EARLY DAY RANGERS
Forest Townsley was the first Park ranger in the Reserve hired on June 18th, 1904. Robert Earl was the second ranger hired on January 24th, 1906. Earl was hired at the prevailing wage of $60 per month and $12 per month for his horse.
Ranger Townsley had furnished two private animals, at his own expense, used in patrolling the Park. Superintendent Swords wrote to the Secretary asking that the rangers who furnished private animals receive an additional sum of twelve dollars per animal per month for its care and feeding.
Forrest was the son of Willis Townsley who was the purchaser of the White Sulphur Inn (Park Hotel) when Sulphur moved. Willis Townsley was the unpaid caretaker of the Buffalo and Antelope Springs for the first few years of the Reservation's existence. Willis was in the real estate business and his wife Orpha ran a millenary shop in old Sulphur Springs.
The first employees in the Park were Rangers Forest S. Townsley and Robert A. Earl, Forester John J. Ziegler and secretary Una Roberts. As Oklahoma was still not a state, Robert Earl and Forest Townsley were commissioned as Deputy United States Marshals for the Southern District of Indian Territory out of Ardmore, I.T. Their commission, however, was limited to the confines of the federal reservation.
In 1905 the problem with the cattlemen came to a head. Stock raisers, whether cattle, horses or mules, ran their stock freely in the Park even though there were rules posted everywhere to the contrary.
Superintendent Swords had finally had enough and ordered an impound yard constructed in the area of the current buffalo pasture. There, all animals were put and the owners were charged a fifty-cent-per-day board fee for each animal. In some months, as many as 4,000 head of cattle would be escorted from the reservation. Quite a job for two rangers who and had many other duties.
In the early days, the ranger's jobs were quite different than today's rangers. Besides the customary job of protecting the visitors and maintaining law and order, they had to keep the cattle out of the reservation. In April of 1907 the rangers removed 1,466 head of cattle and horses beyond the limits of the Park.
On a Sunday morning in 1907, thirteen houses in the Palmer community, four miles north of Sulphur, were burglarized. During the robbery, one of the church goers came home early and caught the thieves red handed. The robbers jumped on their horses and headed for Sulphur and the upper end of Travertine Creek hiding in the dense underbrush growing along the creek banks.
Citizens of Palmer rode to the headquarters of Platt National Park where they alerted Rangers Townsley and Earl of the proximity of the outlaws. Townsley gathered the Park's bloodhounds and the posse headed up Travertine Creek where the dogs struck a trail in the area of Bear Falls.
Here, the outlaws opened fire on the posse and the Rangers. A long gun battle ensued but with little effect as the outlaws was using the new smokeless gunpowder and their position was well hidden.
The Rangers on the other hand were using black powder cartridges issued by the government. Each time a Ranger fired his weapon, his position was revealed to the outlaws by huge plume of blue smoke. The gun battle lasted for some time until the outlaws finally slipped away in the underbrush.
In 1906, the Park still had over one hundred abandoned buildings that were bought by the government during the two segregations. One of the jobs of the rangers was to keep squatters and trespassers out of the old buildings.
One example of their job is the story of two young people who used the old Bland Hotel as a lover's retreat. On a bright Sunday morning, Ranger Earl noticed two people entering the Bland Hotel by a back door. He notified Ranger Townsley and they entered the deserted building. They thereupon discovered a man and a woman in "an act of adultery".
These two were arrested and turned over to the Deputy U.S. Marshal in Sulphur who telephoned the federal judge in Ada and ask what to do with these suspects. The judge said to turn them over to local authorities.
The Mayor of Sulphur met with Park Superintendent Swords and said this kind of thing happened all the time at the Bland Hotel and it was no big deal for something that happened in the middle of the night. The Mayor pleaded for the man saying he was from a good family and the publicity would do no good. This greatly angered Superintendent Swords who replied that "it was not in the middle of the night, it was 'high noon' on a Sunday and there were visitors all around the hotel".
By this time, the woman had escaped out a back window of the jailhouse since she was put in a room by herself and the man, who was in the only jail cell, was fined ten dollars for consorting with a 'lady of easy virtue' and released.
