918, Oklahombi assisted his unit as other than a translator. He and twenty-three fellow soldiers attacked an enemy position and captured 171 prisoners. They seized the artillery at the site and purportedly killed seventy-nine German soldiers, tended the wounded in "No Man's Land," and held their position for four days while under merciless attack.

Misinformation led many to believe that Oklahombi acted alone at St. Etienne, and he was identified as "Oklahoma's Greatest Hero." For his bravery, he was awarded the Silver Star with the Victory Ribbon from the United States, and from Marshal Henri-Philippe Petain he received the Croix de Guerre, one of France's highest honors for gallantry. Despite the heroism of Oklahombi and his regimental mates, Congress did not issue them the Medal of Honor for their valor.


After the war, Oklahombi returned to Wright City to be reunited with his wife and son. Despite being offered a Hollywood role in a war movie, he refused to leave Oklahoma. He was struck and killed by a truck as he walked along a road on April 13th, 1960, and was buried with military honors in the Yashau Cemetery.[xiii]


Side Trip to Old Hochatown Road (U.S. Highway 259 North)

Some of the Choctaws who emigrated and located in this part of the country, travelled to the north. It was a rough country and in order to travel in wagons they followed a trail which was the backbone of the country between Mountain Fork River and Glover Creek. Williams' Highway, running from Broken Bow, to Bethel, Oklahoma, a distance of probably twenty miles, follows that old trail. This highway was named for Federal Judge Robert L. Williams, former Governor of the State of Oklahoma. “One time I heard an Indian say that a long time ago the Indians made a road with only their eyes, and that years later the white man came along and made a road with a compass, and that their road follows the old Indian road.” [xiv]

Old Hochatown Road (8.7 miles north on U.S. 259)

East of this junction was once the site of Hochatown. Hochatown was a full blood settlement of about twelve families in the mid-1800’s. The town was surrounded by mountains and was settled in a valley of the Mountain Fork River, about one mile wide and four miles long. Hochatown was named for a Choctaw named Hocha.


From the center of Broken Bow at Oklahoma Highway 3, the travel route turns south on U.S. Highway 70.


Junction with Choctaw Street (0.3 mile south of OK 3 on U.S. 70)

Choctaw Street retraces the route of the Little Rock-Fort Towson Military Road from Broken Bow, leading west to Lukfata. 


Side Trip to Lukfata (Choctaw Street/County Road N4635 West)

Yashau Creek (1 mile west on Choctaw Street)

Yashau (Yazoo) Creek was once the boundary line between Eagle County and Boktuklo County in the Choctaw Nation. The creek was named for the Yazoo River in Mississippi. [xv] 


An excerpt from an account of early life from Peter Hudson as described in Chronicles of Oklahoma (Volume 10, No. 4, December, 1932):


“On the west bank of Yazoo Creek the highway now run over the ground where I remember seeing a Choctaw ball game played between Boktuklo and Eagle counties about 1870. My brother Daniel Hudson, then 18 years of age, played for the first time in the game. That game was the beginning of the end of the old fashioned Choctaw ball games. In this ball game, Isom Going, who was reputed to be the strongest man physically, in Choctaw Nation, played with the Eagle County team. He was about fifty years old and weighed about 200 pounds. Hik-i-tabi, the hero of the Boktuklo County ball team played also. He was small of stature but he was a fighter and was not afraid of Isom Going.”


Lukfata (2.2 miles west on Choctaw Street/County Road N4635)

Reverend Loring S. Williams, who started Beth-a-Bara School, also started a school here and called it "White Clay." The word "Lukfatah" is a translation of "White Clay." Lukfi means "dirt" or "clay" and Hatah means "white," "white clay." Previous to 1855 there was a white man by name of Skelton who kept a store at this place, and his store became headquarters for any payments made to the Choctaws in that part of the country. It is said that during the payment of 1855 he paid out in gold all the money that was paid to Choctaws in that part of the country. The place became known as Skelton Depot. Skelton Depot, White Clay and Lukfatah are all one and the same place. [xvi]


Little River (5.8 miles southwest of Choctaw Street on U.S. 70)

Little River is named for its small size. Its headwaters are in southwestern La Flore County in the Ouachita Mountains. It flows through southeastern Oklahoma, into Arkansas, where it serves as a tributary to the Red River. 


