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A few miles east of Shawnee lies the ghost town of Earlsboro. Actually the town still exists today with a few small businesses – namely a tag agency and a restaurant, along with several homes. It offers quite a history, having been through two boom and bust cycles before 1940.

Earlsboro is worth the visit to stop and grab a fried pie or hamburger at David’s Cafe. A transplant from California, David moved to Oklahoma to be closer to his grandkids. He serves up the small town staple of hamburgers, daily specials, and fried pies. Many days you will find locals at the back table. Be sure and give them a shout and learn a bit of history about the area. David has a lot of old pictures from Earlsboro’s boom days on the walls.

Downtown Earlsboro circa 2015
Downtown Earlsboro circa 2015
David's Cafe in Earlsboro is a great place to stop and grab lunch.
David’s Cafe in Earlsboro is a great place to stop and grab lunch.
Be sure and talk to David and the locals at the cafe.
Be sure and talk to David and the locals at the cafe.
Grab a fresh cooked fried pie at David's Cafe.
Grab a fresh cooked fried pie at David’s Cafe.
Old pictures from Earlsboro's past adorn the walls of David's Cafe.
Old pictures from Earlsboro’s past adorn the walls of David’s Cafe.

Although not exactly a ghost town, Earlsboro is listed as such in John W. Morris’ book “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma“.

COUNTY: Pottawatomie
LOCATION; (a) Sec. 8, T 9 N, R 5 E (b) 4‘/2 miles south, 7 miles east of Shawnee; 7 miles east of Tecumseh
POST OFFICE: June 12, 1895-
NEWSPAPERS: Earlsboro Border Journal; Earlsboro Echo; Earlsboro Plain People; Earlsboro Times; Earlsboro Journal; Earlsboro Messenger
RAILROAD: Choctaw Coal and Railroad Company (Rock Island)

Earlsboro has twice been a boom town of considerable importance and twice a decaying, disintegrating, and dilapidated village. It was formed in 1891 a few days after the Choctaw Coal and Railroad Company extended its tracks westward from the Seminole Nation. The town was platted under the name of Boom-De-Ay. A post office by the name of Tum was moved to the new site, and the name was changed to Earlsboro.

Ealrsboro, 1926. Five miles of traffic in the nearby oil fields slowed or stopped as a result of heavy rainfall and flooding.
Ealrsboro, 1926. Five miles of traffic in the nearby oil fields slowed or stopped as a result of heavy rainfall and flooding.

The fact that Earlsboro was situated near the Indian Territory boundary aided its early growth. Liquor was prohibited in Indian Territory, but saloons in Oklahoma Territory were legal. Because of the demand of the people living in Indian Territory for liquor, Earlsboro became known as a “whiskey town.” Three of the first four businesses established were saloons; the other was a grocery store. The number of saloons and stores handling liquor continued to increase and to dominate the business activities of the village until 1905. During that year it was estimated that 90 percent of the merchants were dealing profitably in liquor. With approaching statehood, however, many liquor dealers started moving their activities to other states, and the first boom period ended.

Ealrsboro, 1927. Fire at the Twin States No. 2 Hearn well. One person was killed, several injured.
Ealrsboro, 1927. Fire at the Twin States No. 2 Hearn well. One person was killed, several injured.

Along with the whiskey trade, Earlsboro developed as a small commercial center serving nearby farmers. A blacksmith shop, gristmill, and cotton gin were built. Churches were started and a school district organized. Some streets were graded, and homes were constructed. The railroad located a boxcar next to the track to serve as a depot, and the village became a regular stop for passenger service.

Earlsboro, 1928. Traffic at the west end of the principal business street. Usually it took about thirty minutes to drive the two to three blocks. (Courtesty E. D. Keys)
Earlsboro, 1928. Traffic at the west end of the principal business street. Usually it took about thirty minutes to drive the two to three blocks. (Courtesty E. D. Keys)

During its first year of existence Earlsboro had a population of about 100 persons. By 1900 the population had increased to 400, and it continued to increase until 1905, when it reached an estimated 500 persons. The special census of 1907 recorded only 387 persons, the decrease being accounted for by the moving of liquor dealers. Population continued to decrease gradually, the 1920 census showing a total of 317 persons.

Earlsboro, 1975. Same street as shown in the 1928 photo.
Earlsboro, 1975. Same street as shown in the 1928 photo.

