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

Idabel to Hugo

 

Garvin (8.7 miles west of Idabel on U.S. 70 at Kirk Avenue)

Garvin was one of the towns laid out when the Frisco railroad was built through this region. The first bank in the county was opened here, and here sat the first U. S. Commissioner's Court in the southeastern section of the state.

 

Point of Interest:

Garvin Rock Church (Love Street and Williams Avenue)

This church was constructed in 1910. It replaced the First Presbyterian Church, which was then housed in a small wooden building. Claude Gamble, a prominent Garvin merchant and banker, donated the lot for the new church, with the stipulation that it be “equal to that of any church in this area.” The prime construction contract was for $12,000. But this did not include the stained glass windows, installed in two attractively designed banks of four long center-hung sashes on the south and west elevations of the church. Unfortunately, storm damage in the 1920’s led to removal of these panels.[i] 

 

Junction with County Road N4525 (3.1 miles west of Garvin on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Wheelock Academy (County Road N4525 North)

Wheelock Academy (1.4 miles north on County Road N4525)

Built in 1832, Wheelock Academy was created as a missionary school. Ten years later, Wheelock Academy was chosen to become the first Choctaw Nation Academy and was converted into an all-girls school. Students there were exposed to both traditional studies of English, history, geography and science, as well as home economics and Bible studies. When the Civil War began in 1861, the academy was closed. A fire destroyed every building on the original campus in 1869, and Wheelock Academy was reconstructed in the 1880s just northeast of its original location. Between 1884 and 1955, Wheelock Academy was a thriving learning environment.

 

After Wheelock Academy's closure in 1955, the campus underwent several changes. What had grown to 17 buildings dwindled down to just six, including an old seminary, dining hall, barn, chapel, a domestic science building and an arts and crafts building. In 1965, the academy was declared a National Historical Landmark. Since then, Wheelock Academy has become a popular tourist destination. It is located in an area dubbed the "Choctaw/Chickasaw Heritage Corridor," which stretches from Wheelock Academy to the Chickasaw Capitol House in Tishomingo. Guests are invited to take a one hour guided tour of the grounds five days a week.[ii]

 

Millerton (1.5 miles west of County Road N4525 on U.S. 70 at Main Street)

This was one of the first towns established in the Choctaw Nation.

 

Junction with Oklahoma Highway 98 (1.3 miles west of Millerton on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Alikchi (Oklahoma Highway 98 North, Old State Highway 98 North, Oklahoma Highway 3 West)

Site of Alikchi (6.1 miles north on OK 98, 5.8 miles north on Old State Highway 98, 4.6 miles west on OK 3 at Forest Road 40810)

It is said that the last tribal execution of an Indian in McCurtain County took place here in 1902. Tried by a jury of fellow Choctaws, he was convicted of murder. According to an old custom, he was allowed to go home until the day of his execution. On the appointed day, he presented himself to be shot to death. As late as 1920, a post office was recorded for Alikchi.

 

Valliant (3.5 miles west of Millerton on U.S. 70 at Dalton Avenue)

Valliant was the site of the Alice Lee Elliott Memorial School, a school for African-Americans. It was begun in 1870 as Hill School, and then called Oak Hill Industrial Academy as an industrial school for Choctaw freedmen. In 1902, on receiving a special gift in memory of Alice Lee Elliott, it was renamed. In the period from the end of the American Civil War until 1885, former slaves of the Choctaws had no legal status in the nation, and the United States government failed to carry out its promise to remove them. It was in this period that missionaries undertook to provide, in whatever meager way they could, for the education of the freedmen’s children, and Oak Hill came into existence as a Presbyterian chapel-school. After 1885, freedmen as adopted citizens of the Choctaw Nation were schooled by the tribe.

 

Point of Interest:

Valliant School Gymnasium and Auditorium (Lucas Street and Wilbur Street)

This structure was built in 1936 and 1937. 