Junction with Oklahoma Highway 3 (3.6 miles southwest of Little River on U.S. 70)

The travel route turns right on U.S. Highway 70, leading west into Idabel. 

Side Trip to Pleasant Hill (Oklahoma Highway 3 East, Pleasant Hill Road South)

Pleasant Hill (12.8 miles east on OK 3, 4 miles south on Pleasant Hill Road)

Point of Interest:

Harris House

Henry Churchill Harris was born at Harris Mill, Choctaw Nation, in 1837, the year following the arrival of his parents from Mississippi. Here, in the extreme southeastern corner of the Nation (and present Oklahoma) his family built up a large plantation and prospered. It was here that young Henry grew up. And it was here, but for intervals of public service in Washington, "Judge" Harris lived and labored in a variety of positions until his death in December of 1899.

Involvement in public affairs in the Nation was only natural for young Harris, himself a quarter-blood Choctaw. His parents were William Riley Harris and Eliza Ann Pitchlynn Harris. He was the grandson of John and Sophia Pitchlynn. His uncles included Peter P. Pitchlynn, Samuel Garland, and Dr. Calvin Howell. All were well-known Choctaw leaders.


The Harris Plantation was adjacent to the Old Military Road from Little Rock and it soon became an important trade center. Henry entered public service in 1859 as postmaster of the newly established Harris Mill office. When the Civil War began, he served briefly with the Sevier County Volunteers, followed by a year with a Choctaw Regiment based at Fort Washita.


In 1863, Harris married Margaret Lee. He established a home and was soon operating several plantations along the Red River. When flooding forced him to move his family, to higher ground, he selected the site of the present house. In 1867 he built this home, the present Harris House. It and the plantation he called "Pleasant Hill," the name still carried by the tiny community a half-mile to the east. The road past the house was then known as Harris Ferry Road, for the ferry on Red River he had established that same year. At the ferry, he also operated a trading post. 


From the time he was postmaster, Harris' adult life was one of almost continuous public service to the Nation. At various times he served as Senator, Representative, Tax Collector, National School Trustee, and in other posts. It was his long service as Supreme Judge of the Second Judicial District that made him Judge Harris, the name by which he was generally known. Perhaps his most significant post, however, was that of diplomat. He represented the Choctaw Nation as one of a three-man commission to the Federal Government in Washington, D. C. This assignment lasted twelve years and was concerned with negotiations involving the Leased District of the Choctaw Nation.


While fulfilling his public service obligations, Judge Harris looked after his plantation, operated sawmills at several locations, and carried on a thriving business in timber products. He also used his vast influence with the Choctaws to help bring railroads to the Nation. The Harris House at Pleasant Hill became a center for commercial and political activities, not only for the Harris family, but for the Choctaw Nation as well. Here, in 1878, Harris established a neighborhood school. And over the years he helped sustain a Methodist church, founded in 1844 and still in existence. After Judge Harris' death in 1899, his son Bert moved into the house. Bert's youngest son Charley took possession in 1949 and, with the help of his wife Ruby, began restoration work.[xvii]


Idabel (2.2 miles west of OK 3 on U.S. 70 at Central Avenue)

The town that would later be called Idabel was established in 1902 as Purnell when the Choctaw Townsite Commission selected, surveyed, and platted the site on the Arkansas & Choctaw Railway (later the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway, or Frisco), then being constructed across the southern portion of the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. The Post Office Department rejected the name Purnell for a proposed office at the site because of the similarity to Purcell, the name of an existing town in Oklahoma Territory. Instead, a post office was authorized as Bokhoma (Red River in the Choctaw language), effective on December 15th, 1902.


