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

Bokchito-Durant

Junction with Blue Highway (Old Highway 70) (0.8 mile west of Bokchito on U.S. 70)

The travel route follows the old U.S. Highway 70 from this intersection. The old route is a dirt and gravel surface. If weather is favorable, continue on U.S. Highway 70 to Robinson Road at the town of Blue. The old route is just south of the railroad tracks on Robinson Road at that point and paved with asphalt. 

 

Caddo Creek Highway Bridge (2.7 miles west of U.S. 70 on Old Highway 70)

Bridge was constructed in 1921 on Oklahoma State Highway 5 which was designated U.S. Highway 70 in 1926. In 1938, the alignment of U.S. 70 was moved about one half mile north. The bridge and original roadway continue to serve as an important secondary road.[i]

 

Junction with Robinson Road (2 miles west of Caddo Creek on Old Highway 70)

If the alternate route of the present U.S. Highway 70 was used, that route rejoins the travel route at this junction.

 

Blue River Highway Bridge (2 miles west of Robinson Road on Old Highway 70)

This bridge was constructed in 1921 by the General Construction Company of St. Louis under the direction of the Federal Aid Project. During 1921, 162 miles of highway were constructed by the state under the Federal Aid and 32 miles were built by counties. The total estimated cost was $4,847,000.

 

On the east bank is the site of Philadelphia Church, erected in 1840 and once housing the oldest functioning Baptist congregation in Oklahoma. The minutes of the church for 1850 record the reception and baptism, among others, of a Choctaw named Yokmetubbe, who had been tried for murder and sentenced to death. On his conviction he was placed in charge of an officer of the church and urged to repent and prepare his soul; the record says that "he prayed for forgiveness of his sins-and though compelled to suffer the penalty of the law of his country, we trust he will escape the severe penalty of God's law through mediation of Jesus Christ." For many years the church had only Choctaw ministers, and the congregation was almost exclusively Indian. Its male quartette gives concerts throughout southern Oklahoma.

 

The following is an excerpt from an article published in 1932 in the Baptist Messenger by Professor W.B. Morrison, a Professor of History at Southeastern Teachers’ College in Durant:

 

"About eight miles east of Durant on Highway 70, the traveler may notice a modest white frame building on his left just before he crosses Blue River. It is the present home of the Philadelphia Baptist Church. Mr. and Mrs. Ramsay D. Potts arrived in Oklahoma in 1835 and opened a mission school, which they named Providence, at a point in what is now Choctaw County about six miles north of the Red River and twelve miles west of Fort Towson. Two years later, Mr. Potts was ordained to the ministry and began a career of missionary and educational service throughout the western portion of the Choctaw Nation that continued through more than seventeen years. In 1844, when the Choctaws decided to found an academy in the western portion of Pushmataha District, Rev. R. D. Potts was invited to take charge of it, the Indian Mission Society of Louisville, Kentucky, paying a portion of the support of the school. For ten years Mr. Potts operated this school, which under the name of Armstrong Academy, became a center of Choctaw educational and political life, and for many years the most important place in the Nation, with the possible exception of Fort Towson. However much Ramsay D. Potts was interested in the educational progress of the Choctaw people, there is no doubt that he was still more interested in their spiritual development, so we find him riding a great circuit from the Blue River on the west to the Kiamichi on the east, and preaching the Gospel wherever a group of people could be gathered to hear it. As long as Mr. Potts conducted Armstrong Academy he continued to preach at other points farther east, receiving members into this church from time to time. One of these preaching places, whose location has since been lost, was known as Winchester. It was probably somewhere near the district court ground, in what is now Choctaw County. Students of Oklahoma history will remember that the Choctaw Nation was divided into three districts, the western division being named after the great chief, Pushmataha, and at first presided over by his nephew, Nitakechie, who led a band of Choctaws from Mississippi over the "Trail of Tears" to their new home. It is not now definitely known where Nitakechie and his family made their home, but it was somewhere within the eastern bounds of Mr. Potts' circuit. There is no evidence to show that Nitakechie was ever reached by the missionaries - he was opposed to them in Mississippi. It is also known that he returned to the old country on a visit and died there in 1846. However, at least two of Nitakechie's sons were converted under Mr. Potts' preaching. One of them, who had taken the name of Henry Graves while at school at the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky, was converted at a meeting held at Winchester in the autumn of 1849. He became a very earnest and faithful Christian, and in July, 1851, by a vote of the church during a meeting at Winchester, was called to ordination and became a native helper of Mr. Potts, serving faithfully until his death in February, 1854. His wife, Mary Graves, it is interesting to note, was converted and baptized at her husband's funeral. Another member of Chief Nitakechie's family, Captain Jackson Nitakechie, united with the church at Winchester in 1851.

