Friday, September 21, 2018

Canadian Oklahoma Arrowhead State Park

We left Bardwell Lake and headed north into Oklahoma. Arrowhead State Park is located on the shores of Lake Eufaula, about 2 hours east of Oklahoma City in the small town of Canadian; Population 239. Most visitors come to this area engage in recreational activities, mostly boating and fishing, but the State Park includes an 18 hole golf course. Lake Eufaula is Oklahoma's largest lake with over 600 miles of shoreline. Every year fishing tournaments are held at the lake generating nationwide coverage. The Lodge at Lake Arrowhead State Park is owned and run by the Choctaw Indian Nation. Welcome to Oklahoma!

They say everything is bigger in Texas, but this awesome chair belongs to the Choctaw Nation and provides abundant seating for Jasmine and me.

We arrived at Arrowhead State Park. The on-site golf course is an 18 hole, par 72 course and includes a putting green, driving range and a full service pro shop. Green fees are $20 which includes the cart fee.

There are three different campgrounds at Arrowhead. We booked into the newest one which consisted of very large concrete pads and lots of room between them.  Our pad was almost 90'! I hadn't put out our slides yet as I wasn't sure exactly where I wanted to put the coach on the pad.

With a population just shy of 240 people, Canadian, Ok can be missed with a blink of the eye, so we decided to head to the 'big city', Fort Smith, Arkansas, which is on the border of Oklahoma and Arkansas. Located where the Arkansas and Poteau rivers combine, the City was established as a Fort in 1817. At the time, this area was a major hub for the Indians who used the river system for trading and transportation.

Due to it's location, almost dead center in the United States, Fort Smith became a well known for migrant settlers heading west. It was named after General Thomas Adams Smith, who interestingly never visited this town nor the fort that bears his name. Fort Smith was originally built to calm hostilities between the Cherokee and Osage Indian tribes.

Fort Smith was abandoned by Union troops at the outbreak of the Civil War in 1861. It was subsequently occupied by the Confederacy and saw it's share of battles.

Over 400 Confederate troops were killed and buried at Fort Smith. In 1863, the Union retook control of the fort. In 1897, the post cemetery became a National Cemetery when many of the casualties of nearby battlefields were exhumed and reinterred here. The cemetery includes over 1400 unmarked graves of both Union and Confederate troops. It also includes the grave of Isaac Parker, the "Hanging Judge"


Fort Smith was originally built in 1817 to keep peace between the Cherokee and Osage Indians. Only 7 short years later it was determined to be too far away from the newly defined Indian territory, Oklahoma. so it was abandoned in 1824. Three short years later, though, the troops returned as the fort was to be used as a clearing house for the Choctaw Indians as the Indians were forced to move westward into Indian territory. As the federal government continued forcing the Indians westward, Fort Smith became a supply depot, both for troops who were stationed in the area and the Indians as they moved west. For the next 25 years, Fort Smith became the hub from which the Indians were relocated and supplies and ammunition for the troops were dispensed. In 1838 and 39, as part of President Jackson's Indian removal policy, Indians east of the Mississippi were forced to move west into what is now Oklahoma. This migration is now known as the "Trail of Tears" due to the devastating effect the migration proved to be on the Indian nations.

Earlier, I mentioned Judge Isaac Parker. Judge Parker is buried in the National Cemetery in Fort Smith.  During his tenure on the bench, Judge Parker presided over 13,490 cases. Of these, slightly over 8,500 defendants either pled or were found guilty of their crimes. Parker sentenced 160 people to their death; 79 were executed earning Judge Parker the nickname of the "Hanging Judge" These are the actual gallows where many of these criminals spent their last few seconds on earth.

Here, and the picture below, you can see the Arkansas river as it flows through the Fort Smith area. The Arkansas river was important in the settling of this area of the country. It was used for transportation of supplies and goods into Fort Smith to be sent to the surrounding communities and areas. This section is located on the west portion of Fort Smith near where the Trail of Tears ends. From here, the Indians were assigned their new homes in what is now present day Oklahoma.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Bardwell Texas and Vicinity

Once we settle in at a place, we like to take some time and visit the surrounding area. Bardwell is a very small town in Texas so we went north to Waxahachie and south to Corsicana. Both towns offered a glimpse into the past and also provided some shopping centers so we could re-stock our pantry. Here are a few photos of these areas.

