Chronicles of Oklahoma

Skip Navigation

Electronic Publishing Center
Oklahoma Historical Society
Chronicles Homepage
Search all Volumes
Copyright 2001
Purchase an Issue

Table of Contents Index Volume List Search All Volumes Home

Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 11, No. 2
June, 1933
HISTORIC PLACES ON THE OLD STAGE LINE FROM FORT SMITH TO RED RIVER

By MURIEL H. WRIGHT

Page 798

For one who will follow the traces of the old stage line road from Fort Smith to Red River, bearing in mind the part it had in the history of Oklahoma and other sections of the Southwest, there still lingers something of the spirit of Indian Territory days. With the exception of a few detours, which also pass through interesting country, the worn traces of the old stage line, especially between Fort Smith and Stringtown, parallel the country roads most of the way today. These roads are good, except during extreme spells of bad weather, making a trip over them worth while not only for the historical interest but also for the glimpses of forests and prairies, mountains and streams still as fair in their unspoiled beauty as when the first pioneers saw them.

From Fort Smith the route extends southwest by way of present Spiro, Latham, Red Oak, Wilburton, old Mountain Station, Ti Valley, Wesley, Stringtown, to Atoka. Southwest from Atoka the old road is closed but there is comparatively easy access to historic places in the region southwest of that point—Old Boggy Depot, Nail's Crossing on Blue, Fort McCulloch, Fort Washita, Carriage Point, and the two ferries on Red River in Southwestern Bryan County, Rock Bluff and Colbert's. If a straight edge is placed on a map of Southeastern Oklahoma between the site of Fort Smith and that of Old Boggy Depot, it will be seen that the route of the old trail deviates little from such a line. It should be specially noted that the good roadbeds in the valleys, shallow crossings on the larger streams and easy passes through the outlying ridges of the San Bois and the Winding Stair Mountains lay along this same line, which made it the best and the most direct route for travel from Fort Smith across the Choctaw and the Chickasaw country to Red River and points southwest. So it was a natural trailway undoubtedly followed by the native Indian tribes and by visitors to the country lying between the Arkansas and Canadian and the Red rivers long

Page 799

Map

Page 800

before the first permanent settlements were established in that region.1

In the beginnings of recorded history of Oklahoma, the road first came into prominence when it was traveled by the Chickasaws on their long journey in 1837-9 from their ancient homelands east of the Mississippi River to their new country in the Indian Territory.2 The Choctaw Agency or Skullyville, the first stop on the trail west of Fort Smith and across the Choctaw border, came into prominence at the beginning of the Choctaw immigration in 1831. Boggy Depot, or "the Depot on Boggy" as it was sometimes called, was established in 1838 as the western terminus of the trail, a station from which commissary supplies were issued to the immigrating Chickasaws. The first log cabin was erected on this site in the fall of 1837, by Cyrus Harris, afterward governor of the Chickasaw Nation for several terms.3

Throughout the years the portion of the trail between Fort Smith and Clear Boggy River was generally known as the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road. With the establishment of Fort Washita in 1842 as a permanent military post and the extension of the road to that point, it was also sometimes called the Fort Smith-Fort Washita Road. The road struck







Page 801

the Texas Road about a mile north of present Stringtown, in Atoka County; thence the two roads merged to Red River. The line of the Texas Road from the crossing of the Canadian, south of present Eufaula, was established after the founding of Fort Washita. Before that, the Texas Road out of Fort Gibson followed the old Leavenworth Trail, crossing the Canadian at the mouth of Little River, in Hughes County. Thus, for travelers both from the north and the east toward Fort Washita, the crossing on Little (or North) Boggy, about two miles southwest of present Stringtown was an important point. A. W. Geary, an intermarried Choctaw, established his residence, an extensive farm, and other improvements here at an early date. After the construction of the M. K. & T. Railroad in 1872, from north to south across the Indian Territory (following approximately the Texas Road), that portion of the stage line between Fort Smith and Stringtown, where it struck the new railroad, was known as "the Fort Smith-Stringtown Road."

At this point in our story, it should be noted that both the Chickasaws and the Choctaws had long known the advantages of having permanent highways through their domains. With the establishment of the famous Natchez Trace (1802) out of Nashville, Tennessee, through the two nations to Natchez, Mississippi Territory, and the opening up of other highways in that region, a number of enterprising citizens among the Chickasaws and the Choctaws established their residences along them not only for the benefits to be gained from the traffic and travel that would pass their doors but also to have an easy access to ports of trade for the products of their own farms. Among these prominent Indian Families who had their homes on the early day highways in Mississippi were the Colberts, Loves, Folsoms, McKinneys, Holsons, Smallwoods, LeFlores, Juzons, Nails, Perrys, Harkins, McCurtains, and Pusleys.

In the Indian Territory, Boggy Depot was the converging point for several trails to different points west and south. The road to Red River, or the Texas Road, extended in a


4"The California Mail Route Through Oklahoma" by Grant Foreman, Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. IX, No. III, contains the interesting description of W. L. Ormsby, special correspondent of the New York Herald, of his trip through the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations on the first Butterfield stage to San Francisco from Tipton, Missouri, in 1858.

Page 802

southwestern direction via Nail's Crossing on Blue, thence by way of Carriage Point to Rock Bluff Ferry, near Preston, Texas, whose history as a part of the annals of the republic and state extends back over a period of almost a century. Even before that time the Rock Bluff marked the crossing of an old Indian trail on Upper Red River and, in 1849, the return route of Captain Randolph B. Marcy's expedition from Santa Fe to Fort Smith.5

Not long after 1846, James Tyson, of North Carolina, whose wife was Charlotte Love, daughter of Henry Love of the Chickasaw Nation, owned a ferry at Rock Bluff. Already well-to-do as a slave owner, James Tyson's wealth increased from the proceeds of his ferry and from the products of his extensive plantation that lay in the low valley opposite Rock Bluff, on the north side of Red River in the Chickasaw Nation (now Oklahoma). One day in talking to a party of Mormons who were traveling through the Indian Territory on their way to Utah, Mr. Tyson learned there were a number of carpenters among them. Finding them anxious to make expenses and save money by plying their trade as they traveled along, he engaged them to build a residence for him about two miles from his ferry. They proved themselves skilled artisans for when Mr. Tyson's home was completed, it exhibited the finest workmanship, walls of heavy, hand hewed logs closely fitted at the corners, and hand dressed flooring and other finishings. The house was two stories in height facing west, tall stone chimneys standing at either of its gable ends, and a hall leading from the front door past two large rooms on either side to the two-story wing extending in an L to the



Page 803

rear. Mrs. Tyson herself took great interest in her new home, planting flowering shrubs and trees around it. For many years it was known as the most substantial and beautiful place in that section of the country not only by the neighboring planters but also by travelers along the Texas Road passing within a few yards of the front door.