 

In the year 1883 the site of the church was moved from its original site to a point about three miles east of the town of Blue, in what is now Bryan County. This structure was burned in 1887, and rebuilt near the river west of Blue. This situation did not prove satisfactory, so in 1905, Philadelphia Church made its last move and erected the present building on ground donated for the purpose by Mrs. Adeline Patterson, one of the members. The bell now in use in this church was brought from the old Choctaw court-house near Armstrong Academy."[ii]

 

Philadelphia Cemetery (0.2 mile west of Blue River on Old Highway 70, south of road)

 

Pirtle Church (1.1 miles west of Philadelphia Cemetery on Old Highway 70 at Pirtle Road)

This congregation was organized in 1907. Church was first known as The Old Lone Elm Church and was later changed to the Missionary Baptist Church. This group used the Pirtle schoolhouse for its early meetings. Church was defunct from 1922 to 1927.[iii]

 

Junction with E. Main Street (4.9 miles west of Pirtle Road on Old Highway 70)

The travel route continues to follow the old route of U.S. Highway 70 on E. Main Street into Durant.

 

Durant (1.4 miles west of Old Highway 70 on E. Main Street at the railroad tracks)

Durant was first settled by the Choctaw family of that name in 1870 and built on the Dixon Durant ranch. Occupation of the town site began in November of 1872 when a wheel-less boxcar was placed on the east side of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway tracks. In 1873, Dixon Durant erected the town's first building, a wooden store, on the east side of the boxcar. Named "Durant Station" for his family, it was shortened to Durant in 1882.[iv]

 

The principal chief of the tribe in 1941 was is W. A. Durant, also of the same family. Lying in a region somewhat broken and roughly terraced by nature, Durant has grown to its position of local importance through service to a variety of agricultural needs, and as a seat of two colleges, one maintained by the state and the other—for women—by the Presbyterian denomination.

In 1919, eleven citizens of Durant were killed by a tornado that swept through north Texas, southern Oklahoma, and southeastern Arkansas.[v] 

 

Unusual among industrial enterprises was the factory established here for utilizing the wood of the bois d'arc (Osage orange), most commonly known as a hedgerow bush and valued in the old days by the Indians as material for bows. It grows abundantly in the Durant area, and the factory had fashioned paving blocks and wagon felloes from the tough and durable wood; had utilized smaller bits for insulator-supports on telegraph and telephone lines; and out of the sawdust and ground-up waste had produced a valuable yellow dye which was sold as far away as eastern Europe.

 

Points of Interest:

Oklahoma Presbyterian College (601 N. 16th Avenue)

Now the headquarters for the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma, this institution was opened in 1910 as a college for girls and operated until 1966. The college3 had its roots in the Presbyterian Home Mission, which established the Calvin Institute in Durant in 1894.[vi]

Southeastern State Normal School (University Boulevard and N. 4th Avenue)

On March 6th, 1909, the Oklahoma Legislature approved the establishment of Southeastern State Normal School at Durant. In 1921, the institution became Southeastern State Teachers College and in 1974 Southeastern Oklahoma State University. [vii] The Normal School was one of six training schools for teachers in Oklahoma. 

J.L. Wilson Building (202 W. Evergreen Street)

This structure was erected in 1901. Although Durant existed as a railroad depot and small agriculture settlement after 1872, it was not platted as a town site until 1901. Even then it was still situated in the old Choctaw Nation and subject to the laws of the tribe. The fact that it was officially platted, however, provided an impetus to its economic and demographic growth. Because the town's population increase and commercial expansion occurred before the demise of the Indian government, the White residents were without traditional legal protection. To remedy the situation, the United States government established a Federal court within the community. The first site of the court was the second floor of the J. L. Wilson Building, a facility that was used from 1902 through 1904. When the Court discontinued use of the structure, Mr. Wilson converted the building into an opera house. In 1908, new owners purchased and remodeled the building, making it "a modern, up-to-date entertainment place." For the next several decades it was frequented by such famous actors as James K. Hackett, Frederick Warde, Sir Henry Beresford, Dorothy Sherrod, Tim Murphy, Robert Mantell, and Al Wilson. In the late 1920s and 1930s, the upper floor of the Wilson building was utilized as a drill hall by the Oklahoma National Guard. When the theater closed, the first floor was converted into a "Double-Dip Ice Cream Parlor." Later, it also was used as a furniture store and a dry goods store.[viii]

