Red River expedition

Freeman Custis overlay map from 1974 by E M Parker a civil engineer original 1806 map Louisiana Digital Library

Nicholas King’s map of the Freeman-Custis expedition of 1806, with the 1976 overlay by E.M. Parker. (LSU)

In 1806, President Thomas Jefferson instructed Peter Custis and Thomas Freeman  to find the source of the Red River as part of a Corps of Discovery for the Louisiana Purchase. Spanish troops stopped them in today’s Bowie County (TX)/ McCurtain County (OK) at the Spanish Bluffs.

That same year, Nicholas King drew a map of the expedition’s rather short journey, which was published, along with explorers’ journal, in 1806. In 1974, engineering professor E.M. Parker from Centenary College in Shreveport overlayed the 1806 map with important points from the Custis and Freeman journal. This map was used in the book, “Southern Counterpart to Lewis and Clark: the Freeman and Custis Expedition of 1806,” by renowned historian Dan Flores.

I was nosing around the digital collections listed at by the Louisiana State University (Shreveport) libraries and found the Parker map. It contains a plethora of information about the places and people the exploring party met. If you like to read maps, this is a good one to read!

Link to the “zoomable” map (http://louisianadigitallibrary.org/islandora/object/lsus-nwm%3A3)

Link to the 1806 journal (http://ir.uiowa.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=9108&context=annals-of-iowa)

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Roosevelt schoolin’

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The well-built little school in Roosevelt, built by the Works Progress Administration, had two entrances – one for girls, and one for boys.

In Roosevelt (Kiowa County, OK) sits this disused building that appears to have been erected by the WPA. Since the WPA lent labor to public works, and this place was last used as a pub (now closed), I asked Red River Historian readers on the Facebook page if anyone knew what the building’s original purpose was. Mijo Chard explained that it was the Douglass Seperate School (school designated for African American children), and Mijo even shared some documents with Red River Historian!

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Completed in 1938!

 

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I got a kick out of the signs on the door: “No longer a public bar. Closed. Keep out. Unless you’re a hot stripper.” RRH Reader Judy Hilliard Dean wrote: “After the school closed it was opened as a bar by Rube McGee. It was called Rube’s Night Spit. They kept the curtains on the stage closed because there was always gambling going on.
Don’t ask me how I know- lol.”

 

Report card 2 mijo chard

Mijo Chard shared a report card from 1947.

Employees for cafeteria mijo chard

A memo for the cafeteria workers at the Douglass School, date unknown. This was shared by Mijo Chard.

 

Not the right Red River

Waud Red River MN better

I found a couple of 1872 sketches of the “Red River” by Alfred Rudolph Waud. Waud was an English illustrator who worked in the last half of the 19th century for several US publications. His sketches became illustrations for magazines like Harpers Weekly.

I discovered the sketch, “On the Red River” in the Historic New Orleans Collection at the Louisiana Digital Library (see above). I thought I had found a treasure trove of art that depicted life on the Red River, which I was hoping to share with my website‘s readers.

Alas, a search through Archive.org uncovered an 1878 book that shows that Waud’s sketch became an illustration of the Red River in the Dakotas, NOT the southwestern Red River. Dang it! Pretty neat detective work on my part, though. :).

(An aside: Waud was the only eye witness to sketch Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg in 1863).

Here’s the 1878 book that shows the finished illustration.
https://archive.org/stream/picturesqueameri04brya#page/538/mode/2up/search/Red

Published in: on June 4, 2019 at 2:30 am  Leave a Comment  
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Works in progress

Hugo 2

There is nothing nicer than finding that a WPA built stadium is still in use, like the sturdy, stone arena in Hugo, Choctaw County, Oklahoma. And there is nothing more frustrating than finding its WPA plaque obscured by electrical boxes.