After the death of Mr. Tyson, in 1857, his wealthy widow, fine looking and respected for her dignity and character, married Nathan Coffee, of Preston. Upon his death a short time later, Mrs. Coffee undertook the management of her own affairs in which she proved herself a capable business woman. She was rich in slaves, the quarters, some distance to the rear of her residence, being a little village in itself, with its main street lined on either side by a row of log cabins where scores of negro slaves laughed and sang and played after their day's work was done. Large herds of cattle and horses belonging to Mrs. Coffee ranged the woods and prairies on either side of the Lower Washita Rivers.6 Today one can stand on an eminence on the Texas side of Red River above the Rock Bluff and gain a sweeping view of the beautiful valley across the river, in present Bryan County. Such a view takes in that portion of the Red River Valley in Oklahoma, now known as the "Coffee Bend Country," recalling the days when Charlotte Love (Tyson) Coffee ruled its fortunes.7

During the days of the Texas Republic, Preston below the mouth of the Washita, in Texas, and near the Rock Bluff, was the trading and social center for a wide stretch of country on both sides of the river, including the Chickasaw plantations as far down as the mouth of Island Bayou. With the discovery of gold in California in 1849, traffic and travel was diverted from Preston to Sherman, the county seat of Grayson County, Texas. A few years later, increasing emigration crossed Red River at Colbert's Ferry, located almost due north of Sherman





Page 804

and about six miles, by the meanders of the river, below Rock Bluff.

Increase in trade accompanying heavy emigration southwest, the location of Fort Arbuckle as a permanent military post west of Fort Washita, and the settlement of the boundary dispute between the Choctaw and the Chickasaw nations by the Treaty of 1855, were all contributary causes for the establishment of a number of new postoffices in the Chickasaw Nation and in the southern and western parts of the Choctaw Nation during the 'fifties. Mail was delivered by local and star routes out of Fort Smith to most of these points.

The third week in September, 1858, saw the first mail coach of the Butterfield Stage Line dashing down the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road, on its way with the mail from St. Louis to San Francisco. The plan for the regular delivery of mail between these two points had been perfected in the granting of a subsidy of $600,000, under an Act of Congress in 1857, to the Overland Mail Company, of which John Butterfield, the veteran mail route promoter, was president. The route selected out of Tipton, Missouri, the railroad terminus at that time, was south to Fort Smith, Arkansas, thence 192 miles across Southeastern Indian Territory to Colbert's Ferry on Red River, continuing by way of Sherman southwest to El Paso, and on west to California.8 As the mail had to be delivered in record time under contract, travel continued day and night over the old trail through the Indian Territory southwest to Red River, the most direct and accessible road out of Fort Smith by way of McDaniel's Crossing on Brazil Creek, "The Narrows" on Upper Brazil Creek, Riddle's Crossing on the Fourche Maline, the mountain pass leading to Pusley's Crossing on Gaines Creek, present Ti and Pounds valleys, the upper courses of Brushy and McGee creeks, Geary's Crossing on Little (North) Boggy, Davis Crossing on Middle (Muddy) Boggy, Boggy Depot Crossing on Clear Boggy, Nail's Crossing on Blue, thence southwest by the prairie country past the head of Island Bayou and on to Colbert's Ferry.

Previous to running the first Butterfield stage, arrangements had been made with Indian citizens living on or near this road in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations to maintain



Page 805

stands where teams could be quickly changed at regular intervals, according to the same plan of operating stage lines in the States. Only through mail and passengers were carried on the Butterfield stages between St. Louis and San Francisco. (A bag of mail from Memphis was taken on at Fort Smith to be delivered to San Francisco.)9 At the time the Butterfield Company began operating its California mail coaches, contracts were pending in the Postoffice Department at Washington with regard to local and star routes running out of Fort Smith to points in the Indian Territory and North Texas. These facts are important in recounting the history of the Butterfield Line through the Indian Territory and North Texas, since some persons have thought these advertisements had to do with the Overland Mail, leading them to draw their conclusions as to the probable location of the stage stations en route through the Choctaw country.

Laws had been passed by the Chickasaw Legislature and the Choctaw General Council requiring a designated number of days of work on the public highways, from citizens of the respective nations. However, since the total Indian population approximated only 24,000 persons living in the 18,220 square miles of territory (south of the Arkansas and Canadian rivers as far west as Chickasha), it was a physical impossibility to maintain good roads in such an extensive area. Neither was there a system of taxation nor any regular funds


9A copy of the official list of Butterfield Stations operating in the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations in 1858 was furnished the writer in correspondence with Mr. R. P. Conkling, of El Paso, Texas, who had written in the late fall of 1931 seeking information as to the location of Pusley's Stand and other sites in the Choctaw Nation. Mr. Conkling has made an exhaustive and thorough study of the whole Butterfield Stage Line from the Mississippi River to the Pacific Coast, the results of his efforts to appear at an early date in a volume containing the story of this interesting subject. Also consult Appendix A.