Robert Lee Williams Public Library Building (Beech Street and N. 4th Avenue)

In 1914, the first library was established as the Mothers Club and library in Durant by the Fortnightly Club. Many citizens worked to acquire a Carnegie library grant. When these efforts failed, the city fathers followed up on their vote to establish a library, appointing a library board and leasing property at Fourth and Beech. However, that plan for a public library languished until late 1925, when prominent Oklahoma politician Robert L. Williams—who had lived for a time in Durant—purchased part of the leased location and donated it to the city for use as a library.

 

Williams' law partner in Durant was W. E. Utterback, who served as chairman of the first library board. The official opening of the Robert L. Williams Public Library was September 15th, 1926. Funds for book purchases were meager at first, but with volumes from Williams’ own library, and with contributions from business firms, men’s and women’s civic clubs, and many individuals, the library housed several hundred volumes—many second-hand and somewhat dog-eared—at its opening.

 

It was during the Great Depression that the small, four-room frame house at Fourth and Beech was replaced by a stately $30,000 stone building at the same location. Construction began in 1936 with aid of a $20,000 federal-government grant through the Works Progress Administration (WPA). To comply with federal requirements, bonds for the remainder of the building’s cost had to be voted by city taxpayers. But Judge Williams sponsored that effort, pledging to pay the bonds and interest himself as each matured. Not surprisingly, the bond issue passed.

 

The stone building was completed and dedicated on July 11th, 1937, with distinguished guests including Williams and Gen. W. S. Key, Oklahoma WPA administrator. W. E. Utterback gave the dedicatory address. A large crowd, many of them children, awaited the new library’s opening that day. Miss Mary Claude Park checked out the first book. Williams’ support of the library bearing his name didn’t end at his death in 1948. A trust created in his will paid off all remaining bonds with interest, 11 years earlier than required, and also financed a 1955 addition that enlarged and modernized the facility.[ix]

Durant City Jail (S. 5th Avenue and Lost Street)

This concrete block building was constructed in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration. This building is notable for its allusion to the art deco style. 

Robert E. Lee Elementary School (S. 9th Avenue and Louisiana Street)

This Works Progress Administration structure was completed in 1937. 

 

Side Trip to Fort Washita (Oklahoma Highway 78 North, Oklahoma Highway 199 West)

Fort Washita (13.6 miles north on OK 78, 3.3 miles west on OK 199)

This important military outpost, the first of a series of forts on the Washita River, was established in 1842 by General Zachary Taylor, later to become President of the United States. The purpose of Fort Washita was to protect the Chickasaws and Choctaws from border raids by the wild tribes of the Southwest. The Marcy Trail to California ran through this point, and the site became a refuge where emigrants might gather to await fellow travelers before starting on the more dangerous portion of their trip. The United States abandoned the fortification in 1861, however, and it was never again occupied except by the Confederates for a short time during the Civil War.

 

Today, Fort Washita is a ghost fortress overgrown with post oaks, but the well-preserved remains of many of the buildings and sites clearly show the plan of the former stronghold. The ruins of massive, chimneyed barracks are still here, for the Goodland limestone quarried near the site has successfully withstood the elements; the straight chimneys of the old tavern built just outside the quadrangle rise like silent sentries; and water still flows from the stone springhouse.

North of the fort is the old Military Cemetery, used partly now as a community burying ground. The marker placed at the grave of General William Belknap, former commander of the southwestern forces of the United States Army who died there in 1851, is still erect; the body, however, was moved to the Fort Gibson National Cemetery and later to Washington, D.C.

 

Side Trip to Atoka (Business U.S. Highway 69 North, Armstrong Road North, Caddo Highway North, U.S. Highway 69 North)

Business U.S. Highway 69 follows the old route of U.S. Highway 69 north from Durant. The route passes through towns and counties bearing the names of chieftains and leaders of the Creek Indians who peopled this area after their removal from the East. Just east of the railroad tracks, the ruts of the old Texas Road are still discernible in places. Herds of cattle being driven north from Texas along this route had to make way frequently for the long lines of emigrants' wagons headed south.

