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

Hugo-Bokchito

 

 

Junction with U.S. Highway 271 (7.2 miles west of Hugo on U.S. 70)

The old Fort Towson Road, along which processions of troops and supplies from Fort Smith were routed to Fort Towson, nearly parallels U.S. Highway 271. Deep ruts made by the heavy wagon wheels are still visible in places. 

Side Trip to Talihina (U.S. Highway 271 North)

Antlers (13.2 miles north on U.S. 271 at Main Street)

This town was so named because of the Indian custom of fastening a set of antlers to a tree to mark the site of a spring; a large spring near the town had been marked in this way. The chief industry of this district is lumbering, and a large lumber and planing mill is one of the town's most prominent structures.

During the winter of 1892-93, Antlers was the scene of a political insurrection still known locally as the "Locke War." Congress had voted to pay $2,943,050 in settlement of a land claim to the Choctaw Nation, and bitter strife developed between the citizens as to the handling of this money. The question became the main issue in the election of 1892, when the voters were to cast their ballots for principal chief. The two main political parties, Nationalist and Progressive, had as their respective candidates Jacob B. Jackson, an influential full blood who had received a college education and had held numerous tribal offices, and Wilson N. Jones, a wealthy ranch man then serving as chief. The vote was very close, but the party in power, which canvassed the returns, decided in favor of Jones. The Nationalists formed armed bands with the intention of marching against the capitol and seizing the government. Most of them were dispersed with little bloodshed by the tribal militia, but about 150 of the insurrectionists barricaded themselves at Antlers under the leadership of Victor M. Locke, an intermarried white man, and prepared to defy the administration. Chief Jones' militia attacked their stronghold, but few casualties resulted since neither side was willing to engage in a pitched battle. For the first time in the history of the Choctaw people, Federal troops were called in to restore order, and a United States commissioner finally persuaded the leaders of the two factions to make peace. Jones served out his term without further incident, but the log stockade in which the Nationalists had barricaded themselves at Antlers remained standing for many years as a grim reminder of the most serious political disturbance in the history of the Choctaw Republic.

Point of Interest:

World War II AT6 Memorial (1 mile west on OK 7, 8.3 miles north on OK 2, 3.6 miles north on Johns Valley Road, 2.1 mile west on Sherman Road)

Between 1997 and 2001, students at Rattan Elementary School in Rattan, Oklahoma, researched the crash site of a flight of Texan AT6 training aircraft. These aircraft were piloted by Royal Air Force pilots which were stationed at British Flying Training School No. 1 in Terrell, Texas, and were enroute to Miami, OK. Below is the text from the signage next to the memorial:

 

The morning of Saturday, February 20, 1943, Course 12 of the #1 British Flying Training School left Terrell, Texas, in a low level, cross-country training flight. Their destination was the #3 BFTS in Miami, Oklahoma. These AT6s encountered bad weather near Red River, the boundary between Texas and Oklahoma. Some planes returned to Terrell, some continued to Miami, but three were reported missing. According to the information gathered by Rattan Elementary students, one AT6 "belly landed" and slid into a tree. Pilot, Vincent Henry Cockman, and navigator, Frank R. Frostick, were found still in the cockpit. The Anderson-Clayton Funeral Home in Antlers, Oklahoma, picked up their bodies. The bodies were then transported to Terrell, Texas, for burial on Monday, February 22, 1943, at Oakland Cemetery. The AT6 flown by Michael John Minty Hosier with navigator Maurice Leslie Jensen nose-dived into the ground turning up a boulder, which created what community members refer to as a "natural tombstone." The bodies of the two cadets were recovered on that (same) Monday and taken to the funeral home in Antlers. They were (also) returned to Terrell for burial. The third AT6 was able to land safely in a field and was flown back to Terrell the following day. The navigator of this plane, Gordon "Wilbur" Wright returned to Terrell in the AT6 while its pilot, John Wall, stayed to search for the two crashed AT6s. Wall wrote a letter describing this incident. The letter is included in the research report available at the Pushmataha County Historical Society in Antlers, Oklahoma, and at the Oklahoma Historical Society in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. This monument was placed at the "natural tombstone" crash site for two principal reasons. The research brought about student awareness of the importance of maintaining good relations between the United States and the United Kingdom. The research also served as a reminder of the great sacrifices both countries have made to preserve and protect our freedom. This monument was placed in honor of these four cadets as well as all others who have given their lives for the cause of freedom. The monument was designed by the student researchers in consultation with the Canadian Commonwealth War Graves Commission and prepared by a local artisan, Mr. Allen Parsons of Allen's Monuments. The monument was dedicated on Sunday, February 20, 2000, at 2:00 pm on the 57th anniversary of the crashes.