 

Junction with Watermill Road (County Road N4440) (2.7 miles west of Valliant on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Site of John Wilson’s Grist Mill (Watermill Road South)

Site of John Wilson’s Grist Mill (1.9 miles south on Watermill Road)

This grist mill was located approximately 250 yards west of this spot on Clear Creek. John Wilson, Sr., lived and owned and operated a grist mill by use of water power, there being a natural dam at that point. His oldest son, Willie Wilson, attended Spencer Academy in 1870. John Wilson, Sr., was a nephew of Greenwood LeFlore. [iii]

 

Junction with County Road N4375 (6.6 miles west of Watermill Road on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Old Fort Towson Historic Site (County Road N4375 North)

Old Fort Towson Historic Site (0.6 mile north on CR N4375 at CR E2060)

Fort Towson was established in 1824 to protect the early Choctaws who were induced by the Federal Government to emigrate voluntarily from the raiding western Plains Indians and the outlaws that made their headquarters along the north bank of the Red River. Soldiers sent to Fort Towson had little military work to do and were occupied mainly in building roads. In 1829, the post was abandoned. It was re-established, however, when enforced removal of the Choctaws began in 1831. Abandoned again in 1854, it was used as a Choctaw Indian Agency until the outbreak of the Civil War, when it was taken over by the Confederates. In 1864, the fort was the headquarters for General S.B. Maxey. It was here, in June of 1865, two months after the official end of the war, the Cherokee Confederate General Stand Waite surrendered. 

It is said that Sam Houston met representatives of the Pawnee and Comanche tribes at Fort Towson in December of 1832 to negotiate treaties of peace between them and the tribes then being removed from east of the Mississippi; and that from this meeting Houston went on to begin the four-year campaign that ended with the wresting of the Province of Texas from Mexico. 

Fort Towson (0.8 mile west of CR N4375 on U.S. 70 at Main Street)

In 1902, when the Arkansas & Choctaw Railway reached eastern Choctaw County, a group of two hundred male citizens submitted a petition proposing the purchase of 160 acres of land for a town site near the fort. The location was desirable because Boiling Springs, on the site's northern edge, provided an artesian spring that ran into Gates Creek. The survey having been finished in December of 1902, Thomas Ryan, acting secretary of the interior, completed the approval.

 

During the 1900s, the lumber industry became prominent in the surrounding region. Wright Hopson bought timber rights and sold them to the Pine Belt Lumber Company. In addition to the lumber company sawmill, various businesses, including a bottling works, sweet potato drying plant, cotton gin, two banks, two hotels, and several boarding houses made Fort Towson a commercial hub for the east end of the county. The 1910 population registered at 697 residents. In 1923, fifty more acres were added to the town. This was called the Old Fort Addition, and later another fifty acres constituted the West Fort Towson Addition. The 1930 population stood at 486.

 

Thomas Fennell built the first post office and served as the town's first postmaster. The Fort Towson post office has been recognized as one of the oldest continually operating post offices in the state. The Fort Enterprise began publication in 1905. Colonel Charles C. Lewter owned and operated the newspaper, which came out each Friday through World War I, and then he sold it to a Hugo newspaper. Doaksville Lodge 279, which meets at Fort Towson, was one of the earliest Masonic lodges in Oklahoma, beginning in 1852. Many Oklahoma showmen, rodeo performers, and circuses made the area their home.

 

In 1940, the town boasted a population of 501, and the decade provided several years of "all women" town councils. In the late 1950s, Governor Raymond Gary kept a campaign promise and authorized the creation of Lake Raymond Gary and the accompanying state park. The Gates Creek Dam Association was formed and sold some four hundred memberships to begin and support the effort. Randle Swink, president, and local merchant O. B. Medford, secretary, spearheaded the movement. In 1979 the town extended its limits to include lake residents.[iv]

 

Side Trip to Doaksville (Red Road North)

Site of Doaksville (Fort Towson Cemetery) (1 mile north on Red Road)

Established in 1821 by the Doaks brothers, who were fur traders, the settlement became in important center for trappers and Indian and white settlers as the frontier pushed farther and farther west. Shallow-draft steamboats on the Red River and overland freight served the place; in 1833, seventeen boats discharged cargoes for Doaksville of such varied items as powder and shot, churns, and cloth. They also loaded peltry and cotton for the return voyages. 