Junction with Armstrong Road (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69)

The route turns right on Armstrong Road at this junction, following the old route of U.S. 69 closer to the railroad tracks. 

Junction with Caddo Highway (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69, 4.6 miles north on Armstrong Road)

Caddo Highway, as the name suggests, travels to the town of Caddo. U.S. Highway 69 once followed closer to the railroad tracks then the current highway, its route determined by the path of the old Texas Road. 

The hilly region between Durant and Caddo is where a battle was fought in 1806 between the Caddoes, who occupied the territory at the time, and the Choctaws, who were then living in Mississippi. The latter tribe hunted on the plains of the present Oklahoma long before the nineteenth century, and on one occasion a hunting party of the eastern Indians was surprised by the resident Caddoes. Many bones and arrows were later found in the hills. It was from these hunting trips that the Choctaws learned much of the land which they selected here before Removal. Pushmataha, one of the Choctaw chiefs who consummated the exchange of territory with General Andrew Jackson at Doak's Stand, boasted that though the western land was supposed to have been unknown to him at the time, actually he knew it well for on "big hunts" he had been chased by Comanches from one end of the country to the other. The Washita River gained its name from these early expeditions, for the Choctaw words owa chito mean "big hunt."

Caddo (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69, 4.6 miles north on Armstrong Road, 7.4 miles north on Caddo Highway at OK 22)

This community, located on a small branch of the Blue River, is named for the Caddo Indians who occupied this region before the coming of the Choctaws. It then became a Choctaw court town, and was filled on the first Monday of each month with many tribal members who came to air their grievances or to stand trial. Caddo was later an important station on the trail between Fort Smith and Fort Sill but declined when the railroads offered a more convenient routing.

Junction with Old Highway (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69, 4.6 miles north on Armstrong Road, 9.4 miles north on Caddo Highway)

The old route of U.S. Highway 69 turns northeast along what is now identified as Old Highway. The route crosses to the east side of the railroad tracks and into the valley of Davis Creek, which it parallels until the creek feeds into Clear Boggy Creek north of Caney. This is offered as an optional route to Atoka. However, it is not paved in sections and should be considered only when the weather is cooperating. 

Junction with U.S. Highway 69 (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69, 4.6 miles north on Armstrong Road, 10.2 miles north on Caddo Highway)

The side trip route joins with U.S. Highway 69 at this junction.

Junction with Mount Carmel Road (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69, 4.6 miles north on Armstrong Road, 10.2 miles north on Caddo Highway, 2.7 miles north on U.S. 69)

Point of Interest:

Maytubby Springs (2.7 miles west on Mount Carmel Road, 1.7 miles south on Cat City Road, 1 mile west on local road to County Road E1955)

At Maytubby Springs, three different kinds of mineral water flow from separate outlets only three feet apart. The springs were named for Captain Peter Maytubby, a Choctaw leader who settled near the town. In the late nineteenth century, a hotel was operated at the springs and the resort became popular locally and in the surrounding states.

Tushka (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69, 4.6 miles north on Armstrong Road, 10.2 miles north on Caddo Highway, 11.8 miles north on U.S. 69)

Point of Interest:

Boggy Depot State Park (8 miles west on Boggy Depot Road, 1.7 miles north on Park Lane)

Boggy Depot was an important old Choctaw-Chickasaw town that grew from an Indian log cabin built in 1837 to a flourishing trade center and Civil War army post. The name of the town comes from that of Clear Boggy Creek about one mile west; the Clear Boggy, Muddy Boggy, and North Boggy streams seem to have been given their names by early French traders who called them Vazztires (vaseuse, miry or boggy). Americans adopted the translation probably about the time of the exploratory expedition made in 1805 by Dr. John Sibley, who wrote in his report, ". . . we arrived at the mouth of the Vazzures,

or Boggy River . . ." "Depot" was added after the Choctaw-Chickasaw treaty of 1837, when the Chickasaws emigrated from the East and were paid annuities at the "depot on the Boggy." The Post Office Department officially named the town in 1849; a boundary treaty in 1855 placed it in the Choctaw Nation.

