SETTLEMENT OF OLD GUM SPRINGS - 1860's - 1890's
By 1855, the Chickasaws were in danger of being absorbed into the Choctaws both socially and culturally. In that year another treaty was agreed upon where the Chickasaws would get a defined boundary to their country instead of living in common within the Choctaws. This treaty now put the future Historic Platt District in the center of the Chickasaw Nation.
H. H. Allen settled on a ranch near Sulphur in 1882. He reported that he visited the area later known as "Gum Springs" (Pavilion Springs) in the late 1840's. Here, he observed a wet, boggy place or "suck" where the giant shaggy buffalo wallowed in the mud to protect them from the biting summer insects.
Mr. Allen stated that he shot buffalo on the hills south of the "Buffalo Suck". He also noted that there were many species of wildlife around the suck including antelope and wild turkey.
As the land given the Chickasaws by the Choctaws was the traditional hunting grounds of the Comanche, Kiowa and others, the threat of raids by the wild tribes was always a reality.
The U. S. Army built Ft. Washita near the confluence of the Washita and the Red Rivers. Ft. Arbuckle was built near the Washita River in 1851 west of present day Davis, OK. Ft. Cobb was built on the upper Washita near present Anadarko, OK in 1859.
Forts Washita and Cobb were destroyed during the Civil War. However, Ft. Arbuckle was spared and the Chickasaw Battalion manned it throughout the War. It was more advantageous to the Chickasaws to keep the post functional, as their real enemies were believed to lie to the west, not the north.
One of the earliest recorded uses of the springs for its medicinal benefits was noted in the military records of Ft. Arbuckle during the Civil War. On the night of October 23, 1862, the Osages and Shawnees, who sided with the Union, attacked the Wichita Agency near current day Anadarko, Ok.
After the raiders had killed all the white inhabitants, they burned the Wichita Agency and Ft. Cobb, they then turned south to the Tonkawa Village. This action against the Tonkawa had little to do with the Civil War. It was a longstanding hatred against the Tonkawas, which was held by all of the southern plains tribes. The Osage and Shawnee practically annihilated the Tonkawas this night. The tribe, which had numbered over one thousand members the day before, now numbered less than one hundred forty members.
The few Tonkawas who did survive straggled into Ft. Arbuckle, which was now under Confederate control being manned by the Chickasaw Battalion. It was illegal for any other tribe to be in the Chickasaw Nation, so the commander at Ft. Arbuckle sent an urgent message to the Chickasaw governor asking permission for the tribe to seek shelter from the Osages in the Nation. The Governor granted this permission.
The commander of the post gave what medical aid and food he could spare to the Tonkawas. He then sent them to the springs on "Rocky Creek" eighteen miles east of Ft. Arbuckle to camp and recuperate. The rag-tag wounded survivors of the Osage raid moved into the safety of the springs on the first day of November 1862 into the area that would someday become Platt National Park. In 1907, Governor William Guy related to Supt. Greene that during the Civil War, a large group of Cherokee refugees lived near the Antelope-Buffalo Springs on Sulphur Creek.
After the War was over, there was a great influx of black and white immigration into the Chickasaw Nation. The vast majority of these immigrants were from the devastated South. The protection of Ft. Arbuckle brought many arrivals to the central portion of the Chickasaw Nation where white ranchers and farmers settled along the Washita River, Rock Creek, Buckhorn and Sandy Creek.
Another early date mentioning the Sulphur area was about 1867. In a report by George Conover, a member of the 6th United States Infantry was going from Ft. Smith to Ft. Arbuckle when the group camped between present-day Sulphur and Davis on Guy Sandy Creek. Cholera broke out and 28 men died. They were buried in a common grave without coffins. Conover said there was not a house between Stonewall and Ft. Arbuckle.
Other settlers came to the area including W. B. Lowrance, Noah Lael and Perry Froman. It has been suggested that one of the first white settlers in the area of the "springs" was Mr. Lowrance. He may have been part of the Chickasaw Battalion or some other Confederate unit that operated in the area.
After the War, Mr. Lowrance was one of the first settlers in the area who established a large ranch near Oil Springs and the headwaters of Buckhorn Creek. Later, when the Sulphur Springs Reservation was being surveyed, the spring and headwaters of Buckhorn Creek, on Mr. Lowrance's ranch, was considered for inclusion at one time.
During 1871-1872, a freight and mail line ran from Boggy Depot to Caddo to Fort Sill, crossing Blue River at Nail's Crossing, Sulphur Springs, Cherokee Town, Pauls Valley, White Bead Hill, Beef Creek (Maysville), Erin Springs, Rush Springs, and Fort Sill.
A white man named Noah Lael, who married Lucy, the daughter of Governor Cyrus Harris, in 1878, delivered the mail in 1872. Lael built a house on the hill near the old Park headquarters and established a ranch called the "Diamond Z" that covered the entire area that encompassed the future Historic Platt District and the old Gum Springs.
On September 26, 1882 Noah and Lucy Lael sold their improvements to Perry Froman. The following is the bill of sale:
"Know all men, by these presents that we Noah Lael and Lucy Lael of Tishomingo County Chickasaw Nation, do this day bargain, sell and convey to Perry Froman a certain place lying on Rock Creek, Tishomingo County; known as the Noah Lael "Sulphur Springs Place" and all the improvements belonging to said place, for the consideration of Three Hundred and fifty dollars in hand paid, the receipt hereby acknowledged. We do hereby warrant and defend the title to said place to Perry Froman his heirs and legal representatives forever."
In the Chickasaw Nation, the land was owned or held in common by all tribal members. But as can be seen, the improvements could be sold. As had been the habit for generations, the Choctaws and Chickasaws still held summer camps along Sulphur and Rock Creeks and Gum Springs although they were now in the middle of a working cattle ranch.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief, October 2006.