Not everything is oversized in Texas! Bardwell, Texas is a small farming community of only 649 hearty souls. Mostly cotton farming with some grain mixed in. This is their City Hall. The town was founded in 1880 by John Bardwell who saw the potential for cotton growing and brought the first cotton gin to the area.

In the early 1900s, Bardwell prospered with three cotton gins and six grocery stores. It had it's own telephone and electricity system. However, the main road through town was abandoned with the construction of State Hwy 34 and many of the businesses closed. Today there is only a small convenience market and a gas station. The post office, formed in 1894 remains. This is the Police Station.

A short drive south of Bardwell Lake takes you to Corsicana Texas, population 25,000. This bustling community was founded in 1848 and is about an hour south of Dallas. The town gained notoriety when prospectors trying to find water, discovered oil instead. It was the first commercially significant oil field in Texas.

Old town Corsicana is home to Collin Street Bakery, making fruitcakes and shipping worldwide since 1896. Wolf Brand Chili is also made here. Major shopping includes The Home Depot, Harbor Freight Tools, WalMart and Kohls. In fact, Kohls main warehouse is located just outside town.

We love old churches. This one at 398 N 15th St. was built in 1896 and the steeple was the tallest structure in town until the mid 1960s. The middle steeple, which is actually a spire, was damaged beyond repair and had to be completely replaced in 2016. The church is the First United Methodist Church. 

Our third day at Bardwell Lake turned out to be overcast with a chance of rain showers. We thought we'd take advantage of that and head north for some shopping and sightseeing. Nice sunny days would be spent on the lake. I wanted to buy a couple spring floats for enjoying the lake and the local Target had some in stock. Waxahachie, Texas is just north of Bardwell Lake and about 35 minutes south of Dallas. The population is about 40,000. The town was founded in 1850 and incorporated in 1871. It is known as the Crepe Myrtle Capital of the world. 

After getting my spring floats, we headed into old town to check it out.

Since Waxahachie is the county seat of Ellis County, our first stop was the town square. As with most old towns, the county courthouse was centered in the middle of the town and many shops surrounded it to make the town square.  This is no longer done today. This is the Ellis County Courthouse. It is rated number 8 on the list of  outstanding architectural achievements in Texas. The original courthouse on this site was a log cabin, followed by a limestone 2 story structure. This building was built in 1897 and has been in use ever since.

Richard Ellis was a plantation owner, politician, and judge on the Fourth Circuit Court of Alabama. He moved to Texas in 1834 and became involved in politics there. He was a leader of a group that declared Texas' independence from Mexico and he signed the Texas Declaration of Independence. Later, Ellis served in the Texas legislature.  He died in 1846 at the age of 65. The statue which is located on the west side of the courthouse depicts him as if reading a speech. I rescued the American Flag that someone had carelessly tossed and placed it in his right hand to honor his dedication  and contributions to the Great State of Texas and to the United States.

Erected on the north side of the courthouse is a monument dedicated to the Confederate soldiers of the Civil War. Commissioned and paid for by the Daughters of the Confederacy, the monument stands as a reminder of those who sacrificed everything during our country's struggles in the mid 1800s. The inscription reads:

Surrounding the courthouse is the town square which consists of shops and restaurants. These town squares served as meeting places for the people living nearby. Much like the malls of today, people could take care of all their business in one place and catch up on all the latest news. Most of these buildings were built in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

Something we don't see enough of in today's high paced atmosphere. Pride in their town shows with this huge mural on one of the building walls in the town square. Waxahachie, pronounced, Woks-a-hotchee, is "A Place in Your Heart"

Finally, back at Bardwell Lake, looking west from our campsite, over a field of flowers at dusk