During the early 1920s the commercial activi- ties of Earlsboro were like those of many other small, farm-centered communities. Poor roads and slow transportation caused farmers in the vicinity to trade in Earlsboro. Subsistence stores supplying the most essential needs dominated the business area. A bank and a newspaper also aided in making it an active rural center.

The situation was completely and abruptly changed on March 1, 1926. On that day the first oil well to be a commercial producer in the
Earlsboro Sand, the well that caused the active development of the Earlsboro Field, “blew in.” The Earlsboro Sand was penetrated at a depth of 3,557 feet, and oil started flowing at a rate of two hundred barrels per day. Although this well was minor compared to some drilled shortly thereafter, the discovery started a violent oil boom; speculation in royalty rights and leases mounted rapidly, and drilling became frenzied.

Once begun, Earlsboro grew rapidly, so rapidly that in two or three months the town had a population variously estimated at from five thousand to ten thousand people. Main Street was lengthened from one to five blocks, with numerous side and parallel streets added to the business section. The streets were lined with stores of all types in addition to pool halls, picture shows, beauty shops, lumberyards, and cafes. A large four-story brick hotel was soon under construction. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and geologists sought office space in any type of building. The residential area expanded as rapidly as the business section. Shotgun houses of all varieties were built on land once used for gardens or lawns. Tents frequently occupied unused spaces, and often tent space in a back yard rented for as much as twenty-five dollars per month. No streets in the residential area were paved or graveled. Public utilities were almost unknown to Earlsboro when the boom started. There was no sewage disposal, the water supply was furnished by individual wells, and most of the homes used kerosene lamps for light. The post office was entirely inadequate to handle the increase in mail. Earlsboro was too small to have delivery service, so everybody received his mail at the general delivery window or from a box in the post office. Two general delivery windows were soon opened, but this procedure only slightly relieved the situation. The people waiting to receive their mail often formed lines over a block in length.

One of the biggest problems that faced Earlsboro during the boom period was transportation. There were no paved roads in the community or town. Because of the heavy traffic, every road leading to Earlsboro was either a cloud of dust or a sea of mud. Automobiles, teamsters, and trucks all moved at a snail’s pace. Rainfall was exceptionally heavy during the fall of 1926, greatly exceeding the normal. Roads and fields were so boggy that it seemed drilling would have to be temporarily discontinued. Trucks were practically abandoned in favor of horses. Rail transportation was even more inadequate than the roads. Trackage and storage space were missing.

By 1928 the boom was beginning to settle as the limits of the producing fields were determined. New oil developments in nearby fields resulted in many of the single workers seeking steadier employment elsewhere. New city leaders, working with the older ones, began to bring order out of chaos and to improve the facilities of the community. Main Street was paved, a city water system was developed, and electricity was brought to the town.

In 1928 the population within the incorporated limits of the community was estimated at 4,000, but by 1930 it had decreased to 1,950. Also in 1928 the number of business establishments, as listed in the Earlsboro Journal, totaled 286. The 1940 population census (486) and a count of business establishments in the same year (19) showed that the second boom period had definitely ended and that the second stage of decay was well advanced.

Present-day Earlsboro is but a broken hull of the twice-booming community. About forty homes, many unpainted since the 1930s, remain scattered about the incorporated limits. Several residential streets have been closed and a few plowed and planted. Only uncared-for trees and broken foundations occupy previously densely populated blocks. The business area definitely shows that the boom is over and that the town is dying. Once busy streets are now’ almost unused. One block of brick buildings remains, and only three of them are in use. Grass and weeds grow in cracks along the sidewalks and in places once occupied by buildings. The depot built to replace the first boxcar has long since been removed, and trains no longer stop.

The 1970 census recorded only 248 persons. The population continues to decrease. How long will Earlsboro continue? As one of the
oldest residents stated recently, “We can always hope for another boom.”

 

Established in 1902, Avery is a stop along our Guthrie-Stillwater-Cushing dual sport loop. Currently there is an old school building still standing, and a few houses in what once was a thriving agricultural community in Lincoln County. Many of the early citizens of Avery worked in the nearby Cushing oil fields.

