Fort Smith Arkansas and the “Hanging Judge”

A town with a fascinating history….

Welcome back.  I was in Fort Smith, AR this past weekend for a big gun and knife show and I’m here to tell you if the true history of the old west interests you, I recommend a visit to this town. Originally part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, the town got its name when a fort was built on the site in 1817. By 1845 Fort Smith had become a trading hub in what was known as Indian Territory. The community became an important supplier for westward bound settlers and entrepreneurs headed for the California gold rush. By 1872 Fort Smith was in need of something else and that something came in the form of Federal Court Judge Isaac C. Parker. At the time this remote, open territory was also home to gangs of outlaws and in an effort to bring some order to the region, Parker deputized hundreds of U.S. Marshalls and sent them out to hunt down the outlaws and bring them to justice. His courtroom was in the enlisted men’s barracks of the old fort and the jail was in the basement of the building. There were two cells each of which held fifty men and those who lived to talk about it called it “hell on the border.” Judge Parker presided over the largest and roughest district in the young United States and during his twenty-one years on the bench he would hear over thirteen thousand cases. Although he was known as the hanging judge, Parker was a fair and honest man who was opposed to the death penalty. Of all the cases he heard only three hundred and forty-four called for the death penalty and of these it is recorded that only seventy-nine men were hung, the first in 1873. The gallows in Fort Smith were built to hang twelve men at a time but by all accounts six was the most ever hung together.

Back then there were thirty-seven states in the Union and although President Thomas Jefferson thought it would take a thousand years to settle the vast western territory, according to the National Park Service it only took fifty.

Judge Parker’s jurisdiction over Indian Territory ended in 1896 but his story lives on in his original courtroom where it all happened. The commissary building sits nearby as well. Parker used part of the building for his offices and for housing staff and before that it had been used for storing supplies. You can tour this building and then the “hell on the border” jail to get a sense of what breaking the law was like back then. The barracks, the commissary and the remains of the original fort are all along a walking path that is short and handicapped accessible. Situated along the Arkansas River, it’s about as pretty a spot as I think you’ll see and I don’t have to tell you that there are plenty of restaurants nearby. The visitors’ center is in the barracks and they have a list of area museums along with maps and guides to other attractions. Fort Smith is a great place to visit but be sure to save some time for Van Buren which is just one exit east off 1-40.

Van Buren is the second oldest city in Arkansas and has many historic sites of interest including the King Opera House which is over 100 years old and the Drennan Scott home which is linked to the trail of tears and the Underground Railroad. A 1920s era passenger train here also offers scenic rides through the Ozarks and these are just a few of the many to do and see in the area.

As for me, I’ll be at Sissy’s Place in Grove this Friday and then the following weekend I have a book signing event in Edmond with the great OU running back Joe Washington

 

Till  next time, I’ll see ya down the road……………..

Travels Around Oklahoma

I get the opportunity to visit some great places when I’m traveling around the state…..

Welcome back.  Traveling across the state of Oklahoma this past week, I’ve run across several stories of interest which I hope you all will enjoy. A few miles east of Oklahoma City alongside I-40 at Tinker Airforce Base sit dozens of retired military aircraft from big bombers to small attack jets. It’s quite a display and well worth a closer look see but as I passed by on Thursday afternoon I wasn’t out for that.

Shawnee, Oklahoma, forty miles or so east of Oklahoma City, was my destination and the place I was looking for had been selling hamburgers since 1927.  The Hamburger King as it’s called is a beloved institution in Shawnee and the last of a small chain of joints that got their start selling hamburgers for five cents apiece. Today the menu includes catfish, chili, stew and Frito pies but hamburgers are what put founder George Macsas on the map as the Hamburger King. His burger stand was visited by many traveling music stars of the day such as Bob Wills along with silver screen stars Jack and Al Hoxie. Jack Hoxie was one of the biggest movie stars of the day and his appearances with his wonder horse Scout in Zack Miller’s 101 Ranch Wild West Show filled venues across the country. The stars loved the Hamburger King’s food and even posed for publicity photos with George. The restaurant soon became famous and so the first hamburger chain was started in Oklahoma. With locations in Ada, Shawnee and Ruidoso, New Mexico, George knew he was on to something with his hamburgers and let me remind you that this was before Wendy’s, Burger King or even McDonald’s which was founded in 1955. Unfortunately time marches on. Bob Wills and the Hoxie brothers are gone now as is George and all of his restaurants but one. When I found his last place at 322 East Main Street in Shawnee I discovered a throwback to a bygone era. The business hub of Shawnee had moved from the center of town out to the new I-40 exit years before, leaving the original downtown six or seven miles south, seemingly frozen in time. It was quite a find and opening the door to the restaurant capped it off.