Junction with Oklahoma Highway 2 (53.6 miles north on U.S. 271)

Point of Interest:

Site of the Tuskahoma Female Academy (4.4 miles north on OK 2, just north of County Road E1610)

This institution was established in 1891 to serve as a companion school for the Jones Academy, Choctaw boys' institution at Hartshorne. The main building burned in 1927 and a home, built partially of its ruins, now stands on the spot. This house was once the residence of Dr. Anna Lewis, a well-known historian of Choctaw blood, who once attended the academy.

Tuskahoma (56.4 miles north on U.S. 271)

The present town of Tuskahoma came in to existence with the coming of the railroad. Long before, however, it was the political capital of the Choctaws. As early as 1838, representatives of that nation first met to legislate for the people in their new home. Today, as citizens of a nation embracing all races, descendants of those same Choctaws live in and around Tuskahoma.

By the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, made in Mississippi in 1830, the Choctaws were promised many things in return for their land: one provision was that funds would be appropriated for the erection of a new council house in the approximate center of the land that they would henceforth occupy. The site selected was on a mound about one and one-half miles northwest of the present Tuskahoma. This was in 1834, but it was 1838 before the pine-log house was erected and ready for the first council meeting in the new capital, Nanih Wayah; the name had been brought from the East, where sacred mound, which figured in the legends pertaining to the Choctaw origin, was also named Nanih Wayah (“Protective Mound”).

 

Because of factional disputes, the seat of government was located at various places until 1883, when the council appropriated funds to erect a building on a permanent site about two and one-half miles northeast of the original capital, Nanih Wayah. The new structure, built of wood from the surrounding forests and of red bricks from native clay, remained the capitol of the nation until tribal government was ended in 1906.

 

In 1888, the Frisco Railway built through the region, but the Choctaw Council refused to pay the excessive bonus demanded by the company for building a station near the capital. A town gradually grew near the railway stop some two miles south, however, and thus the present Tuskahoma came into being.

 

Points of Interest:

Site of Nanih Wayah (1 mile north on Council House Road, 1 mile west on CR E1640 at CR N4344)

Near this intersection is the site of Nanih Wayah. An early Choctaw Burial Ground is also near this point. 

Choctaw Nation Capitol (1.3 miles north on Council House Road)

This rectangular red-brick building was erected in 1883. In 1934, the Choctaws drafted plans to restore the building and to purchase one thousand acres around it for use as a park and for farm lands, the proceeds from the latter to be used to maintain the historic site permanently. In June of 1938, one hundred years after the first council meeting at Nunih Wayah, the Tuskahoma Council House, last of the Choctaw capitols, was rededicated as a historical and educational institution. 

 

North of the Council House is an old Burying Ground, where many well-known Choctaws rest. In this spot are the graves of Jackson McCurtain, who was chief of the nation when the council building was erected; of his wife, Jane, most prominent and capable of the few Choctaw women who took an active part in politics; and of Peter Hudson, a brilliant educator and writer, who used his talents to keep alive Choctaw history and tradition. A few feet from the Council House stands the McCurtain Home, built at about the same time as the capitol, where many prominent tribesmen were entertained while the council was in session.

Site of Spring Station (58.6 miles north on U.S. 271)

This was a stop on the old Fort Towson Military Road from Fort Smith , Arkansas. It was named for John Springs, an influential Choctaw, whose home was here. Nearby, in a field, is the unmarked grave of William Bryant, principal chief of the Choctaws from 1870 to 1874.

Kiamichi (61.9 miles north on U.S. 271)

Kiamichi is a small settlement named for the Kiamichi River, which flows nearby, paralleling the highway for six miles. In a report made in 1805 by Dr. John Sibley, an American explorer, he speaks of the tributary to the Red River, “which is called by the Indians Kiomitchie.”

Albion (67.1 miles north on U.S. 271)

This area was originally in the Choctaw Nation, Indian Territory. A post office was established here on December 6th, 1887. The St. Louis & San Francisco Railway built a line through the area in 1886 and 1887. During the 1880s, the Shine Brothers operated a sawmill. Other early businesses included the Jerome Clayton Lumber Company and the Albion Mercantile. When the town was platted and incorporated in 1906, John T. Bailey named it Albion, which is a Roman/ancient word for England. In that year, the Farmers' Union built a cotton gin.