From the book “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma” by John W. Morris:

County: Lincoln
LOCATIONS (a) Sec. 11, T 16 N, R 5 E
(I7) 12 miles north, 7 miles east of Chandler; 7 miles south, 1 mile east of Cashing
POST OFFICE: September 16. 1902—August 26, 1957
RAILROAD: Eastern Oklahoma Railway (Santa Fe)

Avery, established in 1902, became one of the most important agricultural growing and shipping centers in central Oklahoma before World War I. The soils of the area were fertile, the growing season long enough for crops such as cotton and fruits to mature, and the pastures suitable for cattle grazing. Roads were poor, and there were no large towns in the immediate vicinity until Cushing developed as an oil collecting and refining center. Also, the railroad through Avery made connections with the main line of the Santa Fe at Newkirk and Pauls Valley as well as connections with the Rock Island at Shawnee.

Avery, ca. 1916. Four passenger trains served Avery each day. (Courtesty Oklahoma Historical Society)
Avery, ca. 1916. Four passenger trains served Avery each day. (Courtesty Oklahoma Historical Society)

As agriculture developed, the railroad became the source of life for Avery. Reports indicate that more animals were shipped from the town during certain years than from any other place between Pauls Valley and Arkansas City, Kansas. Herds of hogs and cattle were driven to the stockyards by men on foot. There was one day in 1907 when 125 cattle cars were loaded and shipped to Kansas City. About twice a year notice would be sent to farmers that a poultry car would arrive on a certain date. Farmers would then bring in chickens, ducks, and turkeys to sell. During the cotton picking season the gins would run twenty~four hours a day. One man stated that he “had counted 125 wagon loads of cotton and forty loads of grain on the streets of Avery in a single day.” In addition to shipping out, the railroad was responsible for bringing in the feed, seed, coal, and machinery sold and used.

Avery was also the cultural and social center for the area. ln addition to the saloons, which had to be closed at the time of statehood, the village had the usual stores, livery stables, blacksmith shops, and restaurants. There were two hotels, which tried to outdo each other. The price of a hotel room for one night plus breakfast was fifty cents. One could get an entire home—cooked dinner for twenty-five cents. Each Saturday night a dance was held in the hall above the drugstore. “The single boys came on horse back; those dating came in buggies; and those married came in wagons with plenty of hay and straw in the bottom so the youngsters could sleep while mamma and papa were at the dance.” There was also a magic lantern show which operated on Saturday nights. With the opportunity to make “big money” working in the oil fields near Cushing, Drumright, or Shamrock, many young men left the farms. World War I also took others away. The Model T Ford and better roads made it easier to buy and sell in the larger towns. The soils of the area, not having been fertilized, declined in production. Gradually, farms were consolidated and much land returned to pasture.

The old main street of Avery is now overgrown with weeds, and trees stand where buildings formerly stood. The remaining business buildings are unused, some half torn down, others rotting and falling down. The depot has long since been removed. Although the tracks remain, they are seldom used. The large school, built during WPA days. stands vacant and neglected. A few homes are still occupied.

Avery, 1974. Remaining abandoned buildings and foundations of former buildings located in the heart of the old Avery business district.
Avery, 1974. Remaining abandoned buildings and foundations of former buildings located in the heart of the old Avery business district.

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Pleasant Valley is an old Oklahoma ghost town located between Stillwater and Guthrie, just south of the Cimarron River along a dirt road. It once was called “Cowboy Flats” and was a place with plentiful grazing. Cowboys would stop and let their cattle graze here on the drive north. It was a bustling location in the early 1900’s but then faded from existence as improvements in transportation meant people could travel further and faster to get supplies. Now there are only a few homes in the area and the remains of some old buildings.

From the excellent book “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma” by John W. Morris:

Pleasant Valley

COUNTY! Logan
LOCATION: {a} Sec. 33, T 18 N, R I W
(I1) 7 miles north, 7 miles east of Guthrie
Post OFFICE: February 29, I 904-May 31, 1947
NEWSPAPERS: Banner Breezes
RAILROAD: Eastern Oklahoma Railway (Santa Fe), abandoned 1959

Pleasant Valley, first known as Campbell, had its start in 1899 in that part of northeastern Logan County known as Cowboy Flat. On January 29, 1900, a post office with the name of Anna was opened in Campbell, but the name was changed to Pleasant Valley on February 29, 1904. Prior to the opening of the Unassigned Lands in 1889, Cowboy Flat was used as grazing land for thousands of cattle. Many cowboys who worked with those herds “soonered” in the area before the run. They helped each other in holding claims, and in numerous cases they dumped cornerstones in the river.