 

When a post route was established in 1850, Boggy Depot became an important town and several large two-story residences were erected. The settlement was at the junction of the Texas Road and one of the trails from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to the West and did a thriving business. The town church, built by Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury in 1840, served as the Choctaw capitol in 1858 when Chief Basil LeFlore ordered the national council to meet there temporarily during a factional dispute. The Confederates made Boggy Depot a military post during the Civil War, and the Confederate banner floated from a flagpole in the center of the town for four years. Incongruously, the Indian troops fighting for the South would gallop at high speed around the flag whooping and yelling and singing the Choctaw war song.

 

One of the first Masonic lodges to be established in what is now Oklahoma was started here by Reverend J. S. Murrow about 1872. When the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway was built through the area, the route missed Boggy Depot, and the town declined.

 

Traces of the main streets of the old town are still visible, as are the tree-choked foundations of some of the houses; fallen sandstone markers with dates indicate early graves in the old cemetery; and abandoned wells and cement cisterns show the locations of former residences. The Home of Chief Allen Wright built in 1860 out of wood from the great oaks growing about the place, is still standing and in good repair. Wright (1826-95) served two terms as principal chief of the Choctaw Nation and translated several books into the Choctaw language. It was he who named Oklahoma, for in 1866 he suggested the name for the proposed Indian territory. The word is a Choctaw phrase meaning "Red People" and had occurred frequently in the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek when reference was made to the Choctaws. After that the name was in common use and was finally officially given to Oklahoma Territory and the state. Chief Wright, Reverend Cyrus Kingsbury, and other prominent pioneers are buried in the abandoned cemetery here.

Atoka (2.8 miles north on Business U.S. 69, 4.6 miles north on Armstrong Road, 10.2 miles north on Caddo Highway, 17.1 miles north on U.S. 69)

Atoka is the seat of the county of the same name, both of which were named for a subchief of the Choctaw Nation. He is buried about twenty miles east of town near the little settlement of Farris. When the section was surveyed, the chief's resting place was found to be in the middle of the road, but the body was never moved.

 

Reverend J. S. Murrow, a Baptist missionary, founded Atoka in 1867. Shortly afterwards, he established the Atoka Baptist Academy, which eventually was absorbed into the Murrow Indian Orphans' Home on the Bacone College campus north of Muskogee. The Atoka Agreement, between the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations and the Dawes Commission, providing for the surrender of tribal government and the allotment of lands, was signed at Atoka in 1897.

 

Side Trip to Nail’s Station-Fort McCulloch and Kenefic Station (Oklahoma Highway 78 North, Oklahoma Highway 48 North)

Nail’s Station (5.5 miles north on OK 78, 4.3 miles north on OK 48, 0.5 miles west on Nails Crossing Road)

This station, or crossing, is where the Texas Road crossed the Blue River, named for a prominent Choctaw family. Originally constructed about 1847, only the foundations remain of the station house. Nearby is a family cemetery that has been well kept through the years.

 

On the south bank of the Blue River is the site of Fort McCulloch, established in 1862 by Confederate General Albert Pike and named for Brigadier General McCulloch, who commanded the Confederate forces in Indian Territory the first year of the Civil War. The complicated intrigues that distracted the military command of this region soon brought about Pike's resignation and the abandonment of the fort, but the places where the bastions and redoubts were erected are still plainly visible. Some remnants of a bridge built across the Blue at that time also remain.

 

General Pike turned over Fort Davis to Colonel Cooper soon after the defeat of the Confederates in the Battle of Pea Ridge (March 6-8, 1862) and marched his troops down the Texas Trail to where it crossed Blue River some 25 miles north of the Red. Here, about two hundred yards from its southwest bank, he set almost his entire brigade to digging an impressive breastworks and building a headquarters set-up. Named for General Benjamin McCulloch, killed at Pea Ridge, the new post did not look much like the traditional army post. The Headquarters tent stood on an eminence in the center amid clustered log buildings and walled-in tents, mess shacks, and other crude structures. Surrounding knolls were occupied by the tents, huts and dugouts of the soldiers. To the north and to the southeast were heavy dirt breastworks in the shape of a Greek cross. To the north was another larger one in traditional five-pointed star shape. On either side of the fort were large arsenal pits.