Other than herding misguided lovers and wandering cattle, the job requirements for the rangers of the time also included many that are today performed by crews of maintenance employees.
During the early days of the Park's development, the rangers also oversaw the work crews. They were responsible for cleaning the comfort stations, mowing weeds, building and repairing fences, protecting the springs and maintaining order around the springs, building and repair of bridges & trails, etc.
Not all structures were available for the August 1906 auction. Superintendent Swords reserved some of the remaining structures for use as Park residences.
Before the second auction of the remaining houses in the reserve, Superintendent Swords made sure that his rangers received adequate housing. He reserved one frame house for caretaker Willis Townsley that was moved to the Antelope-Buffalo Springs area east of Panther Falls. He also reserved a house that was moved to the Bromide area for caretaker Robert Earl and one frame house for Ranger Townsley to be moved to the Pavilion springs area.
Other offenses in the Park that rangers looked for were fishing in the creeks, swimming, taking photographs, taking water in barrels (each person was allowed only 2 gallons per day in later years), and driving a hack without a license.
Yes, it was illegal to take pictures in the Park without an annual $10 permit. But, the Kodak camera was rapidly growing in popularity with the tourists. Since the camera and film had to be sent to a developer, these developers were selling copies of these pictures. It was soon decided that it was impossible to control pictures of the Park and this rule was dropped.
Thomas E. McDaniel was the third ranger in the Park sworn in on Sept. 21, 1907. He lived in a room on the first floor of the Bland Hotel.
Carl F. Maxey was the fourth ranger hired at Platt National Park. He was sworn in on January 20, 1908. He replaced Ranger McDaniel who, when off duty, was seen in Sulphur on several occasions in a "stuperous state". Repeated warnings from Superintendent Greene did no good and he was terminated. Ranger McDaniel was removed from office on December 31, 1907 for cause.
Up to 1908, the rangers in the Park had provided their uniforms at their own expense, as there was no official attire for the National Park Service. The National Park Service did not come into existence until 1916. Forrest Townsley, the first Ranger at Platt National Park realized immediately that a uniform, any uniform, would command more respect and attention of the Park visitors as the rangers tried to enforce the Park rules.
The Platt uniforms were khaki trousers, the same worn by enlisted men in the army, a long sleeved light blue shirt, leggings and boots, and an army campaign hat. The German Silver N.P.S. badge did not come along until 1906 and resembled the Texas Ranger badge. It is interesting that this badge read "National Park Service" when the National Park Service did not come into existence until 1916.
Townsley put his idea together and thought it helped in maintaining order in the discharge of his duties. When Earl was hired as the second ranger, he adopted the uniform that Townsley originated. When McDaniel was hired as a ranger he too used the same uniform.
This uniform cost only $8.80 but still was a week's wages for the common workingman. The Secretary wanted a new uniform for Park rangers and he wanted the rangers to pay for the uniforms themselves. The new uniform was to be purchased from M. C. Lilley of Columbus, OH and cost a whopping $27.85. This was a half-month's wages for a ranger.
Greene wanted to hire an additional ranger to enforce the observance of the rules. He stated that a great many visitors have a very crude sense of sanitation and a small percent of the people of Sulphur are lawless.
This new ranger would live at the Bromide pavilion in a cottage adjacent to the springs and in addition to regular duties would keep the order and enforce the rules around the springs. This was the purpose of hiring Ranger McDaniel. One of Albert Greene's last official acts as superintendent of Platt National Park was to order Bromide Springs Watchman Captain Clark to arm himself with a pistol, twenty fours a day, for personal protection and enforcement of the rules.
In May of 1907, Greene wrote to the Secretary requesting the hiring of an additional ranger saying, "there is a percent of the population of this community which is disposed to disregard and defy the authority of the government and whose attitude towards its representatives is one of hostility. I think this percent is greater than is usual in a frontier community."
"A spirit is resentfulness at the appearance here of the government finds expression in cutting fences, polluting springs, killing birds, tormenting pet squirrels, discharge of firearms on the reservation, fishing in violation of the rules and various other acts of malicious mischief."
Doesn't seem that much has changed in the last one hundred years.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief, October 2006.