Pleasant Valley, ca. 1910. elevators, switchyard, and the depot. (Courtesty M.C. Rouse)
Pleasant Valley, ca. 1910. elevators, switchyard, and the depot. (Courtesty M.C. Rouse)

In 1900 the Eastern Oklahoma Railroad built a line from Guthrie eastward to Cushing via Pleasant Valley. M. C. Rouse, an old-timer still living in the vicinity, states: “True to custom of frontier towns, one of the first buildings was a saloon. Chief clientele consisted of Irish workmen on the railroad. Business buildings of that time had the front end extended up as high as the gable. On the front of it was painted a man riding a two-hump camel, indicating the name of the town. The man wore a derby hat, and a deck of cards protruded from his pocket.” With the coming of the railroad Pleasant Valley became the important center of Cowboy Flat. Eventually there were two passenger trains each way each day plus a freight each way. Many of the first homes built were small one-room af- fairs, and some were half-dugouts.

Pleasant Valley, 1908. Street scene on Western Trail Avenue. (courtesy M. C. Rouse)
Pleasant Valley, 1908. Street scene on Western Trail Avenue. (courtesy M. C. Rouse)

Pleasant Valley had its greatest period of prosperity between 1910 and 1930. A bank existed from I909 to 1934. Agricultural land was productive enough to support two elevators, a gristmill, a cotton gin, and a feed mill. A small flour mill operated for five or six years about 1920. The two, and sometimes three, general stores bought eggs, butter, and cream in exchange for groceries, clothing, and farm equipment. A hardware store, blacksmith shops which changed to garages and filling stations, and a fifteen-room hotel also served the community.

Cultural life in Pleasant Valley function around its churches and school. In the 19208 annual township fair was held, during which there were horse races and other kinds of entertainment. For a few years there was a town band. A justice of the peace court was organized to settle local difficulties. One unique case was that in which a minister sued a bridegroom for nonpayment of a $2.50 marriage fee.

Pleasant Valley today is an isolated community served by neither railroad nor state highway. The foundation of an old elevator is clearly visible, the walls of an old business building still stand, and a few small houses continue to be lived in. Some of the former streets remain open. Cowboy Flat continues to be good agricultural
and grazing land. It is easy to understand why Pleasant Valley developed in such a location before modern transportation.

Pleasant Valley, 1889. Rendezvous of the Dalton gang before the Coffeyvill raid was located near the edge of town. (Courtesty M. C. Rouse)
Pleasant Valley, 1889. Rendezvous of the Dalton gang before the Coffeyvill raid was located near the edge of town. (Courtesty M. C. Rouse)

This dual sport loop takes you along dirt roads from Guthrie to Stillwater to Cushing and back to Guthrie. The loop features a number of interesting stops along the way with a bit of Oklahoma History sprinkled in the mix. It can easily be ridden in an afternoon – about 4-5 hours if you blast the route and don’t stop, but it is better to plan 6-7 hours so you can explore the locations, read a bit of history about the spots, enjoy lunch and stop to take pictures along the way.

While you can start the loop from any location, we start in Guthrie and travel clockwise to Stillwater, then Cushing, then back to Guthrie.

Guthrie to Stillwater

Begin your journey with breakfast at Stables Cafe in downtown Guthrie, on the corner of Highways 33 and 77. Stables offers a vast menu for breakfast, lunch and dinner and is a regular motorcycle hangout.

Stables Cafe in Guthrie is a great place to start your trip. They offer great food and are open 7 days per week.
Stables Cafe in Guthrie is a great place to start your trip. They offer great food and are open 7 days per week.

Follow the route east and a bit north to Summit View Cemetery just outside Guthrie. Summit View features their very own “Boot Hill” section and is home to an infamous outlaw named Elmer McCurdy. You see, McCurdy was just an unknown petty thief and train robber when he died, but after his death he traveled a circuitous route that ended up in a museum in Santa Monica, a freak show in the circus, and even a guest appearance on the “Six Million Dollar Man” television show.