The décor is straight out of the 1930s and the walls are covered with photos of the famous people who have eaten there including a big three by four foot photo of Bob, Jack and George. The restaurant is owned by George’s grandchildren now but you still place your order by telephone from your table like you used to and I can tell you the hamburgers are just like they used to be as well. With these surroundings and this meal, if you like the 1930s this is your ticket to a period that unfortunately has now vanished.

My visit was short because back in Oklahoma City there was another place I had been wanting to see but if you’re in Shawnee be sure to check out the original downtown and order a hamburger at the Hamburger King.

For years I had seen the sign for Lorec Ranch out on I-35 across from Frontier City Amusement Park and I even stopped once to check out their western store which was a very interesting place. I heard that they had moved a while back and that they were making their own furniture in a building on West Reno Avenue that I wanted to check out. Friends if you are into western art this is the place. With an extra-large showroom, it’s even better in the back as owner Kai Lopez showed me. At least a dozen workers were there building, painting and assembling various pieces of furniture. It is quite an operation.

When I asked about their clients, I found out Kai’s got them from coast to coast and around the world as well. They range from your average Joe to celebrities. And who is Kai Lopez? Well her story will have to come at a later date but I can tell you it’s a good one. As for me I was on to Tulsa for the Home and Garden Show then Friday night I was in Ramona for the Chamber of Commerce annual dinner. I secretly knew that my good friend, and a very good person, Lester Gagan was going to be named Citizen of the Year and I wanted to be there for the award.

On Saturday I turned around and went to Edmond for a book signing.  The hectic pace continues this week when I will be at the historical society in Caney on Friday night and then drive on to Fort Smith, Arkansas for two days at the big Fort Smith Gun and Knife Show. For more detailed information about these trips and future ones go to www.originalbuffalodale.com and till next time, I’ll see ya down the road……………..

 

 

Ranching in the Osage, Oklahoma

The history of the great ranches in this area is a big interest of mine…

Welcome back. The year was 1893 when the Cherokee Strip Land Run made history and had a lasting impact on the future state of Oklahoma which extends even into the present day. Erd C. Mullendore was born in Indiana. He was 11 when the family moved to Kansas and 22 when he and his brother Dave staked a claim in the famous land run that would eventually lead to the creation of a 300,000 acre ranch. During this time several over big ranching operations were established in Osage County as well.

In 1903 the Drummond family became well known in the area. Three Drummond brothers, Cecil, Gentner and Jack all became ranchers, acquiring large tracts of land before World War I. Osage County was becoming famous for its cattle production and was suppliing beef to the entire country.

In 1954 another man became a major landowner in the region when he purchased the Lohman Ranch among many others. This purchase was the beginning of the Oklahoma Land and Cattle Company established by Boots Adams. Boots, as everyone called him, was a Phillips Petroleum Company executive at the time but even after his death in 1975, the family continued to buy up other big ranches in the area. That ended in 1989 when the entire spread was sold to the Mormon Church.

The Chapman-Barnard Ranch had its start in the 1900s growing to over 100,000 acres in the days when cattlemen were kings. The Tulsa Tribune ran a story calling the Adams, Drummond, Chapman-Barnard and Mullendore ranches a vast empire of land and cattle. That was then, and friends as we all know times moves on and people and things change. The Chapman-Barnard Ranch split up and the Nature Conservancy now owns over 30,000 acres of the ranch where they are running buffalo to restore the original prairie ecosystem.  Oklahoma Land and Cattle Company has become part of an even larger ranch put together by the Mormon Church as part of their nationwide farming and ranching operations.  The Drummond family is still a major force in ranching in Osage County and their combined family holdings frequently land them on the list of the 100 largest land owners in the U.S. which is published by the Land Report.

The last ranch in the area still operated by the same family is the Mullendore Ranch which now extends into several states and is known coast to coast by its Crossbell brand. The ranch is an historical showplace and just once a year the public has a chance to visit when the Mullendore family hosts a fundraiser for Elder Care, a not-for-profit based in Bartlesville which provides services for senior adults and caregivers. This is a rare chance to see an important part of Oklahoma’s history and one of the most beautiful spots in the state.

As you follow the three mile road that leads into the ranch you will pass hundreds of horses in rolling pastures, giving you a feeling for what attracted the ranch founders Gene and Kathleen Mullendore to this areas. At the end of the drive you’ll see the original three story house which is faced with massive native stone as well as several outlying buildings and barns and numerous horse pens. A swimming pool near the main house is constructed in the shape of the CrossBell brand.

