The 1870 map made by the surveyors under the provisions of the Treaty of 1855 carefully noted the position of the hills, groves of trees and creeks of the area. The future site of Historic Platt District lay mostly in Sections 1 and 2, Township 1 South, Range 3 East.
The surveyors noted the timber as 'first' or 'second' rate. This is obviously a reference to the large timber, red oak, pecan, walnut, cottonwood and sycamore along the streams and the short post oak and bois d' arc which grew on the rocky hills.
The following excerpts are from the W.P.A. Indian Pioneer Papers collected during the 1930's:
H. D. Fraley noted that "In 1887, my boss drove about four thousand head of cattle into the Territory to winter them, and I came with him at that time.
I was general roust-about, doing whatever they told me to do, sometimes helping to cook and sometimes caring for the horses. I received twelve dollars and fifty cents for this work. We stayed at the old Gum Springs at Sulphur and at Grub Prairie on Wild Horse Creek west of Davis."
J. M. Gist told of a visit to the springs "I came to the Indian Territory in 1887. We moved in a covered wagon. We came through Sulphur and there was nothing there but an old log ranch house and the old Gum Springs. We camped at this spring. We had no bread and the man (Col. Froman?) who lived in the log house had his wife bake us some corn bread."
R. B. Holder told of being a ranch hand in the 1890's. "About the only recreation the cowboys had was to go to a dance hall at Sulphur which we called 'The Seven Sisters.' This was a dance hall built over the old Gum Springs at Sulphur. We would work all day, come in and eat supper, get a fresh horse and ride over to "The Seven Sisters." It was a gathering place for cowboys from all directions. We danced with our boots, spurs and chaps on. We danced the square dance. That was the only kind of dance which the cowboys knew. There were always plenty of girls to dance with us."
Dick Sheegog told the following story of his early experience in the area: "Platt National Park was originally a cow ranch. Colonel Froman had a ranch house built of pickets, southwest of the old Gum Springs. There was a store run by Mullenbrook on the banks of the creek and a small dairy owned by Cunningham near the Antelope Spring. People, both Indians and whites, came for miles to camp near these springs and drink the water. Small stores began to appear. Cold drink stands were put in and the town of Sulphur began in the Park on the south side of Sulphur Creek."
T. M. Unsell moved to the area of Antelope Springs in 1888. "I came to the Indian Territory in 1887 in a prairie schooner. We crossed Red River at Delaware Bend and stopped at Ardmore. Father had some cattle and after a year we moved to the Antelope Springs, near the present site of Sulphur. Father sold his cattle to traders who shipped them.
W.W. Butt noted that in 1905 "There was no Park here when I moved. There were only springs, at which people, both Indians and whites, would camp and drink the waters. The cowboys called Bromide Springs, The Salt Springs."
"The cave near the springs was inhabited by panthers, which caught the calves on the ranches nearby. Colonel Froman had a large ranch house near the Gum Springs and I built a small house near this springs."
In 1886, the Santa Fe Railroad finished its line through the Chickasaw Nation with the road being seven miles west at Davis. In 1901 the "Frisco" Railroad was completed six miles to the east. In 1902 the Sulphur Springs Railroad Company built a spur from Scullin to Sulphur Springs to haul the thousands of visitors to the "Seven Springs".
By the early 1890's, there was no doubt the beginning of a town around the Gum Springs. The businesses necessary for a town were present. Stores, blacksmith and livery stables, hotels, a newspaper and Teddy Ellis built the first telephone exchange in the townsite in 1900.
These businessmen had to pay a $50 per year annual permit plus a five percent ad valorum tax to the Chickasaws to do business in the Nation. Farmers had to pay a five dollar annual permit and ranchers had to pay $50 per year plus 10 cents per head. Although the businessmen, farmers and ranchers owned the cattle, crops, houses and buildings, the Chickasaws still owned the land.
The 1900 census showed that there were now over 1,100 people residing in the area of Sulphur Springs. This greatly increased population created considerable amounts of raw sewage and garbage that was beginning to get dumped into the Sulphur Creek and Rock Creek. The 1900 census also showed some very interesting occupations for these residents. There were the usual vocations as blacksmith, dairyman, publisher, drayman, teamster and cotton gin owner, there were also confectioners, cobblers, a tamale stand owner and of all things, a trapeze artist.
The pollution around the springs became a great concern to the Chickasaw government who felt that it would eventually become so contaminated that it would become unusable for its healthful waters. A plan had to be developed to preserve the beauty of the springs and creeks and prevent the area from falling into the private hands of two hundred people.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief, October 2006.