Boot Hill is where the locals buried outlaws when nobody would claim the body.
Boot Hill is where the locals buried outlaws when nobody would claim the body.
We stopped by the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery on our dual sport motorcycles.
We stopped by the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery on our dual sport motorcycles.
Charlie Pearson was a desparado buried in Boot Hill.
Charlie Pearson was a desparado buried in Boot Hill.
I am guessing Little Dick West was not fond of his nickname.
I am guessing Little Dick West was not fond of his nickname.
Elmer McCurdy was killed near in the Osage Hills of Oklahoma and became "famous" well after his death.
Elmer McCurdy was killed near in the Osage Hills of Oklahoma and became “famous” well after his death.
This old schoolhouse sits across a 4-way intersection from Summitview Cemetery.
This old schoolhouse sits across a 4-way intersection from Summit View Cemetery.
This bridge awaits you before you get to Stillwater.
This bridge awaits you before you get to Stillwater.

After leaving Summit View Cemetery, follow the route across I-35 and you will come across a home with cow skeletons on the fence.

Just east of I-35 you will come across a home with cow skeletons on the fence.
Just east of I-35 you will come across a home with cow skeletons on the fence.
Pleasant Valley is an old ghost town that is in an area that once was known as "Cowboy Flats".
Pleasant Valley is an old ghost town that is in an area that once was known as “Cowboy Flats”.
You cross the Cimarron River north of Pleasant Valley. A dirt road leads to and from this bridge.
You cross the Cimarron River north of Pleasant Valley. A dirt road leads to and from this bridge.

Stillwater to Cushing

After lunch in Stillwater, the route takes you south and east and skirts the north bank of the Cimarron River, following mostly dirt and gravel roads. It travels along part of the Oklahoma Adventure Trail and eventually crosses the Cimarron River. An old bridge and a graffiti bridge embankment is found along the way.

After leaving Stillwater, the route follows the north bank of the Cimarron River and crosses Stillwater Creek on this bridge.
After leaving Stillwater, the route follows the north bank of the Cimarron River and crosses Stillwater Creek on this bridge.
You can actually ride you bike down to the Cimarron River at several places along this route.
You can actually ride you bike down to the Cimarron River at several places along this route.
An old river bridge over the Cimarron River has been decorated by many graffiti artists over the years.
An old river bridge over the Cimarron River has been decorated by many graffiti artists over the years.

Cushing to Guthrie

Once you arrive in Cushing, visit their downtown area or stop by Braum’s for an ice cream. The route takes you south out of Cushing past the airport (watch for skydivers) and through the huge oil storage facility that Cushing is known for. Head further south to the ghost town of Avery, then the route turns back west and zig-zags through Iowa Indian tribal headquarters and on to Langston and then back to Guthrie.

Cushing is known world-wide as a major petroleum storage area. Many pipelines meet in Cushing, carrying oil nationwide.
Cushing is known world-wide as a major petroleum storage area. Many pipelines meet in Cushing, carrying oil nationwide.
An old school house marks the ghost town of Avery, Oklahoma.
An old school house marks the ghost town of Avery, Oklahoma.
This antique farm equipment is a recent addition to the route.
This antique farm equipment is a recent addition to the route.
Just west of Highway 177 you pass through Kiowa Tribal Headquarters.
Just west of Highway 177 you pass through Iowa Tribal Headquarters.
This monolith marks the Indian Meridian and is used for land surveys all across central Oklahoma.
This monolith marks the Indian Meridian and is used for land surveys all across central Oklahoma.
Just north of Guthrie is the abandoned headquarters of Cabo Oil Company.
Just north of Guthrie is the abandoned headquarters of Carbo Oil Company.

Click the DOWNLOAD button above (below the map) to download GPS tracks of this route.

A picture of Elmer McCurdy in his coffin
A picture of Elmer McCurdy in his coffin

A nice little side trip while you are riding near Guthrie is a stop by the Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery to see Elmer McCurdy and Bill Doolin‘s gravestone. Both are well known Oklahoma outlaws, although Elmer became famous for his travels AFTER he died. The location is accessible by both dual sport and any street bike.

McCurdy was a low level outlaw who liked to use his skills with nitroglycerin to blow up safes and trains. He wasn’t all that bright however and would often pick the wrong train, or use too much nitro, or just make a mess of things. Finally three Oklahoma lawmen caught up with him, a shootout ensued, and Elmer was killed. His body was taken to a funeral home in Pawhuska where he was embalmed. Nobody claimed the body so the funeral home owner eventually propped Elmer up in front of the funeral home with a rifle and called him various names like “Oklahoma Outlaw”. He would charge a nickel for people to take a picture.