By a treaty made at Doaksville in 1837, the Choctaw Nation agreed, for a consideration of $530,000, to grant equal rights in their country to the Chickasaws; and the boundaries of a Chickasaw District were defined. In 1855, the tribes agreed to formal separation, and the Chickasaw District became the Chickasaw Nation. From 1850 until 1863, Doaksville was the Choctaw capital. Its decline and disappearance were due to the American Civil War, removal of the capital, and discontinuance of river traffic. 

 

Junction with Oklahoma Highway 147 (6 miles west of Fort Towson on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Spencerville (Oklahoma Highway 147 North)

Site of Spencerville (Spencerville Cemetery) (9.4 miles north on OK 147, 0.3 mile west on CR E1980)

Spencerville was the home of Spencer Academy. A noted school for boys, Spencer Academy was established by the Choctaw Nation in 1841 and named for Secretary of War John C. Spencer. Students who became Choctaw leaders included Allen Wright, Jackson McCurtain, and Jefferson Gardner. Two elderly black slaves, Uncle Wallace and his wife, Aunt Minerva, hired out by their Choctaw owner to work for missionaries at the academy, first sang "Swing Low Sweet Chariot," "Roll, Jordan, Roll" and other spirituals were composed nearby.

Below is Peter Hudson’s account of his time at Spencer Academy:

“In 1870, the Old Spencer Academy was reopened, there having been no school there for ten years. I was then nine years old. The Choctaw law provided that promising students should be selected out of the neighborhood schools to attend the boarding schools that they might have better advantages.

 

Old Spencer Academy was located on the Fort Smith—Fort Towson Military Road, nine miles north of Old Doaksville, which was just a mile north of where Fort Towson now is. Daniel Hudson, my brother, did not take advantage of these schools himself, but he would insist that I go. He took me to Spencer the first time on horseback. J. H. Colton was the Superintendent of Spencer Academy at that time. There were five buildings and not being in use for ten years they were badly in need of repairs. There were about sixty pupils the first year. Supplies were hauled from Paris, Texas, by mule team and in times of high water, sometimes it would take four or five days to make the trip. So our meals were sometimes somewhat limited. We lived on beef, corn bread, milk and a cup of coffee in little tin cups. Biscuit was given to us only on Sunday morning because of difficulty of getting flour from the market at Paris, Texas. We were always anxious for Sunday to come so that we could have biscuit. We used to play marbles and we would bet biscuits on the games.

 

The buildings of Old Spencer Academy covered an acre of ground probably. Each of the four buildings on the corners were two story buildings, each having a porch both upstairs and downstairs, facing the inside of the grounds. The fifth house was two story across the front, but the back where the dining hall and kitchen were located, was one story.

 

One of the four buildings on the corners was named for Peter P. Pitchlynn, one for Robert M. Jones, one for Thompson McKinney, of Skullyville, grandfather of Major Victor Locke, and one for William Armstrong, Indian Agent, at that time. Armstrong Academy was also named for him. The first three men named were three of the members of the Board of Trustees appointed in 1845 to look after the boarding schools; the other member was Zadoc Harrison.

 

In 1842 the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky was discontinued and the money formerly appropriated for that school, used in establishing Spencer Academy, the idea being that Spencer Academy was to do the work that the Choctaw Academy in Kentucky had been doing. Spencer Academy was to be the best school in Choctaw Nation.”

 

Sawyer (6.7 miles west of Fort Towson on U.S. 70 at 2nd Avenue)

This community came into existence about 1900 when the Arkansas & Choctaw built its branch line between Texarkana, Arkansas and Ardmore, Oklahoma, to provide an outlet for the lumber and cotton produced in this district. 