The WPA is the Works Progress Administration, an agency founded and funded by the New Deal in 1935. The WPA provided work for thousands of Americans in disparate fields – construction of public buildings, interviewing people about their life histories, staging theater plays, providing child care, recording music, creating public service announcements, publishing state travel guides, developing museums, painting murals on public buildings… the list goes on and on.

It’s strange to say, but of all governmental agencies, the WPA is by far my favorite. Though it was not necessarily intended to be a repository of American culture, it certainly turned out to be the most effective documenter and preserver of what makes the United States so darn American-y.

Hugo

Fair Park

Fair Park (Dallas, TX) sports a mural that is, truly, out of this world – it’s the first depiction of space travel in American mural art. Carlo Ciampaglia painted this in 1936 for the Texas Centennial Exposition.

Fancy digs, once

Grand Hotel ohs

The Grand Central Hotel (first class, no less!) in Terral, Jefferson County, Oklahoma was an imposing building at the turn of the century – it sported three chimneys and a balcony.

 

Clark fire

The Clark Fire Insurance Map of 1900 for Terral depicts two hotels, both along Apache Street at the intersection of Second Street. Their outlines are not the same as the hotel pictured, however, and one is labeled as the “Cottage Hotel.” (Clark Fire Maps, OHS).

Both hotels are long gone.

Google

 

A Google maps image of Terral, Jefferson County, Oklahoma shows the same intersection – where two hotels once stood. Please note that the concrete foundations are the foundations from former service stations, not the hotels. Today’s travelers will not find overnight accommodations in Terral at all.

Published in: on March 13, 2019 at 2:36 am  Leave a Comment  
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An international boundary in the middle of nowhere

Just north of Logansport, Louisiana, along FM 31 in Panola County, Texas and CR 765 in De Soto Parish , sits one of the more interesting historical relics in the Southwest: the only remaining boundary marker between the Republic of Texas (1836-1845) and the United States. Set in 1840, the other boundary markers were washed away by rain and erosion.

Logansport RT marker 1

The boundary marker is in a little roadside spot that belongs to the Texas Historical Commission. Its nondescript location belies its importance as the only international boundary marker located within the United States. Talk about history written in stone!

Logansport RT marker 2

If you want to see the marker, you’ll have to want to see it… this isn’t a road that you’d simply drive on and happen to find the marker. To make the journey easier, here’s a map:

Logansport RT marker location

Happy trails!

Paddle Wheelers on the Red, part I

amy hewes

Paddle wheeler “Amy Hewes” on the Red River (no date), but most likely this picture was taken in the 1940s. The “Amy Hewes” was built in the 1920s for the Jeanerette Lumber Company, and was last owned by the May Brothers of Morgan, LA.

This boat was mostly in service in the southern part of the Red River around the Atchafalaya River confluence, St. Mary’s Parish. It plied the waters of Bayou Teche.

(Cattle Raiser’s Museum, Fort Worth.)

Published in: on January 28, 2019 at 2:24 am  Leave a Comment  
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Where crime did not pay in Henrietta

Drove to Henrietta, Clay County, Texas the other day to take some photos and came across this utilitarian, brick structure behind an adobe building (which may be a city-owned structure) and facing the old Clay County Jail (now the Clay County Jail 1890 Museum).

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What could this building be?

This little building intrigued me, because it reminded me of a calaboose – a one room jail cell, often used as a drunk tank. But, I pondered, why would there be a calaboose next to a county jail?

2018 henrietta calaboose

There it is, on Google Maps.

Well, I know that calabooses tended to be built behind either police stations or city halls. For some Saturday night sleuthing, I took a look at the Sanborn Fire Insurance Maps for Henrietta. The map in 1912 showed a calaboose further down the alleyway (today, it’s the side alley area of the public library).

Lo and behold, the map in 1922 shows a calaboose in the location of this brick building, sitting behind the a new city hall along Ikard Street. So, I surmise that the little building is, in fact, a calaboose. Woohoo!