 

The town served an agricultural region producing cotton and hay as well as cattle, sheep, and turkeys. In 1911, R. L. Polk's Oklahoma State Gazetteer and Business Directory estimated Albion's population at three hundred. At that time a bank, a hotel, three general stores, a livery, a blacksmith, a shoemaker, and a confectionery constituted the business district. E. E. Lenhart published the Albion Advocate newspaper. L. A. Reynolds owned the hotel and served as postmaster. Early churches included Methodist, Baptist, and Church of Christ. A 1920 population of 301 dropped to a low of 161 in 1960 and 88 in 1990.

 

Around 1913, Mato Kosyk (1853–1940), a Lutheran minister who had immigrated to the United States from Werben, Lower Lusatia, East Germany, in 1883, retired to a farm near Albion. A poet, he is considered one of three great Sorbian (a Slavic language) writers. Therefore, Europeans acknowledged his one-hundred-fiftieth birthday in 2003.[i]

Talihina (75.5 miles north on U.S. 271)

Talihina was a small, unnamed missionary settlement in this valley in the Winding Stairs Mountains when, in 1888, the Frisco Railway built across the mountains from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Paris, Texas. The name Talihina dates back to this event, for in the Choctaw language it means “Iron Road.” As the road crews laid the shining steel rails, the Native Americans looked on in superstitious wonder. In the diary of one of the missionaries, present at the time, are recorded words of a chief who had once been on a train: “I have ridden on the railroads east of the Mississippi. They have little houses on wheels which can be shut up and locked. If we allow these railroads to come, the white men will invite all the full bloods to a picnic and get the men to go off and play ball. Then they will get our women to go into the little houses on wheels and lock them up and run off with them into Texas or Missouri. Then what will we do without our women?” 

 

Despite the objections of the Native Americans, the railroad was completed and the missionary settlement grew into the present town. Until 1919, Talihina remained almost inaccessible except by rail. At that time, a highway was built through the nearby forest by convict labor. Since then, highways have been constructed through the valley to the west and eastward toward Hot Springs, Arkansas. 

Points of Interest:

Choctaw-Chickasaw Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1.8 miles west on OK 1, 0.3 mile north on OK 63A, 1.1 mile east on SE 202nd Road)

This hospital was first established here in 1916 with $50,000 furnished by the Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes and built under the supervision of the Federal Government. Originally, only tuberculosis patients were admitted, but in 1936 Congress appropriated money to enlarge the hospital so that general medical service might be offered. The complex includes a rambling building of native stone, built around an open court. 

Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium (1.8 miles west on OK 1, 1.2 miles north on OK 63A, 0.2 mile east on D1555 Road)

The law authorizing the establishment of this sanatorium passed the Oklahoma Legislature in 1919. This bill stated that tuberculosis was hereby declared to be dangerous to the public health and provided for the establishment of three state tuberculosis sanatoria. At this time, $50,000 was appropriated for the establishment and equipment of an African-American sanatorium at Boley, and $100,000 each for the establishment and equipment of two sanatoria for Caucasians, one at Clinton known as the Western Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium and one at Talihina known as the Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium. The sanatorium for African-Americans at Boley was discontinued in 1931 and provisions were made for the care of African-Americans at the Western Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium at Clinton, where a separate building was allotted to their care. 

 

The Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium was opened for the admission of patients on November 1st, 1921, with facilities for caring for about 50 patients. This sanatorium is located on a ledge of mountains overlooking a broad expanse of the Kiamichi Valley. The hospital is about 800 feet above the valley.[ii] 

Boswell (14.4 miles west of U.S. 271 on U.S. 70 at 6th Street)

This community grew up on the site of a much older settlement of Choctaws. In 1902, the Arkansas & Choctaw Railway, which became the St. Louis, San Francisco & New Orleans Railroad, and later the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway, laid tracks through the area. The citizens of the community of Mayhew relocated alongside these tracks. In September of 1902 the postal designation changed to Boswell, in honor of Amity V. Boswell, who surveyed the railroad right-of-way. In 1903, the village incorporated through the Central District Court of Indian Territory at Durant. By 1907, the community's population registered 836 residents. In 1911, the town had two banks, a telephone connection, a cotton gin, two hotels, and several retail outlets. Farming and ranching anchored the economy, with cotton, corn, and fruits shipped from the railroad depot. The 1920 population stood at 1,212, but declined to 934 in 1930. In 1932, three cotton gins operated there. The Boswell Citizen, the Submarine, the Boswell News, and the Boswell Times have reported local occurrences.

 

In 1940, the population was 962. African Americans attended the Dunjee Separate School, named for Oklahoma City's Roscoe Dunjee. After the Brown v. Board of Education of Topeka, Kansas decision (1954), the school became part of the Boswell school district, but the students did not actually attend with white students until Dunjee school closed in 1965.

