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DOAN'S CROSSING

After the Civil War ended in 1865, the cattle industry became an important economic activity in Texas, and ranchers drove thousands of cattle northward through the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma) to the railroads of Kansas. As the route shifted from the Chisholm Trail to the Western Trail in the mid-1870s, drovers usually forded the Red River about ten miles north of Vernon, Texas. When in 1878 Jonathan Doan, joined later that year by his nephew, Corwin Doan, established a trading post approximately one mile southwest of the river, in Texas, the ford became known as Doan's Crossing. Prior to this, in 1874-75 the Doans had traded in Indian Territory at Cache Creek near Fort Sill. In 1879 the U.S. Postal Service designated a post office at the store, with Corwin Doan as postmaster. The first store was small, had a dirt roof, and used a buffalo hide as a door. One side held the merchandise, while the other served as living quarters. Soon, the Doans constructed two cabins for their families and a separate adobe building for the store. Later, the enterprise occupied a large, wood-frame building. Catering to cowboys, the post also profited from buffalo hunters, settlers in Old Greer County, and American Indians, with Quanah Parker a frequent visitor. In the 1880s the little Texas community had the store, a hotel, a saloon, and a school.

Corwin Doan kept copious records concerning the numbers of cattle, ranch owners, and drovers leaving Texas at the crossing. Unfortunately, his journal was destroyed, but some of his estimates had been published in newspaper articles and other sources. These show that in 1879 the passing cattle numbered 110,000. One of the busiest years was 1881, when 301,000 were driven into Indian Territory. At the crossing, livestock inspectors employed by the Southwestern Cattle Raisers' Association checked the passing herd for irregularities and proper ownership. The Red River, whose northern bank bordered present Jackson County, Oklahoma, proved difficult to ford, as it had patches of quicksand and strong currents at high water levels. Often a "bridge of straw" would be put at the roadbed to help support heavy loads. The workers would charge the freighters or wagon drivers for this service. Residents of nearby Frazer (a forerunner of Altus, Oklahoma), as well as some of the ranchers and settlers in Old Greer County north of the Red River, retrieved their mail at Doan's store before Frazer acquired a post office in 1886. The store also handled mail intended for the ranch hands and would deliver letters to passing cowboys who handed them along to their intended recipients.

In 1885 the construction of railroads across north Texas ended the need for long cattle drives and doomed Doan's settlement. In 1884 an annual picnic, celebrating the cattle drives and cowboy tradition, began near the store. Over the next century the two states erected historical markers there and at the ford. Several cattle-drive reenactments have taken place, with herds being driven north across the river and into Oklahoma.

SEE ALSO: CATTLE DRIVES, FERRIES AND FORDS, TRANSPORTATION, WESTERN TRAIL.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 8 January 1950, 1 July 1966, 26 March 1983, and 3 October 2004. C. F. Doan, "Reminiscences of the Old Trails," in J. Marvin Hunter, comp. and ed., and George Sanders, The Trail Drivers of Texas, vol. 2 (San Antonio, Tex.: Globe Printing Co., 1923-1924). Harry Sinclair Drago, Great American Cattle Trails (New York: Bramhall House, 1965). Lee Anne Morrell, "Doans, Texas," in The New Handbook of Texas (Austin: Texas Historical Association, 1997). H. S. Tennant, "The Two Cattle Trails," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 14 (March 1936).

Larry O'Dell

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