 

Fort McCulloch was the major Confederate stronghold erected in Indian Territory. Located in the southwestern corner of the Choctaw Nation, it boasted a strong strategic position, overlooking the Texas Road crossing of Blue River and commanding roads leading to Fort Gibson on the north, Fort Gibson on the east, Fort Washita on the west, and Texas to the south. There was no Federal invasion of this corner of Indian Territory, however, and the post was temporarily abandoned on July 21st, 1862, when General Pike took his troops to Texas. Various Confederate units occupied the fort from time to time and General Stand Watie used it briefly in 1865 for an office. After Appomattox it was abandoned for good.

Today nothing remains on the site but earthen trenches and an extensive system of trenches and high breastworks, overgrown with thick trees in spots, worn down by erosion and the plow in others. It is enough, however, to give the visitor a feel for its size and elaborateness. In the 1960’s, it was still possible to see remains of an old dam and bits of the cable of the ferryboat used in flood time by those unable or unwilling to ford the stream or cross on the crude wooden bridge that was usually in service at this point.[x]

Kenefic Station (5.5 miles north on OK 78, 5.3 miles north on OK 48, 0.6 mile east on OK 22)

Between 1908 and 1910, when the Missouri, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway (MO&G) laid tracks through the region, the MO&G Land Improvement Company promoted the town, advertising lots for sale in a variety of state newspapers, including Oklahoma City's Daily Oklahoman. In 1910, the postal designation changed to Kenefic, named for William Kenefick, president of the MO&G. Throughout its history the town has been referred to as Kenefick and as Kenefic. Its lone newspaper, published in the 1910s, had the title Kenefick Dispatch. By 1911, the community had an estimated population of 250 and supported the newspaper, a bank, a hotel, a doctor, and a number of retail stores. By 1913, the town had added another bank. In 1920, there were 413 residents. Pioneer aviator Ira Clarence Eaker lived in Kenefic as a young man. In 1990, residents successfully fought to keep the Union Pacific Railroad, which owned the tracks at the time, from removing the rails of the abandoned line.

 

Side Trip to Sowells Bluff Bridge (Oklahoma Highway 78 South)

A portion of this side trip follows the route of the Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway (also referred to as the Missouri, Oklahoma & Gulf) through Achille to Carpenters Bluff. 

Bloomfield Academy Cemetery (13.1 miles south on OK 78, 1.2 miles south on Bloomfield Road, 0.3 mile west on Bumpas Road; cemetery is 0.2 mile south of Bumpas Road in a square grove of trees)

Bloomfield Academy began, in the spring of 1852, as a site “in the hitherto unbroken forest in the midst of a grove.” It was, in the words of the wife of the site's selector, a "situation…afterwards much admired by passing travelers." Its name was suggested by a Chickasaw ex-chief because of the profusion of flowers in the surrounding fields. The school might well have been named for George Washington, however, for at one time it annually received $1,000, a portion of the interest derived from funds appropriated by the First Congress of the United States to pay General Washington for his Revolutionary War services. Washington refused to accept the money and had it set aside for educational purposes.

 

The original buildings at Bloomfield were of logs and probably quite plain. The first superintendent assisted with the carpenter work to hold down costs. The Chickasaw Nation’s regard for education was generally greater than the resources. The Civil War closed virtually all schools in the Nation. For a time, Confederate Indian troops used Bloomfield’s buildings and they were reported as half-ruined when the war ended. With peace, however, one of the first acts of the Chickasaw legislature was to vote money to rehabilitate the Nation's educational system. The neighborhood school was a logical first step in this program—a feasible alternative to the more elaborate, and costly, boarding schools.

 

One of the first of these neighborhood schools opened in 1867 at the Bloomfield Academy facility, war-damaged as it was. The school was conducted by a Captain Frederick Young, who held classes for boys and girls. Between 1867 and 1876, when Bloomfield Seminary for girls was established, the buildings were undoubtedly rehabilitated to a certain extent, although official records show no appropriations for this purpose. Only after 1888, when Douglas H. Johnson took over as superintendent, was the original log school building replaced by a modern frame building. On October 15th, 1896, both it and the remaining original structure were destroyed by fire. About a week later an Act to rebuild Bloomfield Seminary was passed by the Chickasaw legislature and approved by Governor R. M. Harris. It carried an appropriation of $14,000 for that purpose and a new facility was promptly erected ... this time on a new location several hundred yards to the northwest. Still of wood, the new Bloomfield burned yet another time on January 24th, 1914, and this time the government bought the old Hargrove College property north of Ardmore and re-established Bloomfield there. No ruins remain to mark either this or the original site some 75 yards southwest of the cemetery.[xi]