The town's name of Purnell was derived from the family name of Isaac Purnell, a railroad official. When postal officials rejected that designation, the name was changed to Mitchell, honoring another railroad company officer. That name was also rejected because another town of that name existed elsewhere in the territory. Railroad officials then chose the name Idabel, a compound of the names of Isaac Purnell's two daughters, Ida and Bell (sometimes given as Belle). The Post Office Department followed suit by changing the name from Bokhoma to Idabel, effective on February 3rd, 1904.


The town was cited on the divide between the Little and Red rivers, twenty-one miles west of the state boundary with Arkansas, forty miles east of Hugo, county seat of Choctaw County. Later, U.S. Highways 70 and 259 would intersect at Idabel. In the beginning, the settlement was a crude, frontier village of wood-frame structures on an eighty-nine-acre site in the dense forest astride the newly built railroad. Growth and development were very slow during the first three years. An unofficial census in 1905 found approximately four hundred people in ninety households. Stumps from the cleared forest on the site still dotted the main streets of the business district.


The town's prospects improved significantly in 1907 when it was designated the county seat of McCurtain County. From a census count of 726 in 1907 the population more than doubled to 1,493 in 1910. Steady growth continued, and the 1920 census tallied 3,617 residents. The population dwindled to 2,581 in 1930, but growth resumed in the late 1930s, increasing rather steadily to 6,957 in 1990. It stood at 6,952 in 2000 and at 7.010 in 2010.


The years 1908 to 1920 were a time of expansion. Only one brick building stood in the business district in 1907, but by 1920 most of the wood-frame buildings had been replaced. The residential portions of the original plat filled, and two major additions were platted and opened. An impressive brick railroad station replaced the original wood-frame building, and a three-story, brick county courthouse was built. Three brick school buildings were constructed, and two congregations replaced their former wood-frame places of worship with churches of brick. For the first several years, timber, harvested from virgin forests in the trade territory, underpinned the economy. The raw materials were shipped by railroad to other localities for processing and use. As farm families cleared and occupied more land, the cultivation of cotton expanded, and the crop became the town's primary economic base. A single cotton gin operated in 1904, and by the 1930s six were in business.


The worldwide economic depression of the 1930s led to collapse of the cotton market. Depleted soil and destructive pests also reduced cotton production, and by mid-century little or none was being produced in the region. Farmers converted croplands to pastures, and the beef cattle industry expanded. Chicken production also later became an economic factor. Marginal lands, formerly farmed, were turned into pine plantations. Industrialization came slowly to Idabel, and much of that early industry consisted of wood-processing plants. By the 1990s these and related activities had developed significantly, and other industrial operations had joined the economic mix.


For the first four years of its existence Idabel had no local government. Law enforcement was a responsibility of the then-sovereign Choctaw Nation for tribe members. The U.S. government held jurisdiction over all other residents until Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Idabel's citizens elected their first municipal officers in 1906, and the council-mayor form of government has continued. From the original plat of 89.39 acres in 1902, the city area gradually expanded through additions and annexations to several square miles, although all is not yet inhabited.[xviii]


Points of Interest:

Barnes-Stevenson House (SE Adams Street and SE E Avenue)

This residence was built in 1911 and 1912 for T.J. Barnes, a pioneer lawyer and the first county judge of Mc Curtain County, by R.D. Cheatham of Jewell Hicks Architect. The structure contains 14 rooms and a basement. Only the finest materials used: seasoned oak, ash, cypress and pine. The windows are leaded glass. The home remained in the Barnes family until 1973 when it was bought and restored by Harold Stevenson, Jr.

Spaulding-Olive House (SE Adams Street and SE H Avenue)

This beautiful mansion was built in 1910 by George A. Spaulding, a pioneer attorney, banker, & United States commissioners. Later it was purchased by pioneer businessman Richard Olive. The home was acquired in 1971 by Tom & Betty Bagwell who named it "Magnolia" and began a five year restoration project completed in 1976.