No doubt there were changes and improvements made in the stations after the running of the first coaches. Dr. Leroy R. Hafen in his "Overland Mail," (Arthur H. Clarke Company) pp. 96-7, stated: "The line was equipped at first with the famous Concord spring wagons, capable of carrying conveniently four passengers and their baggage and five or six hundred pounds of mail matter. Later more commodious coaches were used, which carried six to nine inside and one to ten outside passengers. The team usually consisted of four horses or mules, but upon the more difficult stretches additional animals were attached. Most of the horses were mustangs, 'wild as deer, and as active as antelope.' They were all shod and branded O. M. (Overland Mail). Stations were maintained at intervals of from eight to twenty-five miles. At first there were some drives of forty or fifty miles without change of teams, but these were reduced until the average drive was between ten and fifteen miles."

Page 806

in the two nations to be expended exclusively on the construction and maintenance of good roads, even along the main traveled trails. Therefore, the plan of allowing the operation of Toll gates was adopted, just as roads in the States were maintained in many instances.10 Toll gate privileges were granted under legislative action to those Indian citizens who guaranteed to construct and maintain bridges and turnpikes over the larger streams and along the more difficult portions of the roads. The operation of its California stages by the Butterfield Company through the Choctaw and Chickasaw country was of such importance that the Council and the Legislature of each nation, respectively, granted eight of these privileges along the road from Fort Smith to Red River. The rates of toll in each instance, as granted by the Choctaw Council, were as follows:

"For each four wheeled wagon, or other vehicle, drawn by four or more horses, mules, or oxen with driver, the sum of Fifty cents; For each four wheeled wagon, or other vehicle, drawn by one or two horses, mules or oxen, the sum of Twenty-five cents; For each man and horse, the sum of Ten cents; and for each animal in every drove of cattle, horses, mules, logs, or sheep, One cent."


10Under a law passed by the General Council of the Choctaw Nation in 1854, all free males between the ages of eighteen and fifty years and all United States citizens—licensed mechanics and merchants—living in the Nation were required to work six days out of every year on the public roads or pay a fine of fifty cents a day. The proceeds of such sums were placed in the hands of respective county judges to be used for county purposes. All school teachers and farmers belonging to the different institutions in the Nation, students in the schools, and doctors were exempt from working on the roads. County judges should appoint two competent men out of each county to mark any new road that was necessary. Section 2, of this road law, stated further, "That it shall be the duty of the county judges to notify the people of their respective counties by any light-horse man, at least five days before the time for working on the roads, who, with their axes, hoes and other utensils that may be necessary for the work, shall so work."

Under a law of the Chickasaw Legislature passed in 1857, all citizens of the Chickasaw Nation between the ages of sixteen and fifty years and all licensed merchants and white men in the Nation were required to work six days on the public roads or pay a fine of fifty cents a day, the proceeds to be used for county purposes. Any person owning two male slaves of lawful age was required to send one to work on the road. All licensed preachers and school teachers residing in the Nation were exempt from road work. All matters pertaining to the public roads were in the hands of the county judges of the respective counties, such as appointing overseers for road work; notifying the people ahead of time to bring axes, grubbing hoes, and spades at the appointed time for work; and appointing two persons to mark out new roads upon the presentation of petitions signed by the citizens of any community.

Page 807

The following persons were granted tollgate privileges in the regular sessions of the Choctaw Council at Boggy Depot in 1858 and 1859, to extend over a period of six years in each case:11

(1) Washington McDaniel and Charles M. James were granted the privilege of erecting a bridge on "Bayouzil Creek" (Brazil Creek) and establishing a tollgate near their place of residence on the road from Fort Smith to Boggy Depot. (Approved October 27, 1858.)

(2) William Holloway was granted the privilege of constructing a turnpike road and establishing a tollgate near his residence at "The Narrows" on "the public road in this Nation leading from Fort Smith, Arkansas, to Fort Washita in the Chickasaw country." (Approved October 21, 1858.) This turnpike was through The Narrows on upper Brazil Creek, about two miles northeast of present Red Oak, in Latimer County. Holloway's residence was on the road some distance east of the pass itself.

(3) Captain John Riddle was granted the privilege of erecting a bridge across the Fourche Maline near his place of residence and establishing a tollgate at that point, on "the road leading from Fort Smith to Boggy Depot." (Approved October 21, 1858.) John Riddle was born in Mississippi in 1809. He was the descendant of a Virginian who had married a full-blood Choctaw woman and settled in the Nation at an early day. Their daughter Mary, reported to have been a very beautiful girl, married John Walker, also a Virginian. They in turn were the ancestors of Governor Tandy Walker, of Skullyville, who was therefore a relative of Captain John Riddle. In 1831, the Riddles and the Walkers lived in the Northeastern (Mosholatubbi's) District of the nation east of the Mississippi River, on the highway a few miles from Demopolis, Alabama. Captain John Riddle had been educated at the Choctaw Academy, in Kentucky, and was a prominent leader among his people in the Indian Territory, serving not only as a member of the Council for several terms but also holding other important positions. In 1858, his residence was on the west side of the Fourche Maline in Gaines County, Choctaw Nation, a little over two miles east of Wilburton



Page 808

and just east of Lutie, in Latimer County. The site of Riddle Station was near the old cemetery to the south of the present highway, on the side of the hill a few hundred yards west of the Fourche Maline.

(4) A. W. Geary was granted the privilege of erecting a bridge and establishing a tollgate near his residence at the crossing of Little (North) Boggy on the "road leading from Fort Smith to Boggy.Depot." (Approved October 21, 1858.) This location has been previously mentioned. Mr. Geary was an inter-married Choctaw, his wife being Lucy Juzon, a sister of Mrs. Eliza Ann Juzon Flack who lived at that time south of crossing on Muddy Boggy, the present site of Atoka.12

(5) James D. Davis was granted the privilege of erecting a bridge and establishing a tollgate at his residence on Middle (Muddy) Boggy on the road from Fort Smith to Boggy Depot. (Approved October 26, 1858.) The Davis bridge was on the same site or near the present highway bridge across Muddy Boggy at Atoka. James Davis was an intermarried Choctaw, who took an active interest in affairs in the Nation during his life time.