Eventually Elmer drew the attention of circus and freak show operators, who offered the funeral home owner money for the body. The owner refused. Eventually a couple of guys showed up claiming to be Elmer’s long lost brother, claimed the body, and promptly placed it in a traveling wax museum called “The Museum of Crime”. Elmer’s body made the circuit and eventually made his way to places such as Mt Rushmore and Long Beach, Ca. His body deteriorated so much that operators no longer would show it, and the corpse ended up being stored in a warehouse in California. In 1976 the body was used as a prop in an episode of the Six Million Dollar Man. After body parts fell off during filming, it was determined that Elmer was an actual person, not a wax museum leftover, and attempts were made to discover who he was and have his body properly buried. Eventually it was determined he was the Oklahoma outlaw Elmer McCurdy and he was returned to Guthrie for burial.

GPS Coordinates: N35 53.8880, W 97 24.2130

 

It took Kay and I several trips to find Elmer McCurdy's grave in the huge Summit View Cemetery.
It took Kay and I several trips to find Elmer McCurdy’s grave in the huge Summit View Cemetery.
The Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery is located just northeast of the maintenance shed along the north fence of Summit View Cemetery.
The Boot Hill section of Summit View Cemetery is located just northeast of the maintenance shed along the north fence of Summit View Cemetery.
Boot Hill is where outlaws were buried after nobody would claim their bodies.
Boot Hill is where outlaws were buried after nobody would claim their bodies.

 

Map of 1910 Grand Boulevard Loop as part of OKC Parks Plan of 1910Many in Oklahoma City are familiar with Grand Boulevard. There is even an exit for it off I-35 between SE 29th and SE 44th street. And they may drive it when touring the opulent homes in Nichols Hills. Or jog along its path in south OKC. Or follow it to Trosper Park in Del City, or Lincoln Park on northeast Oklahoma City.

Wait, what?

How can one road be seen in so many places in Oklahoma City? Doesn’t this cause confusion?

Way back in 1910 – shortly after statehood and only a few years after Oklahoma City was founded – the Oklahoma City Council hired W. H. Dunn, then Superintendent of Parks in Kansas City, to develop the first Oklahoma City Parks Plan. As part of that plan, Dunn developed the Grand Boulevard Loop. It wasn’t until 1930 that the City of OKC incorporated the Grand Boulevard Loop into a formal document – The City Plan for Oklahoma City. Much of the right of way for the boulevard was acquired, and a significant portion of the loop was constructed.

Download original plan here —-> 1910 Oklahoma City Parks Plan by WH Dunn

Download GPS tracks here —-> Grand Boulevard GPS Tracks

This plan from 1910 is the basis for many of the parks we see in Oklahoma City today – Trosper Park, Lincoln Park, and Woodson Park being the most prominent. This “Grand Boulevard” was designed to loop around the outskirts of Oklahoma City and provide a plan for not only parks and a road, but for zoning and long term development of Oklahoma City.

The plan wasn’t formally adopted by the City Council until 1930 and of course by then a few things had changed, but the basics of the plan was still in place. The right-of-way for the loop and parks was acquired and construction began. The loop was never officially completed until the construction of the Interstate system was developed, using much of the right-of-way acquired for the Grand Boulevard loop. That is why you see many of the access roads around I-44 and I-35 labeled “Grand Boulevard”.

I decided to retrace this route with my dual sport bike several years ago. It is a challenge trying to piece the route together without actually driving on the Interstate. My goal was to travel as many roads labeled “Grand Boulevard” as possible while sticking to the original route yet staying off the Interstate. This way I thought the route could be ridden by any motorcycle or even bicycle. Recently I rode this route again and logged it with my GPS so I could share with others. It took me and my daughter Emily Mathews exactly 2 hours to ride the route with a couple of short stops along the way. You have to really pay attention to the route in certain places. For example, near I-44 and Kelly, if you take the wrong turn it can lead you onto the Interstate, while if you turn just 20 yards further, it takes you along the I-44 access road – i.e. Grand Boulevard.