 

Here in a modified form is still followed the old custom of holding a Funeral Cry twenty-eight days after the burial of a Choctaw. Formerly, on the day of the burial, the surviving head of the family cut twenty-eight small sticks representing the duration of the lunar month, and each morning one stick was taken from the bundle and broken. When only seven sticks remained, he sent invitations to kinsmen and friends to come for the cry on the day the last stick was broken. Each family brought its own provisions of corn meal, flour, beef, and vegetables and camped near the burying ground. The Cry began with the recital by a close relative of the good qualities of the deceased, and as he proceeded the mourners, gathered around the grave with heads covered, started to cry. This ceremony sometimes lasted several days. In bad weather, it was held in the church, lighted at night by candles. [iii]

 

Side Trip to Mayhew Cemetery (6th Street/County Road N4020 North)

Mayhew Cemetery (2.7 miles north on 6th Street/CR N4020 at CR E2035)

This cemetery is largely populated by early African-American citizens of Choctaw County.

 

Side trip to Mayhew (Crystal Road North)

Site of Mayhew (2.5 miles north on Crystal Road)

The region's early Choctaws established Mayhew after their removal to Indian Territory. In 1839, the Presbyterians established a church and mission school here. Noah Wall had built a tavern at this location, which lay on a road between Fort Towson and Boggy Depot and Fort Towson and Fort Washita. In 1841, Charles F. Stewart married Wall's daughter, Tryphena, and the next year opened a trading post. In 1845, the U.S. Postal Service designated a Mayhew post office, which sporadically remained in existence through the nineteenth century. The community grew in importance as the Choctaw Nation's Pushmataha District Capital and court grounds. As the federal government, through the Curtis Act (1898), abolished the Five Civilized Tribes' governments, Mayhew's relevance dwindled. By 1901, the town had an estimated population of twenty-nine, one cotton gin, and one general store. Mayhew businesses and residents moved south to the new tracks of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway in 1902, developing the new town of Boswell.[iv]

 

Junction with Cade Highway (8.9 miles west of Boswell on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Old Bennington (Cade Highway North)

Old Bennington (1.6 miles north on Cade Highway at Old Church Road)

The original town of Bennington grew up around this church, organized in 1848 by the Presbyterian Mission Board. Still standing on the spot known locally as Old Bennington, the church has a burying ground across the road. Best remembered of the old church's ministers was Reverend W. J. B. Lloyd, who preached here after the Civil War. It was Mrs. Lloyd who told the story illustrating early banking practices. One day in the 1870’s she rode on a visit to the home of Wilson N. Jones, later chief of the Choctaws. As she prepared to return, Jones came out and tied a small, heavy bag to her saddle, saying, "This is $10,000 in gold; take it home and keep it until I come for it. I'm afraid of being robbed here, but no one would think of robbing a preacher!" It is said that Mrs. Lloyd kept the bag of gold, hidden in the foot of a feather bed, for five years before Jones claimed it.

 

Junction with Oklahoma Highway 70E (1.2 miles west of Cade Highway on U.S. 70)

The travel route turns south on OK 70E for a short distance, following the earlier route of U.S. Highway 70 through Bennington.

Bennington (0.8 mile south of U.S. 70 on OK 70E at Valliant Road)

Bennington, an old Choctaw settlement on a part of the route that coincides with the original road from Doaksville to the west, is the trade center of a rich farming and grazing area.

 

From Bennington, the travel route follows Valliant Road west, the earlier route of U.S. Highway 70.

 

Junction with U.S. Highway 70 (1.6 miles west of Bennington on Valliant Road)

The travel route returns to the current highway after passing under the railroad tracks.

 

Junction with Banty Road (miles west of Boswell on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Banty (Banty Road North)

Site of Armstrong Academy (3.3 miles north of U.S. 70 at Shoemake Road)

The site of Armstrong Academy is located on private land 7/10 of a mile west-southwest of this intersection. In 1844, two years after the Choctaw Nation had provided for a school system, the academy was built to serve the western portion of the Pushmataha District, placed under the supervision of R. D. Potts, a Baptist missionary, and named for the popular Choctaw agent,

 

William Armstrong. Instruction for adults was undertaken on weekends; and toward sunset on Friday evenings wagons bearing families began arriving at the campground in the clearing around the school. From Saturday morning to Sunday evening, classes for men and women were held in which reading, writing, and arithmetic were taught along with religious instruction.

