Tag Archives: Oklahoma History

Our World Tuesday – Fort Reno, Oklahoma

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Recently I stopped in Fort Reno just west of Oklahoma City. Fort Reno has a long history. It was initially built in 1875 for the US Cavalry to monitor the Southern Cheyenne and Southern Arapahoe Indians in the area. As time went on and the Indian Wars subsided the post was converted to an Army Remount Facility operated by the Army Quartermaster Corps with the purpose of breeding, raising, and training horses and mules for the military. It held that function until 1947 along with a brief interlude as a prisoner of war facility during World War II. The property is now administered by the US Department of Agriculture as an Agricultural Research Station.

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I love the many old buildings. Many of which are restored. Above is an old Officer’s Quarters.  It looks in good shape on the outside. I wonder what life was like back in day living out in the middle of nowhere.

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One of the original mule barns that it is being restored.

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I love the cemetery located a quarter mile or so from the rest of the post. Lots of old graves here, many marked, “unknown” , a few soldiers who died during the Indian wars and lots of employees and family from the Remount Station days.

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In a walled off section of the cemetery are graves of German and Italian soldiers who were prisoners of war during World War II. They didn’t all die here. Oklahoma had several POW camps and after the war the men who died were all disinterred and brought to Fort Reno.

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The Italian soldiers were all buried together and somebody keeps their graves decorated. A few of the men have been disinterred by the families and the remains returned to Italy.

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This is the most famous POW buried at Fort Reno. Johannes Kunze was a member of Rommel’s Afrika Corps and was taken prisoner in north Africa and sent to Oklahoma. He turned into an informant for the Americans and was found out and brutally murdered by his fellow prisoners. The Americans picked out five prisoners and charged them  with murder.  They stood trial, defended by an Army picked civilian attorney who had never practiced criminal law. The Army prosecutor was Leon Jaworski who later found fame as the Special Prosecutor during the Watergate scandals. Of course the five Germans were found guilty and were hung by the Army at Fort Leavenworth in Kansas right after the war ended. I posted about this last year.  I just love stuff like this.

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Speaking of Prisoners of War. The Germans built this chapel at the Fort during WWII. You can rent it for a wedding or other occasion. I think that would be cool.Check on how to do it here.

Our World Tuesday

The Chapel at Fort Reno

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Fort Reno has a chapel built by German Prisoners of War in 1944. It is a solid concrete structure with a basement. I don’t think any church services are held there but you can rent it for a wedding for a mere $500.  There are some by gum federal government paperwork to get the required permits out so if you are going to rent it, start early. And if you are going to toast the bride and groom with anything stronger than ginger ale, don’t do it here.

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So I couldn’t find out who designed it or if they just told the prisoners to go build it or just what but it has a definite German feeling on the outside and a kind of Western/German vibe on the interior.

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The windows are a translucent yellow and the walls and ceiling are pine and so the interior is very yellow, subdued and kind of pleasant. It is simple yet gets the job done.

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I loved the ceiling joists, and the chandeliers, they show a definite sense of style. 

Downstairs is a fully equipped kitchen and a big dining room. Just saying if you were wanting to have a wedding and reception with an old west military flair this would be just the place.

Ghosts of Fort Reno

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The Fort Reno Visitor Center. The nicest vintage building in the fort. Formerly it was Officer’s Quarters built in 1936. 

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The trees of the Fort tell the history with the wind whistling through them. they have been through broiling hot summers, freezing winters, drought, ice storms, and tornadoes. The ones that survive are ugly but tough. I think there are ghosts here, ghosts of soldiers, their families, and over 1300 prisoners of war. The ghost of Amelia Earhart is here, she flew here. Will Rogers used to visit because of the polo matches, Frederic Remington spent time here making drawings of the Soldiers and Native Americans.

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These two trees with their parallel lean look like they are dancing.

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The guardhouse. It doesn’t look like a good place to go for a timeout.

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The Commissary a long rambling building. I love the brick, the windows and the arches over the windows.

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The cemetery has a few soldiers,  lots of children and few wives. I think life was hard out here.

If you are of such a mind to believe in ghosts there is a ghost tour monthly starting in March. Check it out.  My ghosts are in my imagination thinking about all the people that came through the Fort over the years. 

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

The Pope Francis – Oklahoma Connection

Pope Francis

Strangely enough, the photo of a banner of Pope Francis at Tulsa’s Holy Family Cathedral is the most popular by far of the 46,000+ photographs I have on Flickr.

NewsOn6.com – Tulsa, OK – News, Weather, Video and Sports – KOTV.com |

We have been having a welcome break from the whole Donald Trump/ Hillary Clinton thing now days. Pope Francis has come to America and America likes it. His message of compassion seems to be touching a core to many of us Americans who are tired of the way things are. It seems to be an emotional experience for many of us, even us who are not Catholic. One of the things that interests me is that an Oklahoma Native American ballet company will be performing a small piece for the Pope Sunday in Philadelphia. The Osage Ballet Company based in the tiny little town of Oklahoma will be presenting a segment of Wahzhazhe a ballet made specially for them. The connection between the Catholic Church and the Osage tribe goes back to 1673 when Father Jacque Marquette evangelized the tribe.

#maria_tallchief #sculpture #ballerina #tulsahistorycenter

Part of the “Five Moons” installation at the Tulsa History Museum in honor of the give Oklahoma native American Ballerinas known as “Oklahoma Treasures”

The Osage tribe is no newcomer to Ballet. Two sisters, Maria and Marjorie Tallchief, both members of the Osage tribe were important dancers on the international dance scene. She was America’s first Prima Ballerina.

Maria Tallchief’s “Sugerplum Fairy” made the “The Nutcracker” America’s most popular ballet. Maria Tallchief passed away in 2013.

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Marjorie Tallchief is Maria’s younger sister and also a great dancer. She was named “première danseuse étoile” of the Paris Opera Ballet. She is retired now.

Both Maria and Marjorie Tallchief are named “Oklahoma Treasures” as two of five Native American Ballerinas who became became famous internationally for their ballet dancing. The others are Yvonne Chouteau, Moscelyene Larkin, and Rosella Hightower. Collectively the five ballerinas are known as the “Five Moons.”

Anyways, I think the Pope is a little over-scheduled in his trip but I hope that he enjoys the brief performance by the Osage Ballet Theater during his time here in the USA.

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.

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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