Tag Archives: History

Our World – Oklahoma’s Historic Fort Reno

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Officer’s Quarters

Fort Reno is located about a half hour west of Oklahoma City just off Interstate 40.  I have been driving past it off and on for about 30 years and always wanted to go see it but you know I was always busy and in a hurry. Superbowl Sunday I said what the heck I’m stopping. Son Logan was with me and he didn’t really care as long as it was not geocaching. He hates doing that.

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Cavalry Barracks

So I checked it out. Fort Reno was established by the US Army in 1875 to help control the Native American’s in the area during  the Indian Wars. The post was abandoned in 1907 but stayed in service for the Army as a Remount Facility for horse breeding until 1949.  The Fort has a bunch of old buildings and I’ll be making several more posts of my visit there in the coming weeks.

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Close by is the Fort Cemetery. I found this grave of Corporal Pat Lynch who died in the Battle of Turkey Springs in 1878. That battle was the last fight in then “Indian Territory” now Oklahoma between the US Cavalry and the Native Americans. Guess what, the Native Americans won. Check out the details here. Better than any movie is what I think. The Northern Cheyenne were trying to get back to their lands in Montana and fought the US Cavalry all through Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska during their flight. It didn’t end well. 

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Fort Reno was a prisoner of war camp during World War II and the Fort Cemetery has many graves of German soldiers. Most of them died in other prison camps and were interred there and then reinterred at Fort Reno after the war. The man above is the most famous German POW buried at Fort Reno. He was held at another POW camp in Oklahoma, the Tonkawa Camp. While there he was accused by some hard core Nazi prisoners of being an informer and was beaten to death. The five who killed him were tried and convicted by the US Army for murder and then were executed by hanging at a makeshift gallows in an elevator shaft of a grain elevator at Fort Leavenworth Kansas. Their execution was delayed until the surrender of Germany to the Allies in order to avoid Germany from executing American prisoners in retribution. There are two books about this, “Extreme Justice” by Vince Green is a novel by Vince Green written in 1995 and “The Killing of Corporal Kunze” is a non-fiction book published in 1981 by Wilma Parnell. Both book are on Amazon for under a dollar plus three times that shipping.

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And there were a few graves of Italian POW’s. 

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And I love serendipity. As Logan and I were leaving the cemetery I saw this old barn on the outskirts of the Fort and I so I drove up and took a picture of it. Later that night I posted it on a Facebook Group “Forgotten Oklahoma” as kind of an open ended post. Turns out that several people knew all about it. It was Mule Barn Number Three and was heavily damaged in the last tornado that came through the area in 2013. Further, the US Cavalry Association is raising money to restore the barn.

President John F. Kennedy

Courtesy of the US Embassy of New Delhi of all places on Flickr (click on photo for full license info). Trying to find third party photos to post without running afoul of copyright matters is a devil.

Fort Reno bred at least one famous horse. Black Jack, the riderless horse in John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession was foaled at Fort Reno. Black Jack did that funeral gig and those of Franklin Roosevelt, Herbert Hoover, Douglas MacArthur, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson and thousands of other funerals during his 24 year career. He was laid to rest with full military honors in 1976 and is buried on the parade ground of Fort Myers.

The next little tidbit of information that I am trying to verify is that the sire of the famous Depression era  racehorse Seabiscuit spent time at Fort Reno.  The horse’s name is Hard Tack. The US Cavalry Association headquartered at the Fort has a photograph of him at the base. I am still trying to find out more about that.

Anyways, what I thought was just an old barn turned out to be quite historic.  I love that kind of stuff.

I’m linking with Our World Tuesday

Our World – The Jim Thorpe Home in Yale, Oklahoma

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Note, despite the sign, the hours are Wednesday through Saturday from 10 to 5.

I love serendipity and it happened to me this past weekend. Saturday I went to Stillwater, Oklahoma for a trail race and went via back roads from Tulsa instead of my more usual route on the turnpike. On the way out, going through the small oilfield town of Yale I saw a sign that pointed out the Jim Thorpe Home. So coming back after the race I stopped and checked it out.

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A volunteer greeted me and invited me to sign the register where I noticed that I was the first visitor that day. She gave me a tour of the small home and its contents. It was really fascinating. Thorpe was not born in Yale, he and his wife, Iva, purchased the house in 1917 and left in 1923. The house has many of the original furnishings and is painted the original colors and duplicated the wallpapers used. The volunteer told me that it was originally a mail order house from Montgomery Wards.  The house also contains many photographs and memorabilia of Thorpe’s.