Frisco Station (NW Texas Avenue at SW Main Street)

The Frisco Railway Station was constructed in early 1912 at a cost of $10,000 for the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway Company by E.M. Vanderslip & Company of Oklahoma City. This brick structure replaced a smaller frame building that had served the town from 1902, when this was still a part of the Choctaw Nation. 

For almost forty years, the station was the center of commercial and social activity in the town. Four passenger trains daily served the area in addition to the heavy freight schedule. During the first decades of the 20th century, the line was the only common carrier serving Idabel, making the Frisco Station a major entrance into and from the town.[xix] 

Idabel Armory (SE Washington Street and SE F Avenue)

This large structure was constructed by the Work Projects Administration in 1936.

Rouleau Hotel (E. Main Street and NE A Avenue)

The Rouleau Hotel is the best extant example of a commercial style building in the Idabel community. The hotel is a three-story rectangular brick building, constructed in 1916 and 1917.


Side Trip to Pecan Point (U.S. Highway 259 South, County Road D4639 South)

Site of Pecan Point (9.3 miles south on U.S. 259, 1.1 miles south on D4639 at junction)

The settlement of Pecan Point was located approximately 1100 yards south of this junction near the mouth of Waterfall Creek. No other settlement made on Red River prior to 1820 bulks larger in contemporary sources than Pecan Point. George and Alex Wetmore selected the place as an advantageous site for a trading house in June of 1815. Later they were joined by William Mabbitt, another Indian trader (the date of his arrival is uncertain although it was before September of 1816), and by Charles Burkham, who first settled there in the summer of 1816. The most noted of the early pioneers to locate at Pecan Point, however, was Claiborne Wright.


On March 5th, 1816, Wright, his wife, three sons, two daughters and a slave girl embarked upon the keel-boat, Pioneer, at the mouth of the Clear Fork of the Cumberland in Smith County, Tennessee. Six months to a day elapsed before he terminated his long journey at Pecan Point. The story of the long voyage by the way of the Cumberland, Ohio, Mississippi and Red Rivers is a thrilling episode in the conquest of the frontier. On September 5th, after much toil, sickness and loss of cargo by Indian robbery, he brought the Pioneer to anchor at the mouth of Pecan Bayou. Not too soon, for a few days later his boat sank, carrying to the bottom of the river a part of the cargo saved from the Indians. But fortunately Wright was not alone in the wilderness; he found before him the Wetmores, Mabbitt, Burkham, Pool and Jonathan Anderson. In the spring of 1817, he was joined by two nephews, John H. and Willey Fowler, who had ridden across Arkansas, accompanied by Wright's eldest son, Travis.[xx]


Side Trip to Mound Prairie (Oklahoma/Texas Highway 37 South, Farm Market Road 195 West, Farm Market Road 410 West)

Davenport (14.2 miles south on OK/TX 37, 6.1 miles west on FM 195, 3.5 miles west on FM 410)

Davenport is the approximate site of the settlement of Jonesborough. Jonesborough was located on the south bank of the Red River, opposite the mouth of Clear Creek. Thomas Ragsdale, who with his father, William Ragsdale (the Ragsdales arrived in 1818), was one of the first settlers in the Kiamichi sector. Thomas Ragsdale recalled in later years that Caleb Greenwood and his sons located at Jonesborough (used in a general sense for the area opposite the mouth of Clear Creek) in 1817 or 1818. The unidentified writer of a "Visit through Texas in 1817" says: "In 1818 I visited what was then known as Jonesboro . . . and there was also a settlement of four or five families, old man Greenwood and his sons and sons-in-law, Lawrence and Henson." The Clear Creek settlement was set up by recent arrivals from Missouri. William Rabb, of Pennsylvania Dutch extraction, moved to the Red River area in 1818 and moved across to Jonesborough in 1820. He was accompanied to Clear Creek by his daughter, Rachel, already married to Joseph Newman; and by his sons: Andrew, who married a daughter of William Ragsdale after his arrival on the river; John, who married Mary Crownover, daughter of John Crownover, in 1820; and Thomas, unmarried. The Rabbs, the Crownovers and Joseph Newman immigrated to south Texas before October, 1823. William Cooper was a noted Indian fighter and mustang hunter, whose exploits in these two fields of endeavor became legendary, both in north and south Texas.. [xxi]

