Friday, May 11, 2012

Alma AR to Denison TX

Wednesday May 9, 2012

We had a very lazy morning with showers, Jane posting photos for the blog, and Ben checking Free Republic on the big screen. Ben has an impressive set up for his computer and the TV! The internet connection got very slow last night but this morning it only took 15 minutes to post the photos. 

Ben gets his Free Republic "fix" on the big screen
Fort Smith Courthouse
 Our first stop for the day was only about 20 minutes away – the Fort Smith National Historic Site.  We had been here before maybe in the 80’s but the only thing that seemed the same was the gallows – guess you don’t forget some things.  They had a totally new Visitor Center and very good displays and information about the history of the Fort Smith and Indian Territories.  The replication of the Court Room and the jail were very well done. Fort Smith was the location where the Butterfield Trail Stagecoach routes from Memphis and St. Louis met up for the rest of the trip west to San Francisco. There was a nice walkway from the Visitor Center to the overlook of the Arkansas River and the Poteau River – site of the ferry taking the travelers across as well as where Indians on the “Trail of Tears” would have crossed.

The Gallows at Fort Smith
We went across the Arkansas on I 40 to get a view from above but returned to the Arkansas side to follow the Butterfield south into Oklahoma.  We had mistakenly thought they crossed the Arkansas here in Fort Smith but found today they crossed the Arkansas at Van Buren and the Poteau at Fort Smith.  We plotted a route south west through OK that generally followed the trail. Oklahoma does not have signage so we are following the roads from town to town where Butterfield stations were located.  We had a very detailed book for Oklahoma and Arkansas Route  – way too detailed really but we left it at home by mistake. What we had written down were names of all the towns with stations plotted on maps… guess we could have left something else at home but so far this seems to be it.    

About 20 miles down the road Jane commented on a sign – knowing Ben liked Indian Mounds – “ Spiro Mounds are down this road”.  “What?!” came the answer and about the quickest turn around in history…down the side road 4 miles we went to the Visitor Center for Spiro Mounds.  After a quick lunch under a huge tree we spent a couple hours viewing the artifacts of the Mississipean Indians – same as those at Cahokia last year and at Moundsville Alabama a couple years ago. The artwork of the Indians at Spiro was unexcelled by any others in the country – they worked in copper (traded from TN) with conch shells (traded from the gulf) and with stone and clay.  The source of the green stones they made celts from was near Etowah in TN.  We have to get down to the Etowah mound - so close to home. They sighted from Brown’s Mound over others to determine the summer and winter solstice. There were numerous mounds but not nearly as large as those we have seen at other Mississipean sites.  This site was thought to be best known for their trading among Indians from across the plains and eastern areas of the US.  

Spiro Mounds - the Raccoon Face Logo
Spiro was in the middle of nowhere but there was one bus load of school children touring as we arrived and a busload of seniors on a tour as we left…Ben says this was a real find and on his “bucket list”.  So glad I saw the sign!

Continuing on along several various roads through southeastern Oklahoma we saw coal mining, cattle farming, natural gas production, alfalfa farming, sale of rock for walls etc and some manufacturing. 
Early Harvest
  This was the section of Oklahoma settled by the Choctaws. We saw several Choctaw Community Centers and Health Centers. The Headquarters of the Choctaw Nation was in Durant where there was a huge casino. Nowhere did we see dire poverty as seen in some Indian areas of the west. While there were obviously many Indians in the area we did not notice any reservation type facilities.  We passed by numerous towns that had hosted Butterfield Stations in the late 1800’s but no sign of them today.  We crossed into Texas at the site of the Colbert Ferry Crossing. 
Colbert Ferry on Red River
Eisenhower State Park
About 10 miles into Texas, near Denison we stopped for the night at Eisenhower State Park. A huge park – in the loop we selected there are 3 other campers in about 50 campsites. There is a huge lake here so I am sure summertime brings lots of campers and boaters. The temperature is very comfortable. Ben’s TV antenna has brought several local stations and we have 3G on the i-Phones.

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