My daughter Emily and I stopped at Tombo Racing on our trip around the Grand Boulevard Loop.
My daughter Emily and I stopped at Tombo Racing on our trip around the Grand Boulevard Loop.
You can find signs for Grand Boulevard all around Oklahoma City.
You can find signs for Grand Boulevard all around Oklahoma City.
Emily and I rode our dual sport motorcycles on the Grand Boulevard loop. Any streetbike can easily make the loop.
Emily and I rode our dual sport motorcycles on the Grand Boulevard loop. Any streetbike can easily make the loop.

There are several interesting stops along the way and I only included a few in my GPS file. Tombo Racing, a long time Oklahoma City motorcycle speed shop, is located right on south Grand Boulevard just east of I-35. You will also pass Capitol Hill High School, and of course Trosper Park and Lincoln Park. The Railway Museum is marked near Lincoln Park, and the route takes you right in front of the OKC Zoo and Remington Park.

You can download the route by clicking “download” beneath the map. This will download GPX waypoints, which you can then load into most any GPS unit. Then follow the tracks for a tour around the “Outer Loop” of Oklahoma City!

For those of you without a GPS. you can click the Google Map below and follow the route on your phone:

Below are many beautifully hand drawn maps from the original 1910 plan.

img_dunn1910_005_fullmap

img_dunn1910_002_nepark

img_dunn1910_003_separk-640x683

img_dunn1910_007_riversidepark

img_dunn1910_001_classen1

img_dunn1910_008_shawsheights

img_dunn1910_09_classensection

img_dunn1910_010_westernandsixth

img_dunn1910_011_grandblvdsketch

img_dunn1910_012_grandblvdplan

img_dunn1910_013_grandblvdaerial

img_dunn1910_014_grandblvdsection

img_dunn1910_015_grandblvdbefore

 

Below is a map of Oklahoma when it was still Indian Territory. Oklahoma City was nothing more than a stage stop along the route.

Oklahoma map from 1885 when still Indian Territory

Here is an artist rendering of Oklahoma City circa 1890.

Artist rendering of Oklahoma City around 1890

The two images below are from the Oklahoma Historical Society and are scans of a tourist handbill about Oklahoma City.

Grand Boulevard Map 1

Grand Boulevard Map back page

Finally, here are a few newspaper articles from years past you can download to read about Oklahoma City’s “Grand Boulevard”.

Harvard 1911 Municipal Engineering report

How Oklahoma City Secured Its Park and Boulevard System

1909 Story about The Park System of Oklahoma City

 

 

Sod Town is a ghost town in the eastern portion of the Oklahoma Panhandle. There is nothing there now except the remains of an old roadbed and I had to drive well over a mile into an open field just to find those remains. A bit about Sod Town from John Morris’ excellent “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma” book:

Sod Town was unique among the early settlements of the Panhandle. It was the first town to be built in the eastern part of No Man’s Land, and all the buildings were constructed of blue creek sod. The village has been described as “standing irregularly and nakedly on the prairie.” It had one store, a blacksmith shop, two saloons with pool halls, a restaurant, and a shack that served as a school. Doors and windowsills were unpainted and often broken, refuse littered the space between the buildings, and building interiors were little more than dark, bad-smelling rooms.

The town was noted for the characters – horse thieves and badmen – who loafed around the saloons. Most of the Chitwood gang, notorious horse thieves who lived nearby and frequented the saloons, were eventually hanged by vigilantes. In general, however, thieves would not steal from neighbors who treated them in a friendly manner. Harry Parker, who as a pioneer youngster attended school in Sod Town, stated: “I do not recall the name of my first teacher in No Man’s Land, but I do remember that two or three of the older students carried six-shooters to school. They would remove them and hang them on the wall by their hats.”

Sod Town, spawned in poverty and crime, has passed into oblivion. the land where the town stood has been cultivated for a number of years, but the ruins of old sod buildings have left ridges that can still be seen from the road east of it.

GPS Coordinates: N36° 32.198′ W100° 14.116′

Below is a map showing the location of Sod Town. You can click on the Download link below the map to download GPX coordinates to load into your GPS.