(6) The heirs of the late William R. Guy were granted


12"De Juzan" (or Juzon) was the name of an aid of Chevalier De Noyon, an officer in the French troops commanded by the famous Bienville. Both De Juzan and De Noyon fell in the Battle of Ackia between the French and the Chickasaw Indians on May 26, 1736. Ackia was the name of a strongly fortified Chickasaw village located about twenty-five or thirty miles west of the site which later became known as Cotton Gin Port, Mississippi. The fact that a British flag floated over the village of Ackia during the battle, in which the French were defeated, indicated an alliance between the English and the Chickasaws. The Choctaw Indians were the allies of the French. Mrs. Lucy Geary and Mrs. Eliza Ann Flack were sisters of Pierre Juzon, a notable Choctaw, of French descent who attended the Choctaw Academy, Kentucky, in the later 1820's, where he was esteemed by his teachers and classmates for his personality and ability. Pierre Juzon was elected chief of the Pushmataha District, Choctaw Nation (in Oklahoma), in 1838, serving in that position until his death in 1841. It may be noted in passing that the fifth signer of the Treaty of Doaks Stand in Mississippi, in 1820, was "James Hanizon." It seems to the writer that "Hanizon" was a misspelling of the name "Juzon." In 1823, missionaries of the American Board of Commissioners of Foreign Missions established a school at a Mr. Juzon's residence, eighty-five miles southeast of Mayhew, Mississippi, on the old Mobile Road. This Mr. Juzon was the father of Pierre Juzon. While Pierre was attending the Choctaw Academy in 1828, a number of students in the institution joined the "Methodist and the Baptist Societies." Mrs. Lucy Ann Juzon Flack was one of the pioneers in Baptist Church work in Oklahoma. (see text). (For lists of students who attended the Choctaw Academy, in Kentucky, the writer has consulted "The Choctaw Academy," by Mrs. Carolyn Thomas Foreman, appearing in Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. VI, No. 4 [December, 1928], and Vol. X, No. I [March, 1932]).

Page 809

the privilege of erecting a bridge across Clear Boggy and establishing a tollgate near their mill on the Fort Smith road about a mile east of Boggy Depot. (Approved October 26, 1858.) After settling at that place as assistant agent in the Chickasaw immigration in 1837-9, Mr. Guy had married Jane McGee, of the Chickasaw Nation. He set up his mill on Clear Boggy during the early 'forties and was the first postmaster at the Depot in 1849, where he also kept an inn for many years.

(7) Silas Pusley was granted the privilege of erecting a bridge and establishing a tollgate on Gaines Creek near his residence. (Approved October 22, 1859.) Silas Pusley was the son of Calvin Pusley. The latter was the son of Captain George Pusley, who, before the Civil War, lived in the vicinity of what was afterward known as Mountain Station, on the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road. Before he emigrated west, Captain Pusley lived on the Natchez Trace, in Mississippi, where he cultivated a farm of fifty acres and made extensive improvements for that early day. He was one of the Choctaw commissioners who signed the treaty with the Chickasaws in 1837, under the terms of which the Chickasaws moved west and made their homes in the Choctaw country. The district blacksmith shop of Musholatubbee District (the First District in the Choctaw Nation, West) was located at Captain George Pusley's place until 1850. Captain Pusley's three sons, Calvin, Nicholas, and Narras, all lived near the Gaines Creek crossing, southwest of present Wilburton, near the present site of Higgins, in Latimer County. What is known today as the "old Pusley place" is just south of this crossing. A small branch of Gaines Creek near the farm still bears the name of "Pusley Creek." Worn ruts of the former stage line road, an old well, a portion of an old log house, and the Pusley family burial ground can still be seen on this farm. Some of the older graves are unmarked, others have marble tombstones bearing the names of Pusleys and Seeleys. The graves of



Page 810

Narras Pusley (died 1887, aged 48 years) and of Eastman Pusley (died 1899) are covered with ruins of little gravehouses, showing that interment was made according to the old time Indian custom.

Of the above list, Holloways, Riddle's, Pusley's, and Geary's were operated as Butterfield stations, there being twelve stations in the Indian Territory, varying little from an average of sixteen miles apart. Readings of distances between these stage stations, taken with a viameter on one of the wheels of the first stage between St. Louis and San Francisco almost seventy-five years ago, still tally with those taken by a speedometer of an automobile over the old route today. In addition, to the above stations, the official Butterfield list gave the names of Walker, Trahern, Blackburn, Waddell, Boggy Depot, Nail's Crossing, Fisher's Stand (in the vicinity of what is now known as Carriage Point), and Colbert's Ferry.14

Walker's Station was at Skullyville, about a mile and a quarter east of present Spiro and fifteen miles west of Fort Smith. Governor Tandy Walker's residence, where he kept the stage stand, was the old Choctaw Agency house. From available information at this writing, it was erected for Major Francis W. Armstrong, superintendent in the removal of the Indians west of the Mississippi and Choctaw agent from 1831-35.15

Trahern's Station was the residence of James N. Trahern. The ruins of a well built, hewed log house are pointed by local residents as the Trahern place, about one and a quarter miles southeast of the site of present Latham, in LeFlore County. James N. Trahern was born in Mississippi in 1808, his family being prominent among those of Choctaw descent. He, also,





Page 811

attended the Choctaw Academy, in Kentucky. After making his home in the Indian Territory, he was said to have served longer as county judge of Skullyville County, Choctaw Nation, than any other citizen.

According to the official list of stations in the Indian Territory, Blackburn's was seventeen miles from Pusley's. This location on the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road was about six miles Southeast of present Blanco, in Pittsburg County, and east of the Colbert crossing on Brushy Creek. By the side of the present country road, a few hundred yards east of the crossing on Brushy are a number of old graves some of which are inclosed by sand stone walls. About a half mile northeast of this burial ground, the traces of the stage line run past an old house site near Elm Creek (formerly Wilson's Creek ?), said to have been the location of old Blackburn's Station. Blackburn was an inter-married Choctaw. After the Civil War, he also had a ranch place on or near the present town of Kiowa, in Pittsburg County.