 

The academy site, renamed Chata Tamaha (Choctaw Town), served as capital of the Choctaws from 1863 to 1883, when the tribal lawmakers removed it to Tuskahoma. Closed in the Civil War, Armstrong Academy was reopened in 1882 by the Presbyterians, under contract with the Choctaw Nation, and continued as a school for orphan boys until it was burned in 1921. The outline of the academy’s foundation is all that remains.

Below is an article from the Muskogee County Democrat on January 22nd, 1920:

L

IKE LOSING AN OLD FRIEND SAYS PARKER AFTER BURNING OF BOKCHITO INDIAN SCHOOL

Armstrong Academy, Okla. -- (AP)

"It was just like losing an old friend," said Gabe Parker in speaking of the destruction by fire of the old Armstrong Academy buildings near Bokchito. Mr. Parker, now superintendent for the Five Civilized Tribes, was for 13 years connected with the old Choctaw school in supervisory capacities. "The school was known and respected throughout the Indian Territory and especially among the Choctaws," said Mr. Parker, who is himself a Choctaw. "Thousands of fine young Choctaw boys have been educated there, and all remember it with much feeling and reverence. Started in 1834 as a community school for children of the Choctaw settlement, the school has kept on its traditions through over 80 years of ups and downs.

 

The present administration building was erected in 1856, according to Mr. Parker. "The Choctaws put together the logs for the first building in 1834," he said. "Along in the fifties the building began to deteriorate and the question came up of replacing it or repairing it. The tribal council decided to build a new structure and they made it a good one. "When we tried to make some repairs down there a few years ago, we found that the building was practically indestructible. The nails were square, forged on the premises. The brick and mortar were put on to stay. It was more of a job to tear out part of the building than to put in the repairs." Mr. Parker was principal of the school from 1900 to 1904, taking the position shortly after the school was put under government supervision. He was superintendent from 1904 to 1913, succeeding Wallace Butz, insurance man, here. Sam L. Morley, now a McAlester bank president and formerly warden at the state penitentiary was superintendent of the school before Mr. Butz. "The school used to be literary and academic, but of recent years industrial pursuits have claimed the most attention," says Mr. Parker. "Stock raising, agriculture, manual training and other occupations more suitable to the Choctaw's life are being taught now." "The school also has military training. During the war dozens of Choctaws who had attended the school were in the war and one made the enviable record of winning the Croix de Guerre -- a posthumous honor."

 

The destruction of the school buildings leaves the Choctaws with only three schools—two for girls. They are the Jones Male academy near Harishorne, the Tuskahoma Female academy at Tuskahoma, and the Wheelock Female academy near Millerton. Because of the government's policy of sending Indians to the public schools, it is doubtful whether the school will be re-established. Insurance on the buildings expired several years ago and was never renewed by the government.

Site of Banty (4.3 miles north of U.S. 70 at Armstrong Academy Road)

Banty was established between 1870 and 1885 at Starvation Hill, which is approximately ½ mile northeast of this location. The first subscription school was established in 1892 at the south end of Starvation Hill. It was then relocated southeast and later southwest of the hill. The school closed in 1958. 

The first store was established in 1901. A second followed in in 1912, existing until 1977. A post office existed here from 1901 until 1949. 

B

okchito (2.9 miles west of Banty Road on U.S. 70 at OK 22)

The neighborhood of Bokchito, a Choctaw word meaning “big creek,” was occupied by Choctaw during their early removal into Indian Territory. In 1900, a town coalesced and moved to the present location when a line that soon became a branch of the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway laid tracks through the area. On April 27th, 1901, Bokchito was incorporated as a part of the Choctaw Nation. Newspapers serving the population included the Bulletin, the Times, the Success, and the News

 

Social institutions included several churches, and the Woodmen of the World and the Masons established lodges. In the mid-1930s, the town acquired a steel jail from the old Mayhew court grounds that served the Choctaw Nation. In 1912, the community built a two-story school, which later burned.[v] 

 

[i] Wilson, Linda D.; Albion; Oklahoma Historical Society; http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=AL004

[ii] Wagoner, Minnie; History of Eastern Oklahoma Tuberculosis Sanatorium; http://www.ok.gov/health2/documents/TB%20History%20of%20Eastern%20Oklahoma%20TB%20Sanatorium.pdf

[iii] O’Dell, Larry; Boswell; Oklahoma Historical Society; http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=BO023

[iv] O’Dell, Larry; Boswell; Oklahoma Historical Society; http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=BO023

[v] Milligan, Keith; Bokchito; Oklahoma Historical Society; www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=BO006

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