Site of Mound Prairie Settlement (14.2 miles south on OK/TX 37, 6.1 miles west on FM 195, 8.6 miles west on FM 410)

Located approximately 0.8 of a mile north of the curve where Farm Market Road 410 turns south is the site of the Mound Prairie Settlement, opposite the mouth of the Kiamichi River. Adam Lawrence is noted as one of the prominent early settlers of Mound Prairie. His place of birth is unknown but it probably was North Carolina; it is certain that he married in that state. His wife, by legend, was a bearer of dispatches at the Battle of the Cowpens and was wounded there. He was a resident of Lawrence County, Missouri Territory (later Arkansas), in 1815. Lawrence and his neighbors appear to have left the White River area late in 1815 or early in 1816. In Milam's Registro, James Walters (a later settler) stated that he "settled his land at the place known as Adam Lawrence's in 1815." In an old bill of sale, however, made by James J. Ward, junior, to Samuel Worthington it is set forth "that a certain improvement situated on the south bank of Red River above a point opposite the mouth of the Kiamichi known by the name of Mound Prairie which improvement was made by Adam Lawrence in the year of our Lord 1818 and sold by him to Jesse Shelton" was the land in question. Further proof of Lawrence's presence and peril on Red River is furnished by an extract from a letter published in the Arkansas Gazette, February 26, 1820:


“In the year 1818, a band of Osages came to the house of Mr. Adam Lawrence, near the mouth of the Kiamisha, and robbed it of the clothing and many other things, and left a respectable family in a deplorable condition, in a wilderness and frontier country.”


Mansel Mason and sons, William Hensley, William Rabb and sons, William ("Cow") Cooper and Ambrose Hudgens arrived in the Kiamichi region by the summer of 1818. John Chumley seems able also to lay claim to be counted in this group. Concerning the elder Mason we know nothing, but Mansel Mason, junior, was a brother-in-law of Adam Lawrence, Jr., Andrew Rabb and John Roberts, each marrying a daughter of William Ragsdale. William Hensley and Philip Henson are frequently confused because of the similarity of their names; a confusion further confounded by their penchants for getting themselves involved in petty litigations with their neighbors; an expensive eccentricity, it would seem, in the light of the fact that they were obliged to carry suits to the county site of Hempstead County, Arkansas Territory, for trial. Each remained in the county for a number of years; both affixed their names to the Miller County petition of 1825. [xxii]


[ii] Ultima Thule, Arkansas, store ledger; Arkansas Records Catalog;

[iii] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 4, No. 2 June, 1926 Some of our Choctaw Neighborhood Schools; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[iv] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[v] Coleman, Louis; “Cyrus Byington-Missionary and Choctaw Linguist”; Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma;

[vi] Coleman, Louis; Eagletown; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[vii] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[viii] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[ix] Ruth, Kent; Gardner, Jefferson, House; National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form; April 4th, 1975.

[x] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[xi] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[xii] The Early History of Broken Bow; Broken Bow Chamber of Commerce;

[xiii] Delashaw, Corie; Oklahombi, Joseph (1895–1960); Oklahoma Historical Society;

[xiv] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[xv] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[xvi] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[xvii] Ruth, Kent; Harris House; National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form; November, 1977.

[xviii] Coleman, Louis; Idabel; Oklahoma Historical Society;

[xix] Meredith, Howard L.; Frisco Station; National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form; February 14th, 1979.

[xx] Strickland, Rex W.; Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 18, No. 1 Miller County, Arkansas Territory, The Frontier That Men Forgot; March, 1940

[xxi] Strickland, Rex W.; Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 18, No. 1 Miller County, Arkansas Territory, The Frontier That Men Forgot; March, 1940

[xxii] Strickland, Rex W.; Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 18, No. 1 Miller County, Arkansas Territory, The Frontier That Men Forgot; March, 1940

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