Waddell's was reported to have been sixteen miles from Blackburn's, the latter point on the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road would be on or near the present site of Wesley, in Northeastern Atoka County. Two miles west of Wesley to the north side of the road, near the head of McGee Creek, is an old hewed log house, now known as the Beale Place. This site would have been thirteen miles from Geary's Station at the crossing of Little (or North) Boggy. The Beale place was the location of a stage stand after the War, mention of which is made later in this article.16

Travelling south and west from Boggy Depot, stages


16It is interesting to note that one of the organizers of the famous Pony Express, which supplanted the operations of the Butterfield Company in 1861, was named William Waddell. The writer has been unable to find any citizen of the Choctaw or Chickasaw nations, bearing that name. William Waddell, of the Pony Express company, was a member of the North Carolina family of Waddells that furnished a number of leaders well known in history. He was friendly with the Cherokees living in North Carolina and was personally acquainted with some of the leading men of the Cherokee Nation. He visited in the Cherokee Nation, West, (in Oklahoma) and is said to have liked the country. In 1856 or 1857, a cousin, Walter Waddell of New York State, joined him in some of his business enterprises in the West before the organization of the Pony Express. Walter Waddell later went to Oregon and was thought to have been lost on a steamer bound for San Francisco in about 1859. It is quite probable that he or his cousin, William, was directly interested in the "Waddell Station" on the Butterfield Stage Line. After the Civil War, this station was known as Rogers' Station. The owner was John Pendergraf Rogers, a Cherokee, who married Mary Garland Spencer, a daughter of Samuel Garland, principal chief of the Choctaw Nation in 1862-4.

Another point that should be noted in connection with the distance between Blackburn's Station and Geary's Station is the statement of Mr. W. L. Ormsby (see ref. footnote
4). The distances between stations given by Mr. Ormsby in his story, reprinted in Chronicles, do not always check with the distances as taken today. However, he stated that Blackburn's was eighteen miles, traveling toward Red River, to the next stattion (or Waddell's on the official list); and that this latter station was thirteen miles to Geary's. This made a total of thirty-one miles, which still tallies between the site of Blackburn's and that of Geary's on the old route. The stage upon which Mr. Ormsby traveled broke down during the night in this vicinity and evidently he was interested in actual distances between these stations! Mr. Ormsby, it should also be noted, wrote that it took three hours to travel the thirteen miles from the station after Blackburn's on to Geary's. This undoubtedly accounts for the short distance between them (i.e., Waddell's and Geary's) at that time.

Page 812

arrived at Nail's Crossing, the story of which holds a large place in recounting the history of that section of the Choctaw Nation. Jonathan Nail had set up a mill at this crossing on Blue River early in the 'forties, later erecting a handsome residence, a large store, and a tollbridge near the mill. A number of his fine farms and his large cattle ranch were in the same vicinity. The Nail family was prominent among the Choctaws.

Passing Fisher's, located north of the head of Island Bayou, the stages traveled thirteen miles to Colbert's Ferry. Frank (B. F.) Colbert had located here in the early 'forties and had become one of the wealthiest citizens in the Chickasaw Nation as a planter and ranchman. During the regular session of the Chickasaw Legislature, held at "Tishomingo City" in 1858, the House granted him the privilege of establishing a ferry across Red River near his residence. The wording of this act was as follows:17

Be it enacted by the Legislature of the Chickasaw Nation, That B. F. Colbert is hereby authorized to open and keep up a ferry across Red River, at his residence about seven miles below Preston, Texas, for the accommodation of travelers, emigrants, and drovers; and to secure him against the frauds generally practiced by the aforesaid classes, he is hereby authorized to fence in the landing on this side of the river with a good rail fence, and he shall be allowed the privilege of putting up a gate, to be styled a ferry gate; and any person or persons wishing to cross the


Page 813

aforesaid river shall be required to pay ferriage at the gate aforementioned, and any person paying at the gate cannot be made pay at the ferry; and any person that fails or refuses to pay their ferriage may be stopped anywhere on this side of the river, and be made to pay their ferriage, provided stoppage shall take place within the jurisdiction of this Nation.
Be it further enacted, That the aforesaid B. F. Colbert shall be required to keep at all times good boats and trusty and efficient boatmen for the accommodation of the travelling public, and he shall be responsible to any person crossing the aforesaid ferry for any damage sustained by the negligence of any of the boatmen or the insufficiency of any of the boats.
Be it further enacted, that the aforesaid B. F. Colbert shall for the privilege granted in the first section of this act, at all times, keep the road leading to the ferry in good travelling order and condition, and also keep the ferry landing in good and proper order; and he shall also be required to give a bond of $500, with security for the faithful performance of the aforementioned requirements.
Be it further enacted, that the aforesaid B. F. Colbert be and is hereby required to have a list of his rates of charges printed and posted up in a conspicuous place near his ferry, where every person crossing the ferry may see the same, and the rate of charges shall be the same as are usually charged on the same sized water courses.
Passed the House, October 19, 1858

A. M. Upshaw, Speaker pro tem.

Attest
     A. McCoy, Clerk of the House.
Passed the Senate, October 8, 1859,

Jackson Kemp, President.

Attest
     J. Brown, Secretary,
Approved, October 8, 1859,

D. Colbert, Governor.

The last Butterfield stage between St. Louis and San

Page 814

Francisco was ferried across Red River at Colbert's in the spring of 1861. Under an Act, of Congress on the 2nd of March that same year, a new mail route was established between the Mississippi River and the Pacific Coast by way of Salt Lake City. The period of the war between the States saw the discontinuance of the regular postal service and stage lines throughout the Indian Territory, though the names and locations of the old Butterfield Stations over the road from Fort Smith to Red River were remembered many years after the War.

With the signing of the treaty between the United States and the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations, in June 1866, interest in accommodating travel over the road between Fort Smith and Colbert's Ferry and, also, over the Texas Road from the Canadian River to the latter ferry was renewed. In the interval between the close of the War in 1865 and the Choctaw-Chickasaw Treaty of 1866, emigration from the east by way of Fort Smith and from the north by way of Fort Gibson to Texas had steadily increased.