The event will be held on Saturday May 7th from 6-10 PM. Tickets and sponsorship information is available from Elder Care at (918) 336-8500 or email dmcardle@abouteldercare.org.

You loyal readers know I attend a lot of events but overall this is the best! My scoop of the week is don’t miss it! If you want to read up on ranching history before you go check out Ranching in the Osage by Les Warehime which is full of great stories.

I’ll end this week with a little information about another event that snuck up on me. The Ramona Chamber of Commerce is holding their annual meeting on Friday evening at 6 PM at the First Baptist Church . The Citizen of the Year will be announced along with the recipients of several different scholarships.

I attended this event a few years ago and I can tell you from experience you don’t have to be from Ramona to have fun. There’s plenty of good food and friendly folks to visit with and this year Senator John Ford is the featured speaker. I plan to attend for sure and the good thing is its only 15 bucks and friends the food alone is worth that.

Hope to see you there and till next time I’ll see ya down the road…………………

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On the road with Donald Trump, Bernie Saunders and more……

 

I spent last week attending a few rallies in Tulsa and Oklahoma City…..

Welcome back. From last week’s column covering several big time college basketball teams and their drive to get to March Madness for a ticket to winning it all, I’ve moved on to another group of people driving to win it all. Last Wednesday at the Cox Convention Center I had the opportunity to attend a rally for Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders. Officials estimated the crowd to be around sixty-five hundred and another two thousand people were still standing outside waiting to clear the Secret Service security checkpoints when Sanders’ speech started at 7:30. Not wanting to disappoint the crowd, Sanders went outside and spoke to them after the rally. As you can imagine, the crowd was very enthusiastic and in my opinion there were more people there under thirty than people over that age. By all reports, the support of this younger group is one of Sanders’ great strengths. It was an interesting hour long speech and during the five hours I spent at the Cox Center I also enjoyed visiting and people watching.

That was Wednesday. On Friday I was in Oklahoma City where I attended the 2 PM Marco Rubio rally in Bricktown at the Chevy Center which is close to both the baseball park and the Chesapeake Arena. There was no Secret Service protection there so it was easier to get into and the crowd was about a third the size of Sanders. I also noticed that there seemed to be fewer volunteers and they were a little disorganized, waiting to pass out their signs until the rally was over. Rubio did have some political star power on hand as Governor Mary Fallin was there to introduce him and Jim Inhofe spoke as well. I saw Governor Fallin at Donald Trump’s rally in the Oklahoma City Cox Center two hours later and although she was there as a spectator, she and her husband were in reserved seats close to the stage.

There were plenty of Secret Service and regular police at the Trump rally and I was told that the crowd was close to ten thousand people. His supporters went wild at just about everything he said but there were also about a dozen protestors there which was something that happened at Rubio’s rally too. The protestors were just as vocal as the supporters and things got nasty for a while with Trump ordering the cops to throw the protestors out. After all three rallies, entrepreneurs were selling buttons, flags and photo opportunities with cardboard cutouts of the candidates in the parking lots. There were activists outside as well, campaigning for women’s rights, higher wages for teachers and medical marijuana. The Trump rally was definitely better staffed than either Sanders’ or Rubio’s and I have already had several emails from his organization asking for my support.

On Sunday I was in Tulsa when Ted Cruz came to the Tulsa Fairgrounds. Friends let me tell you, with the big gun show going in the Expo Building where I was, a big time volleyball tournament in another facility, the circus in another and a horse show too, then add Cruz into the mix and I can tell you that even with all the big lots at the Fairgrounds parking spaces were scarce. It all added up to be quite a mass of human beings during the four days all turning out to support their candidate and it could only happen in America I’m proud to say.

Till next week I’ll see ya down the road……

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Updated Book Signing Schedule

I have added some dates to my schedule and one date has changed:

My March 12th signing at Best of Books in Edmond has been changed to April 2nd where I will be signing books from12-2 along with the legendary OU running back Joe Washington who will be talking about his autobiography. Should be a great afternoon!

On March 18th I will be back at the Caney Valley Historical Society from 6-7:30 tagging along with my good friend Doris “Coke” Meyer who will be promoting her memoir of her uncle Will Rogers: “I Called Him Uncle Will.”

From Caney I go to Fort Smith for the big gun show there on March 19th & 20th.

Next up on March 25th I will be in Grove at Sissy’s Place from 2-5.

I’ll keep you up to date as other appearances are added. Thank you all for your support!