Carpenter’s Bluff Bridge ((13.1 miles south on OK 78, 1.2 miles south on Bloomfield Road, 0.5 mile west on Bumpas Road, 0.9 mile south on Memory Lane, 0.5 mile west on Greenwood Road, 1 mile south on Mt. Calvary Road, 0.5 mile west on Kemp Road, 0.8 mile south on Carpenter Bluff Road)

Carpenter's Bluff, Texas, is on the Red River and Farm Road 120 twelve miles northeast of Sherman in extreme northeastern Grayson County. The settlement, established about 1860, derived its name from that of an early settler who operated a ferry across the Red River. After 1865, a number of disreputable persons who frequented the local general store and saloon earned the community the nickname Thiefneck. Law-abiding citizens soon drove these men from Carpenter's Bluff, however, and the nickname was forgotten.

By the early twentieth century, the Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf Railway had constructed a bridge across the Red River at Carpenter's Bluff. The Texas & Pacific Railway later owned and operated the bridge. A one-lane shoulder was added to the bridge to allow automobile traffic. The Texas & Pacific relinquished control of the bridge in 1966, turning authority over to officials of Grayson County and Bryan County, Oklahoma. Soon thereafter the bridge was converted to accommodate two lanes of automobile traffic.[xii]

Sowells Bluff Bridge (27 miles south on OK 78 at the Red River)

The State Highway 78 Bridge at the Red River was constructed in 1937 and 1938 with emergency relief funds. This bridge replaced a suspension bridge that collapsed on January 15th, 1934. According to The Daily Oklahoman (April 12th, 1959), “a norther of terrific force came up which caused the swinging bridge to fall. At 1 a.m. the wire cables on the Fannin (TX) side of the river became twisted then snapped, broken in half, and the entire massive structure crashed to the river below—a complete wreck.”

 

Side Trip to the Red River (Business U.S. Highway 69 South, U.S. Highway 69 South)

Junction with U.S. 69 (4 miles south on Business U.S. 69)

Calera (4 miles south on Business U.S. 69, 0.5 mile south on U.S. 69 at Washington Avenue)

This community was one of the first town sites in which white men could purchase lots and get titles for the land directly from the Indian tribes. The lot sale there took place in September of 1899.

Junction with Franklin Street (4 miles south on Business U.S. 69, 6.5 miles south on U.S. 69)

The side trip route departs from U.S. 69 at this exit to follow Franklin Street south through Colbert.

Colbert (4 miles south on Business U.S. 69, 6.5 miles south on U.S. 69, 1.8 miles south on Franklin Street at Morris Avenue)

Colbert's Ferry was located on the Red River about three-fourths of a mile from the home of Benjamin F. Colbert. Colbert owned the ferry that provided travelers with a safe journey across the river. Colbert's home served as a stop on the Butterfield Mail Route from 1858 to the early days of the Civil War. The Colbert post office was established here on November 17th, 1853.

Point of Interest:

Denison Dam (4.4 miles west on OK 91)

This structure is three miles long and 140 feet high, completed in 1944. Approximately at the confluence of the Washita with Red River, the dam can impound water covering some 120,000 acres in Oklahoma and 22,000 in Texas. The primary purpose of the $50,000,000 project was flood control in Oklahoma, Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana. Army engineers estimated that more than 138,000 acres of rich farm land would have been saved from flooding when the Red River went out of its banks in 1935 if there had been such a reservoir.

Site of Red River Bridge War (4 miles south on Business U.S. 69, 6.5 miles south on U.S. 69, 4.2 miles south on Franklin Street/Road at U.S. 69/U.S. 75 Bridge over the Red River)

The free bridge which previously crossed over the Red River at this point (demolished in 1995) was the cause of the so-called Red River Bridge War in 1931. For many years previously, the Texas Toll Bridge Company had operated a toll bridge at this crossing, but in 1929 Texas and Oklahoma, with the consent of Congress, began the construction of a free bridge.