 

Kiamichi River (0.5 mile west of Sawyer on U.S. 70)

This river’s name is derived from the French word kamichi, meaning “horned screamer,” a wild bird found in the area. The bird is not to be confused with a South American bird often called by the same name.[v]

 

Fallon (2.3 miles west of the Kiamichi River on U.S. 70 at Fallon Road)

Side Trip to Everidge Cabin and Cemetery (Fallon Road South, County Road E2110 East, County Road N4290 South, Spring Hill Road East)

Everidge Cabin and Cemetery (3.1 miles south on Fallon Road, 1 mile east on CR E2110, 1 mile south on CR N4290 (Fallon Road), 2 miles east on Spring Hill Road at CR N4310, 0.3 mile north)

The Choctaw Indians were removed forcibly to Oklahoma from Mississippi by the Federal government during the three years following 1831. Among these were full blood Eve Brashears and her white husband, Thomas Willie Everidge, a native of England. Everidge was a carpenter-farmer by occupation, and upon arrival in Indian Territory in 1834 he and his black slaves constructed the cabin on this property. As a consequence, the structure is one of the two oldest in what is now southeastern Oklahoma. Moreover, it reflects something of the character of the societys established by the Choctaws in their new homeland. Theirs was an agricultural society dominated by isolated homesteads and much influenced by southern United States traditions. Thus the property reflects the early diffusion of white southern material culture into southeastern Oklahoma and indicates the degree of cultural accommodation that had occurred among the Choctaws prior to removal in the 1830s. In the adjacent cemetery are buried the original occupants of the cabin, 60 of their descendants and collateral kin, and, in a special section, the family slaves.

 

Junction with County Road N4270 (1 mile west of the Kiamichi River on U.S. 70)

Side Trip to Rose Hill Cemetery (County Road N4270 South, County Road E2090 West, County Road N4260 South)

Rose Hill Cemetery (1 mile south on CR N4270, 1 mile west on CR E2090, 0.4 mile south on CR N4260)

This is the final resting place of Captain Robert M. Jones, perhaps the most notable figure in the history of the neighborhood. He was a half-blood Choctaw, who established a store here as one of his many enterprises, including stores at Scullyville and Lukfata, and six plantations with five hundred slaves. One of the plantations, which he called Lake West, consisted of some five thousand acres of rich Red River bottom land planted with cotton; the others, strung along the Red River, were called Boggy, Rose Hill, Root Hog, Shawneetown, and Walnut Bayou. To carry his produce to market and bring in stocks for his stores, he also owned and operated two steamboats. 

 

The cemetery is on the site of the old Rose Hill plantation, which was Captain Jones’ home in the days when he lived in truly southern opulence. The house was elaborately finished in oak, maple, walnut, and mahogany, furnished largely from France (as was customary among rich ante bellum plantation owners). It burned in 1912, long after it had been abandoned and had fallen into decay. By the 1940’s, only a small tenant house, some cedar trees, and other plantings remained. Jones was ruined by the American Civil War and died at Rose Hill in 1873. The cemetery, with its impressive tombstones, was enclosed with a rock wall and otherwise restored as a WPA project.

 

Hugo (4.8 miles west of CR N4270 on U.S. 70 at Broadway)

Hugo, the county seat of Choctaw County, was named by Mrs. W. H. Darrough, whose husband surveyed the original townsite, in honor of Victor Hugo, her favorite author. Its growth was stimulated when the Arkansas & Choctaw Railroad, building westward, crossed the tracks of the Frisco. After that first mild boom and considerable real estate speculation, the town settled down to steady development as the center of a productive farming region. It developed a pecan-cracking mill, a peanut butter factory, and one of the largest creosoting plants in the state.

 

Points of Interest:

Hugo Armory (S. 3rd Street and E. Jefferson Street)

Constructed in 1936, this armory features polichomatic sandstone laid up in a decorative but random pattern.