1912 henrietta calaboose another place

The calaboose used to be down the alley from the county jail, back in 1912.

1922 henrietta sanborn map city jail and calaboose

By 1922, the calaboose was located across from the county jail.

Another wild and crazy Saturday night here at Red River Historian.

(The Sanborn Maps were found at the Perry Castaneda Library.)

Spanish Bluff

Spanish Bluff by Ben Jones

Reader Ben Jones graciously shared a vantage point of the Red River that’s rarely seen nowadays – Spanish Bluff on the southern bank of the Red River. Thank you for this lovely photo, Ben!

Located between Bowie County, Texas and Little River County, Arkansas, Spanish Bluff was named after an event that took place in 1806.

An American expedition team from the Corps of Engineers was sent by President Thomas Jefferson to study the flora, fauna, and geology of the Red River as part of the Louisiana Purchase expeditions. Led by Peter Custis, Thomas Freeman, and Richard Sparks (military commander), the ultimate goal was to see if the Red River reached to Santa Fe. However, New Spain believed the Red River to be part of their territory. The Spanish commander Francisco Viana learned about this expedition from James Wilkenson, the governor of the Louisiana Territory and reputedly a spy for the Spanish. Viana pursued the American party and halted its trek at the bluff pictured here. Because the Red River Expedition was not supposed to be a military action, the Americans immediately stepped down from their journey and returned to Natchitoches.

The Spanish mistook their border claims. Since the Louisiana Territory included all western water sheds that drained into the Mississippi River, the entire Red River should have been American territory… as well as the Sulphur River, which drains into the Red River. However, the 1819 Adams-Onis Treaty established the U.S. and Mexican boundary at the Red and Sabine Rivers in exchange for Spain relinquishing Florida to the U.S.

 

Slices of Sibley

John 2

Sibley (1757-1837) is buried in the American Cemetery in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

John Sibley was the first Indian Agent in the Louisiana Territory. Born in Massachusetts, Sibley became a physician in North Carolina and joined the army during the Revolutionary War. Years later, he offered his services again to the army along the Red River frontier. While there, he served as an Indian Agent in Natchitoches. He helped to procure the provisions and guides needed for Thomas Freeman, Peter Custis, and Col. Sparks to explore the Red River after the Louisiana Purchase.

The purpose of an Indian Agent was to ensure the security of the United States and its claims, which meant negotiating treaties, land sales, and agreements with tribes in the areas where they worked. Dr. Sibley documented his work as an Indian Agent through copious correspondence, some of which is reproduced below.

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In 1804, Sibley described the final peace negotiations between the Caddos and Choctaws at the Indian factory in Natchitoches in a letter written to his commanding general. In this excerpt, he explained that the availability of liquor in the “little town of Natchitoches” had a bad effect on all inhabitants.

Sibley all

In 1806, Sibley sponsored an expedition to “recover” a large meteorite from the lands between the Brazos and Red Rivers in Spanish Texas that Indian Trader Henry Glass had relayed to him.

Of course, “recovering” this medicine stone was highly illegal for at least two reason. For one, the Spanish had made their claims on the lands of Texas abundantly clear, and they definitely did not want the Americans invading their lands. Secondly, the Wichitas and the Comanches considered the meteorite an important medicine (religious /medicinal artifact). Sibley thus paid for this expedition out of his own pocket, as he had hoped the meteorite was made of platinum and, I assume, he could retire in luxury if he was able to sell it.

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The “platinum rock” turned out to be an iron meteorite, which eventually up at the Peabody Museum at Yale University.

Sibley’s expedition stole the meteorite from the Texas lands and sent it to geologists in New York once the sample was determined to be iron, not platinum. Purchased by rock collector George Gibbs, eventually the 1,600 lbs meteorite – the largest recovered as of that time period – centered Gibbs’s extensive collection.  Gibbs’s wife donated the rock to  Yale University’s Peabody Museum.