According to the session laws of the General Council of the Choctaw Nation, meeting at Chahta Tamaha ( Armstrong Academy, the capital of the nation), in 1866 and 1867, the following tollgate privileges were passed and approved:18

(1) Charles LeFlore was granted the privilege of establishing a tollbridge across Clear Boggy where the Fort Smith Road crossed that stream about a mile east of Boggy Depot. (Approved November 23, 1866.) This privilege was to remain in force for ten year. Charles LeFlore was one of the colorful characters of his time in the Choctaw Nation. A sketch of his life, published in 1891, began as follows:19

"The gallant Captain of the Indian Police was born near Doaksville, Towsen County, Choctaw Nation, in 1841, being the son of Forbes La Flore, a leading citizen of the Nation."

Charles LeFlore married Mary Angelina Guy, daughter of William and Jane McGee Guy. In 1869, he moved to Limestone Gap, where his large residence, a handsome one for





Page 815

early days, may still be seen to the west of the present highway.

(2) James D. Davis was granted the privilege of establishing a tollbridge across Middle (Muddy) Boggy at his residence near the place where the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot road crossed that stream. (Approved December 1, 1866.) This privilege was to remain in force for a period of ten years, the tollbridge being located on the same site as that mentioned in the act of the General Council of 1858, granting him tollgate privileges. This was at the present site of Atoka.

(3) Jonathan Nail was granted the privilege of establishing a tollbridge across Blue River at his premises on "the Boggy and Sherman Road." (Approved December 13, 1866.) This privilege was to expire at the end of five years, the rates of toll charged all persons, except citizens of the Choctaw Nation, being the same as those allowed in similar acts passed by the Council in 1858, 1866, and 1867.

(4) George Riddle was granted the privilege of establishing a tollbridge across the Fourche Maline, near his residence, on the road leading from Fort Smith to Boggy Depot. (Approved December 14, 1866.) This privilege was to continue for five years, the location of the bridge being the same as that constructed by his father, Captain John Riddle, in 1858. Riddle Station, as formerly, was on the same site east of present Lutie, in Latimer County.

(5) Wade N. Hampton was granted the privilege of establishing a tollgate "at a place on the public road in the Nation leading from Boggy Depot to Fort Smith, known as Buffalo Station." (Approved October 17, 1867.) This privilege was to continue in force for ten years on the condition and terms "That if the said Wade N. Hampton, turnpike by grading the earth and leveling with stones, the said place called Buffalo Station, he shall be entitled to demand and receive therefor from all persons passing the same, except citizens of the Nation," the regular rates of toll. Buffalo Station was located on the west side of Buffalo Creek Crossing at what is now known as Pulcher, in Pittsburg County.20 Mr.



Page 816

Hampton's residence at Buffalo Station was destroyed by fire some years ago. About one-half mile northeast of the present house, standing on the site of what is now known as Pulcher, is the Hampton family burial plot. Wade N. Hampton was a Choctaw citizen. A marble tombstone marking his grave bears a Masonic emblem and the date of his death, February 10, 1889, giving his age as fifty-eight years.

(6) Olasechubi, a full-blood Choctaw, was granted the privilege of establishing a tollgate at Mountain Station on the road leading from Boggy Depot to Fort Smith upon the condition that he construct and maintain a turnpike at that point. (Approved October 18, 1867.) The terms of this act were the same as those allowed Wade N. Hampton. Mountain Station was located about ten miles southeast of Wilburton, in Latimer County. Olasechubi's house site is about fifty yards west of the old cemetery on top of the mountain pass over which a county road is maintained today. Traces of the old turnpike can still be seen passing within the shadow of a huge oak that stood within a few feet of the house, either end of which is marked by a heap of chimney stones.

(7) John Wilkin was granted the privilege of establishing a tollbridge over Bayouzil (Brazil Creek) on the road leading from Fort Smith to Boggy Dept for a period of ten years upon the following conditions: "That if the said John Wilkin shall erect or cause to be erected a good substantial bridge across Bayouzil at the above mentioned place, and shall cut and make a good road running from Washington McDaniel's, by said bridge, intersecting the Fort Smith road at some convenient point, and shall keep said road so cut out, in good order and condition, he shall be entitled to demand and receive therefor from all persons passing over the same, except persons of this Nation," the regular rates of toll. (Approved November 5, 1867.) Wilkin's tollbridge was in the vicinity of the McDaniel and James' bridge in 1858. On the south side of Brazil Creek, about four or five miles south and east of present Bokoshe, in LeFlore County, are the remains of Brazil Station. It is located west of Nigger Creek, about a mile from the old crossing on Brazil Creek.

Page 817

(8) Jack McCurtain was granted the right to establish a tollgate at "The Narrows" on the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road upon his constructing and maintaining a turnpike at that place under the same terms and conditions allowed Wade N. Hampton. (Approved November 7, 1867.) For several years, McCurtain's residence was south of The Narrows, before he moved his family to his last homeplace near the present town of Tushkahoma, in Pushmataha County. He was a highly respected and influential citizen of the Choctaw Nation, serving for many years as member of the General Council and two terms as principal chief (1880-4). His wife, Jane Austin McCurtain, whose parents were also respected citizens of the Nation, had been educated in Pennsylvania. After her husband's death in 1885, Mrs. McCurtain was sought in consultation for her superior wisdom and judgment in Choctaw afairs and particularly in matters arising before the General Council.

(9) John James was granted the privilege of establishing a toll bridge on "the road leading from Boggy Depot to Texas" at his residence on James Creek in Blue County, Choctaw Nation. (Approved November 5, 1867.) This privilege was to remain in force for ten years, toll to be collected "four hundred and forty yards up and down the Creek" from the bridge. James Creek was a small branch of Blue River, a few miles south of Nail's Crossing.