 

The toll bridge company claimed that the commission had agreed in July of 1930 to purchase the toll bridge for $60,000 and to pay the company for its unexpired contract an additional $10,000 for each month of a specified fourteen-month period in which the free bridge might be opened, and that the commission had not fulfilled this obligation. A temporary injunction was issued on July 10th, 1931, and Texas governor Ross S. Sterling ordered barricades erected across the Texas approaches to the new bridge. However, on July 16th Governor William (Alfalfa Bill) Murray of Oklahoma opened the bridge by executive order, claiming that Oklahoma's "half" of the bridge ran lengthwise north and south across the Red River, that Oklahoma held title to both sides of the river from the Louisiana Purchase treaty of 1803, and that the state of Oklahoma was not named in the injunction. Oklahoma highway crews crossed the bridge and demolished the barricades. Governor Sterling responded by ordering a detachment of three Texas Rangers, accompanied by Adjutant General William Warren Sterling, to rebuild the barricades and protect Texas Highway Department employees charged with enforcing the injunction. The rangers arrived on the night of July 16th. On July 17th, Murray ordered Oklahoma highway crews to tear up the northern approaches to the still-operating toll bridge, and traffic over the river came to a halt. On July 20th and 21st, mass meetings demanding the opening of the free bridge were held in Sherman and Denison, and resolutions to this effect were forwarded to Austin. On July 23rd, the Texas legislature, which was meeting in a special session, passed a bill granting the Texas Toll Bridge Company permission to sue the state in order to recover the sum claimed in the injunction. The bridge company then joined the state in requesting the court to dissolve the injunction, which it did on July 25th. On that day, the free bridge was opened to traffic and the rangers were withdrawn.

 

Meanwhile, a federal district court in Muskogee, Oklahoma, acting on a petition from the toll-bridge company, had on July 24th enjoined Governor Murray from blocking the northern approaches to the toll bridge. Murray, acting several hours before the injunction was actually issued, declared martial law in a narrow strip of territory along the northern approaches to both bridges and then argued that this act placed him, as commander of the Oklahoma National Guard, above the federal court's jurisdiction. An Oklahoma guard unit was ordered to the bridge, and Murray, armed with an antique revolver, made a personal appearance in the "war zone," as the newspapers labeled it. No attempt was made to enforce the Oklahoma injunction, but on July 24th, with the free bridge open, Murray directed the guardsmen to permit anyone who so desired to cross the toll bridge. On July 27th, Murray announced that he had learned of an attempt to close the free bridge permanently, and he extended the martial-law zone to the Oklahoma boundary marker on the south bank of the Red River. Oklahoma guardsmen were stationed at both ends of the free bridge, and Texas papers spoke of an "invasion." Finally, on August 6th, 1931, the Texas injunction was permanently dissolved, the Oklahoma guardsmen were withdrawn to enforce martial law in the Oklahoma oilfields, and the bridge controversy was laid to rest.[xiii]

Remains of Red River Toll Bridge (4 miles south on Business U.S. 69, 6.5 miles south on U.S. 69, 3.2 miles south on Franklin Street/Road, 1.5 miles south on River Road at Toll Bridge Road)

Two of the bridge piers of the Red River Toll Bridge remain in the Red River southwest of this junction, approximately 1100 yards southeast of the current highway bridge.

 

[i] Caddo Creek Bridge; Bridgehunter.com; http://bridgehunter.com/ok/bryan/12190000000000/

[ii] Routh, E.C.; The Story of Oklahoma Baptists; 1932, p. 30-31.

[iii]Inventory of the Church Archives of Oklahoma; Oklahoma Historical Records Survey; 1937

[iv] Milligan, Keith L.; Durant; Oklahoma Historical Society; http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=DU010

[v] “Tornado Kills 100 in Texas and Oklahoma; Hundreds Buried in Debris of Ruined Towns”; New York Times; April 10, 1919.

[vi] Oklahoma Presbyterian College; National Register Properties in Oklahoma; http://nr_shpo.okstate.edu/shpopic.asp?id=76001556

[vii] Milligan, Keith L.; Durant; Oklahoma Historical Society; http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=DU010

[viii] Baird, W. David; J.L. Wilson Building; National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form; May 29, 1980

[ix] Our History; Donald W. Reynolds Community Center and Library; http://www.donaldwreynolds.okpls.org/history.shtml

[x] Ruth, Kent; Fort McCulloch; National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form; March, 1971.

[xi] Ruth, Kent; Bloomfield Academy Site; National Register of Historic Places Registration Form; February, 1972.

[xii] Hart, Brian; Carpenter’s Bluff, TX; Handbook of Texas Online; Texas State Historical Association; https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hrc27

[xiii] Taylor, Lonn W.; Red River Bridge Controversy; Texas State Historical Association; https://tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/mgr02

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