Sod Town, ca. 1885. Sod house with a curved roof. Rocks were placed on top to hold the roof in place.
Sod Town, ca. 1885. Sod house with a curved roof. Rocks were placed on top to hold the roof in place.
Sod Town, ca. 1885. A sketch of the "Outlaw Town" by Halley Roberts. (From History of Beaver County)
Sod Town, ca. 1885. A sketch of the “Outlaw Town” by Halley Roberts. (From History of Beaver County)

On a return trip from Guymon in January 2015, I decided to try and find Sod Town. It was difficult to find since it ended up being right in the middle of a rancher’s field. After attempting to approach it from the north and west with no luck, I finally came in from the east side and had some luck. In the end I drove down an old oil field access road, then down a two track trail that eventually turned into a barely discernible trail through the grass. I never saw the mounds left by the sod buildings, but I did follow and old wagon trail leading to Sod Town.

Below are three videos I took with my iPhone while trying to locate Sod Town.

I finally found signs of Sod Town.

This old washed out wagon trail is all the remains of Sod Town that I could find.
This old washed out wagon trail is all the remains of Sod Town that I could find.

I was recently meandering my way back from working in Altus and like usual, was traveling back roads, often gravel covered or paved secondary roads. As luck would have it I ran across a town that I had not heard of and that was not in my “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma” book -Cowden. Located south of Mountain View and north of the Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Cowden is a small town that began in 1893. A school and church was organized on December 4, 1893 and Cowden became an independent school district C-2 when it was consolidated with schools from Valley View, Bunker Hill and Caddo schools. Cowden remained a school from 1911 to 1968. Today only the school gymnasium remains. At one time the small community of Cowden housed a post office, gas station, blacksmith shop, general store, cotton gin, barber shop, doctors, and a cream station and cafe. Now all that remains is a monument and the old school gymnasium.

GPS Coordinates: 35.2475598048,-98.7088907696

The Cowden high school gymnasium is all that is left of the school buildings.
The Cowden high school gymnasium is all that is left of the school buildings.
This monument, erected by prior students, is a nice place to take a break and enjoy the nearby scenery.
This monument, erected by prior students, is a nice place to take a break and enjoy the nearby scenery.
Past students of Cowden Independent School District erected this monument.
Past students of Cowden Independent School District erected this monument.
A small fence and park surround the Cowden Independent School District monument, which includes benches and tables.
A small fence and park surround the Cowden Independent School District monument, which includes benches and tables.

Just south of the ghost town of Jefferson, Oklahoma and along the Oklahoma Adventure Trail likes two markers – what I call “Cowboy Tombstone” and a marker for the Old Sewell Stockade. They are literally 50 yards apart, one on the north side of the road and the other on the south side of the road. Be sure and visit both.

The north marker is for the “Old Sewell Stockade”. The footing of an old stockade can be found on the location, along with this marker erected by the Pond Creek and Medford Lion’s Club in 1937. The inscription on the marker reads:

“On this spot stood the old Sewell Stockade erected in the late sixties (1860’s) and later known as the Pond Creek Ranch House. For nearly a quarter of a century prior to the opening of the Cherokee Outlet, this ranch stood as a haven for weary cattle drivers, freighters, and travelers on the Chisholm Trail. Two hundred yards west the Black Dog Osage Indian Trail crossed the original Chisholm Trail.”

Marker for the Old Sewell Stockade along the Oklahoma Adventure Trail

Details about the Old Sewell Stockade on the Oklahoma Adventure Trail

If you travel across northern Oklahoma on the Oklahoma Adventure Trail, you will run across two markers close together – a Cowboy Grave marker and the Old Sewell Stockade. If you are not careful, you can miss one or the other, thinking the are one GPS waypoint. One is on the north side and one on the south side of the road. Both are about a mile south of the old ghost town of Jefferson, Oklahoma.

The marker on the south is what I call “Cowboy Tombstone”. It was erected in 1937 by the Pond Creek and Medford Lions Club and says:

“On this spot lie buried two cowboys who gave their lives in winning the frontier to civilization. Tom Best road south from Kansas in 1872 to join the Texas cattle drivers, but was killed by hostile indians a short distance north of this point. Ed Chambers, in 1873, rode north with a herd from Texas, and he, too, was killed by Indians about a mile southeast of here.”

It seems to me a bit odd that this marks the spot where two cowboys died, out of hundreds or thousands that died all across Oklahoma during the 1800’s. Still, this is a cool marker to visit if you are in the area.

You can download the GPS waypoints below:

Cowboy gravestone along the Oklahoma Adventure Trail

This cowboy gravestone south of Jefferson, Oklahoma is on the Oklahoma Adventure Trail - OAT - and marks the spot where two cowboys were killed.