(10) David A. Folsom was granted the privilege of establishing a tollbridge at Nail's Mill on Blue River. (Approved November 20, 1867.) This privilege was to extend over a period of ten years. Although Jonathan Nail had been granted the tollbridge rights at this point in 1866, it was necessary for Mr. Folsom, as the new owner, to secure the privilege in his name. He was a member of the prominent Folsom family among the Choctaws and has been described by one who knew him as "a cultured and refined gentleman." He married the widow of Jonathan Nail, their joint property increasing in value under his management.21

With the establishment of regular stages from Fort Smith over the former Butterfield Stage Line across Southeastern Indian Territory, in 1868,22 a new line of stations, which in-





Page 818

cluded some of the old stations, was established. These included at different times, Skullyville, Brazil Station, Council House, Edward's, McCurtain's, Riddle Station, Mountain Station, Buffalo Station, Jim Colbert's on Brushy, Wells' Ropers', McKinney's, Mrs. Flack's, Boggy Depot, Nail's Crossing, Carriage Point, and Colbert's Ferry.

Both before and after the War, points where tollgates and tollbridges were operated, under grants of the Choctaw Council, did not always coincide with regular stage stations. However, where it was convenient, the Stage Line Company entered into agreements with these same parties to keep the stage stands, also.

Among the stage stations in the above list, whose locations have not been previously described, Edward's (also called Edward's Narrows) was in the vicinity of present Walls, in LeFlore County. After the second Federal invasion of the Indian Territory and the siezure of Fort Gibson by Union forces, copies of President Lincoln's Amnesty Proclamation and other friendly messages from the Federal authorities were sent to the chiefs and leaders of some of the Indian tribes. This caused defection among the Confederate forces in the Indian Territory in favor of the Union. Early in the spring of 1864, some of the Choctaws living in the vicinity of Skullyville, who were discouraged with the Confederate alliance, met in a convention at New Hope and attempted to repudidate the stand their nation had taken during the War. A provisional government was set up representing this faction. Thomas Edwards was nominated and recognized as governor, along with other officials. This action, however, was never recognized by the Federal Government, since its promulgators were few in number. The Choctaw Nation was "still de facto rebel" for it had remained practically solid in its alignment with the Confederate States.23 Thomas Edwards' place, listed as Edwards' Station on the stage line after the War, was same .miles northeast of The Narrows. This was the first location of Red Oak. Edwards was appointed postmaster here on March 11, 1868.24

Tradition has it that the first national council of the





Page 819

Choctaws after their arrival in the Indian Territory (1830-4) was held at "Council House," hence its name. Though the building has long since disappeared, from descriptions it seems to have been similar to the chiefs' houses erected elsewhere in the Nation, under the terms of the Treaty of 1830. A walled spring about 200 yards north of this site(at Latham, in LeFlore County) is all that remains to remind one of the history of "Council House." About fifty yards south of the location of the latter is the grave of Judge James Trahern and his wife. From this it would seem that he had moved from his former residence (Trahern's Stand, 1¼ miles southwest of present Latham) about the time of the War to live at or near "Council House." Old Indian family burial plots in Oklahoma generally indicate the site of the family residence located in the immediate vicinity.

Jim, or James, Colbert's Station was about three-quarters of a mile west of the stage line crossing on Brushy Creek, immediately on the south side of the section line road.25 His father, Isaac Colbert, had located here at the time of the immigration of the Chickasaws to the Indian Territory. This was also the site of one of the first blacksmith shops established by the Government for the Chickasaws during the time of their settlement in this country.26 A portion of a flag stone walk, a stump of a large cedar tree, a clump of "Washington Bower" vine, and an old well are all that remain to mark the location of this station. Deep ruts of the stage line road are plainly visible near at hand. A few feet west of the stage stand, there was formerly a large spring that furnished water to travellers and their teams for many years. Today this spring is filled up, its location being right in the middle of the section line road. Strange to say, in wet weather this spot dries up while the ruts on either side are still running with water; yet in dry weather there is such a strong seepage that the center of the road is muddy while the ruts are dry

Wells' Station was at what is now known as the Beale Place, about two miles west of the present site of Wesley, in





Page 820

Northeastern Atoka County. Mr. Wells was a conductor on the new stage line. Sometime after making his home here, he was killed in an altercation. Later John Pendergraf Rogers lived at Wells' Station (or Beale Place). Although a Cherokee he was a citizen of the Choctaw Nation by his marriage with Mrs. Mary Garland Spencer, a daughter of Samuel Garland.27 By An act of the Choctaw General Council, he was granted the privilege of operating a tollbridge just east of present Wesley, across Nolitubbe Creek, a branch of McGee Creek. A postoffice was established at this point, called Rogers Station, on July 1, 1874, with Burton Doyle as postmaster. A site about a mile and a half north of present Wesley has been pointed out as the location of Mr. Rogers' residence which he must have erected some time after settling in that vicinity. He also furthered the erection of a church at Wesley.

Old timers who traveled over the Fort Smith-Boggy Depot Road after the War have told of stopping at the well kept inn belonging to Fred Schmallfield at Rogers' Station. Schmallfield was a native of Germany who had come to the Indian Territory and married in the Choctaw Nation. On July 23, 1869, he was appointed postmaster of "Brushey" postoffice. From available information at this writing, it seems this postoffice was located in the vicinity of old Blackburn's Station and that Mr. Schmallfield lived at the old Blackburn place before he located at Rogers' Station or Wesley.

McKinney's took the place of Geary's Station on Little (North) Boggy after the War. One early day map, not accurate in its exact locations, however, gives McKinney's near present Stringtown.

Mrs. Flack's residence was on the west side of the old stage line as it passed the present site of Atoka. This location was several yards west of the present Atoka Highschool building. Mrs. Flack was another among the Indian women of early days respected for her character and ability. A devoted Baptist, she donated sites in one of her fields for a Baptist Church and the Baptist Academy at Atoka. For many years before statehood, this Academy served in place of a public school attended by both Indian and white children. Dormitories erected on the site of Mrs. Flack's homeplace, sometime



Page 821

after the establishment of the Academy, provided care for boarding pupils. Some years ago the interests of this early day Baptist institution were merged with those of Bacone College, at Muskogee.