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What really piqued my interest were the stories about Thorpe. She described how in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm, Thorpe on the Gold Medals in both the Pentathlon a and Decathlon by competing in fifteen events in just three days. He went on to play professional baseball and football and act in movies. Many consider him the greatest athlete of the twentieth century. The end of his sporting career coincided with the beginning of the Great Depression and he struggled to make a living and died in near poverty in 1953. His death set off a chain of events that is still playing out today.

[Jim Thorpe, New York NL, at Polo Grounds, NY (baseball)] (LOC)

Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr

You see Thorpe was married to his third wife, Patricia, and she wanted the State of Oklahoma to build a memorial to house her husband’s remains. The State refused and she sold his body to the towns of Mauch Chunk and East Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania. The story goes that Mrs. Thorpe showed up midway through the Oklahoma funeral services with a hearse and a court order to take possession of the body. You couldn’t make this stuff up, nobody would believe it. As part of the contract of sale the towns and to merge and rename themselves Jim Thorpe. The towns hoped to cash in by making Thorpe’s grave a tourist attraction.

Thorpe [and] McGloughlin (LOC)

Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr

Thorpe’s family has been fighting for the body ever since. The latest move was in 2014 when a Federal Appeals court reversed an earlier Federal District Court decision ordering his body returned. Reportedly the family is now considering an appeal to the United States Supreme Court.

American Olympic team (LOC)

Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr – 1912 United States Olympic Team

I’m kind of pulling for the family. Doing the research for this post one sees that Thorpe although a great athlete encountered great tragedies and reversals in his life. His twin brother died when he was nine. Thorpe’s first son Jim Thorpe, Jr died at three years of age. In that very house in Yale. His Olympic Medals were taken away from him unjustly (they were later returned, long after his death.)

[Jim Thorpe, New York NL, at Polo Grounds, NY (baseball)] (LOC)

Library of Congress Photo – No restrictions on use, courtesy of Flickr

In the meantime, if you are traveling through north central Oklahoma you can tour Thorpe’s home for free.

In an October 2015 update, the Supreme Court has declined to hear an appeal by the Thorpe family to move Jim’s body back to Oklahoma.

Linking with Our World Tuesday

Our World – Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum

Last week it was Spring Break for the kid so I took a day off and we loaded up his Grandmother Nana and off we went to Guthrie to visit the Oklahoma Frontier Drugstore Museum.

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They had a soda fountain. All it needs is stocked and plumbed up and would be ready to go.

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And it has all sorts of things with all sorts of colors.

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It is built like an old timey pharmacy, kind of narrow and deep. That’s the kid down there. His grandfather, Heather’s dad, was a pharmacist.  Charles is gone now but Nana had donated some items from their store to the museum and she wanted to go down and visit with the lady who runs it.

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While they chatted I learned that maybe medical marijuana isn’t anything new. But Cocaine??!!

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I’m old enough that I remember some of these things. Those old school syringes were brutal.

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These signs are before my time, thankfully.

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Hey look what I found? I wondered where politicians got their beliefs. You know what I think? Well I’m going to tell you anyway smartypants: They all use the same bottle. That’s what I think. Tell me I’m wrong, go ahead.

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And look at this Superb Manhood for a dollar a box. Well give me a case is what I say.

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The museum has an apothecary garden next door. We went out there. On the wall behind us is a plaque remembering Charles. He was a  great guy. He’s been gone some years now but we’ll never forget him. He was Logan’s best friend and fishing buddy and a great guy.

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RIP Boompa

Linking with Our World Tuesday

InSPIREd Sunday – Sioux Valley Baptist Church

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Sioux Valley Baptist Church is a small clapboard church sitting on a dirt road a few miles from Trent, South Dakota and right across the Big Sioux River from my Great Great Grandfather’s original homestead. He donated the land the church sits on. The church was dedicated in 1888 and has been in service ever since. It is a tradition in my Dad’s family that they attend services in connection with the annual reunion. It is pretty cool to see the church still holding services and knowing that my ancestors had a hand in getting it started.

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The service is simple and heartfelt. The music is great. The prayers and praises concern thankfulness for a safe rodeo season and livestock showings at the County Fair, concerns about illnesses. Somehow the pastor, Rita Webber remembers everything and mentions it during the prayers. The sermon is likewise great.

Somehow this is all accomplished without powerpoint slides, amplified guitars, video segments and all that. Totally Old School and relaxing.

InSPIREd Sunday