Frisco Railroad Depot (N. B Street and W. Clayton Street)

Constructed in 1914, the Frisco Railroad Depot is located on the site of an earlier depot which had been destroyed by fire in 1913. The new structure was designed to be fireproof. Supported by steel columns, its exterior walls are of red brick and concrete construction and are topped by a terra cotta cap. North to south the depot measures 229 feet; east to west it is 42 feet. Over each of the large glass in its western facade (track side) are horizontal wooden canopies; the same is true of the main entrance on the east. The second level, which reaches 35 feet above ground surface, measures 166 feet by 42 feet and is set equal distance from either end of the lower floor. The upper story windows on the east to west are canopied by slanted tile roofs. The building is low, wide and symmetrical, and vaguely Italianate in style.

 

In the interior of the building, the first floor was devoted to passenger and Freight activities. From south to north, its rooms were divided-as follows: express, baggage, kitchen, lunch room (an old Harvey House), general waiting room (with adjacent rooms for the news stand and toilets for white men and white women), ticket office, and Negro waiting (with adjacent toilets for men and women).

The second floor contained sleeping rooms for the women employees of the restaurant, offices for Frisco railroad officials, sleeping rooms for trainmen, and a large assembly hall (63" by 16') that was used by townspeople for public meetings. All walls within the depot were plastered, had chair rails, and utilized cornices of either wood or picture molding. In the central waiting room the ceiling was beamed and the woodwork of the newsstand was walnut. The toilets for white persons had marble floors and walls.

 

The Frisco depot at Hugo was closed as a passenger facility in 1960. Later in that decade the company sold the building. Since then it has been utilized as a salvage yard and a wood chip factory. In 1978, it was purchased by the Choctaw County Historical Society, the objective to restore the structure to its original state and to house a museum that will display items demonstrative of the history of the town and the region.

 

Side Trip to Goodland School and Ord (U.S. Highway 271 Business South, U.S. Highway 271 South, Oklahoma Highway 271A)

Goodland School (1.5 miles south on U.S. 271 Business, 0.8 mile south on U.S. 271, 2.1 miles west on OK 271A)

In 1848, the Indian Presbytery was petitioned by the Choctaws living in this vicinity to send a teacher. In 1850, Rev. O. P. Stark and his wife settled at Goodland and established a mission and school in their log cabin home. A church was soon built, and the school was conducted in this building for a number of years. Until 1890, the institution depended largely on the support of the community; this was obtained mostly through the efforts of Mrs. Carrie LeFlore, wife of Basil LeFlore, the chief of the district. In memory of her and her husband, their home has been moved to the campus and dedicated as a museum (open to visitors) of Indian and mission history.

 

Most of the buildings on Goodland's campus were built in the 1920's. In 1945, there was a devastating tornado that destroyed the campus. The rock buildings survived, but the frame buildings had to be repaired and were used until around 1960, when the dormitories being used now were constructed. Today, there are several historical buildings that still serve the students. A rock building that was built as a hospital in 1935 is now used for the Boy Scout meeting place and a residence for a staff member. The Goodland gymnasium was built in 1936.[i]

Grant (1.5 miles south on U.S. 271 Business, 3.5 miles south on U.S. 271)

Grant was established at the time the Frisco Railway built through this region.

Ord (1.5 miles south on U.S. 271 Business, 6.3 miles south on U.S. 271)

This community was named for a town in Nebraska.

 

[i] The mission of Goodland Academy; Chahta Anumpa Aiikhvna School of Choctaw Language; Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma; http://www.choctawschool.com/home-side-menu/history/the-mission-of-goodland-academy.aspx

[i] Ruth, Kent; Garvin Rock Church; National Register of Historic Places Inventory-Nomination Form; April, 1979.

[ii] Wheelock Academy; Oklahoma Tourism & Recreation Department; http://www.travelok.com/listings/view.profile/id.8491

[iii] Chronicles of Oklahoma Volume 10, No. 4 December, 1932 Recollections of Peter Hudson; Oklahoma Historical Society; digital.library.okstate.edu/chronicles/v010/v010p501.html

[iv] O’Keefe, Marlynn Fleck; Fort Towson (town); Oklahoma Historic Society; http://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=FO045

[v] Dary, David; Stories of Old-Time Oklahoma; University of Oklahoma Press, February 10, 2015.

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