The construction of the M. K. & T. Railroad through the Indian Territory in 1872 meant the close of business for the stage line companies. However, for another decade, travelers and local stages over "the Stringtown Road" to and from Fort Smith were familiar with the old stage stations along that historic trail.28

APPENDIX A.

Mr. Dick Rice, of Miami, Oklahoma., kindly supplied the following quoted data on the Overland Mail Route, secured by him from the Office of the Postmaster General, Washington, D. C., on January 19, 1933.

"The records of the Post Office Department contain in part the following information regarding this overland mail service. The Act of Congress approved March 3, 1857, making appropriation for the Post Office Department for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1858 provided as follows:

" 'Sec. 10. That the Postmaster General be, and he is hereby, authorized to contract for the conveyance of the entire letter mail from such point on the Mississippi river as the contractors may select to San Francisco, in the State of California, for six years, at a cost not exceeding three hundred thousand dollars per annum for semi-monthly, four hundred and fifty thousand dollars for weekly, or six hundred thousand dollars for semi-weekly service, to be performed semi-monthly, weekly, or semi-weekly, at the option of the Postmaster General.

" 'Sec. 11. That the contract shall require the service to be performed with good four-horse coaches or spring wagons, suitable for the conveyance of passengers as well as the safety and security of the mails.

" 'Sec. 12. The contractor shall have the right of pre-emption to three hundred and twenty acres of any lard not then disposed of or reserved, at each point necessary for a station, not to be nearer than ten miles from each other; and provided that no mineral land shall be thus pre-empted.

" 'Sec. 13. That the said service shall be performed within twenty-five days for each trip and that, before entering into such contract, the Postmaster General shall be satisfied of the ability and disposition of the parties bona fide and in good faith to perform the said contract, and shall require good and sufficient security for the performance of the same—the service to commence within twelve months after the signing of the contract.'"

"Proposals will accordingly be received at the Contract Office of the Post Office Department until 3 p. m. of the 1st day of June, 1857, for conveying mails under the provisions of the above act.

"Besides the starting point on the Mississippi river, bidders will name intermediate points proposed to be embraced in the route, and otherwise designate its course as nearly as practicable.

"On the second day of July, 1857, the Department after full and mature consideration, made the following order in relation to the route selected and the bid accepted:

" '12,578. From St. Louis, Missouri, and from Memphis, Tennessee, converging at Little Rock, Arkansas; thence via Preston, Texas, or as nearly so as may be found advisable, to the best point of crossing the



Page 822

Rio Grande, above El Paso, and not far from Fillmore; thence, along the new road being opened and constructed under the direction of the Secretary of the Interior, to Fort Yuma, California; thence, through the best passes, and along the best valleys for safe and expeditious staging, to San Francisco.

" 'The foregoing route is selected for the overland mail service to California, as combining, in my judgment, more advantages and fewer disadvantages than any other."'

"Under strong representations that a better junction of the two branches of said road could be made at Preston than at Little Rock, on the eleventh day of September, 1857, the following orders were made:

" 'That whenever the contractors and their sureties shall file in the Post Office Department a request, in writing, that they desire to make the junction of the two branches of said road at Preston, instead of Little Rock, the Department will permit the same to be done by some route not further west than to Springfield, Missouri, thence by Fayetteville, Van Buren and Fort Smith, in the State of Arkansas, to the said junction, at or near the town of Preston, in Texas; but said new line will be adopted on the express condition that the said contractors shall not claim or demand from the Department, or from Congress, any increased compensation for or on account of such change in the route from St. Louis, or of the point of the two routes from Little Rock to Preston; and on the further express condition that whilst the amount of lands to which the contractors may be entitled under the act of Congress may be estimated on either of said branches from Preston to St. Louis or Memphis, at their option, yet the said contractors shall take one-half of that amount on each of said branches, so that neither shall have an advantage in the way of stations and settlement over the other; and in case said contractors in selecting and locating their lands, shall disregard this condition, or give undue advantage to one of said branches over the other, the department reserves the power of discontinuing said new route from St. Louis to Preston, and to hold said contractors and their sureties to the original route and terms expressed and set forth in the body of this contract.'"

"This contract went into effect on September 16, 1858. This route was divided into nine divisions. * * *"

The Sixth Division began at Fort Chadbourne, Texas, thence by way of Fort Belknap, Gainesville, and Sherman on to Colbert's Ferry (13½ miles), making a total of 282½ miles in sixty-five hours and twenty-five minutes.

The Seventh Division covered the route through the Indian Territory and was as follows: "Colbert's Ferry to Fisher's, 13 miles; Nale's, 14; Boggy Depot, 17; Gary's 16; Waddell's, 15; Blackburn's, 16; Pusley's 17; Riddell's, 16; Holloway's, 18; Trayson's (Trahern's), 19; Walker's (Choctaw Agency), 16; Fort Smith, 15. Total 192 miles. Time, thirty-eight hours."

The Eighth Division began at Fort Smith, Arkansas, thence by way of Fayetteville to Springfield, Missouri, and on to Tipton. The Ninth Division covered the route from Tipton to St. Louis by Pacific Railroad, 160 miles. Time, eleven hours and forty-five minutes.

"Recapitulation.

  Miles Hours
San Francisco 462 80
Los Angeles to Fort Yuma 282 72.20
Fort Yuma to Tucson 280 71.45
Tucson to Franklin 360 82
Franklin to Fort Chadbourne 458 126.30
Fort Chadbourne to Colbert's Ferry      282½      65.25
Colbert's Ferry to Forth Smith 192 38
Fort Smith to Tipton 318½ 48.55
Tipton to St. Louis 160 11.40
          Total 2,795 596.35

"The service on the above route was discontinued by an act of Congress, approved March 2, 1861, and the service on the Butterfield route ceased with June 30, 1861, the date from which the central route was established from St. Joseph, Missouri, to Placerville, Calif."

Return to top


Electronic Publishing Center | OSU Home | Search this Site