LAW AND ORDER
It was against the law in the new state of Oklahoma (Billups Prohibitory Law) to possess whiskey just as it was in Indian Territory. The Park was becoming a rendezvous for the local whiskey peddlers and the Rangers were trying to put an end to the practice. The local bootleggers were ganging up at the Pavilion and Bromide Springs selling their wares.
This greatly annoyed and offended most visitors. There were many complaints from visitors to the Superintendent for this practice. This was the primary reason that a pay phone was installed at Bromide Springs in 1907.
Several arrests were made, mostly small time, where a person may have one bottle in their possession. But, in the fall of 1908, Rangers made an arrest where the bootlegger has 21 bottles of whiskey on him. The bottles were concealed in a telescope and hidden under a blanket in the back of a hack.
The U. S. Attorney refused to try the case since the Rangers observed the man selling only one bottle before he was apprehended. The prosecutor said that the suspect needed to sell two bottles before he would "waste the government's money" on a trial.
Greene's position was that there is a set of Park Regulations in place for a reason. These rules were implemented for the protection of the Park and the visitors. If they are not prosecuted then why have them.
What might seem to be a crime in one place is seen as frivolous in another. Why place the Ranger's lives in jeopardy enforcing laws and making arrests when the U. S. Attorney refuses to prosecute. Ranger Townsley had escorted two rather dangerous bootleggers to federal jail in Muskogee without the use of handcuffs. Greene wanted his Rangers supplied with the irons for their protection.
Greene wrote to the Secretary of Interior "If the conduct of the character indicated in the case of [the bootlegger] constitutes no offense, we had better cease trying to enforce order in the Park. In addition to the most serious violations of the law . . . there are other offenses that would scarcely draw the attention of the District Court such as cutting fences, killing game, dynamiting of fish, destruction of flowers and foliage (cutting firewood) and mutilation of signs." Does this ruling mean that a person could cut down one tree for firewood but not two trees? Or, could you shoot one squirrel for supper but not two squirrels?
In October the Superintendents received the much-wanted handcuffs and shackles from the U. S. Marshal's office in Muskogee. The cuffs did not come with keys. After unsuccessfully trying to get the U. S. Marshal in Muskogee to send keys, Greene sent them to a Detective Agency in Chicago and had keys made.
During the early days of Platt National Park, the most serious frequently broken laws were those relating to bootlegging and prostitution. Rangers were constantly arresting prostitutes in West Central Park (Flower Park). This seemed to be a cottage industry that has been somehow missed by most other historians of early Sulphur. One has only to view the early Court Clerk documents at the Court House to see the problem.
It was not uncommon for the upper reaches of Travertine Creek to be a lovers tryst. The thick underbrush and remote location made for the perfect rendezvous. Unfortunately for many of these victims of Cupid's Poison, Rangers Townsley, Maxey and Earl, who rode mounted patrols several times daily, also frequently visited the area.
The reason for this was that only the Brookside Trail, a mile and a half in length, provided access to the Buffalo/Antelope Springs area from the Pavilion Springs. This remoteness required particular attention to visitors who may have had problems along the trail.
One of the more interesting situations that occurred in the early years was such an event. Ranger Townsley was on mounted patrol near Antelope Springs when he observed a man and woman disappear into the brush above the springs. Upon further investigation, he discovered the couple "making connections", the term used in official language. Ranger Townsley arrested them.
Upon questioning at the Superintendent's office, the lady "Mrs. Jones" first gave a fictitious name and then confessed her real name. The man "Mr. Smith" gave his true name and admitted to the episode. Mrs. Jones denied everything; she insisted that nothing happened. She had only lied for the fact that she was married and did not want her family back home to hear of this.
It was about this time that Ranger Maxey entered the office and noted that the man was the same person whom he had discovered in the grass behind his barn the previous day only he was with a different woman. He had run both out of the Park.
Upon hearing this, Mrs. Jones went ballistic and said that if she had known that Mr. Smith was "that kind of man" she would have never let him touch her. The Superintendent admonished both and had them escorted out of the Park.
The Rangers spent much of their time in the early days acting as "morality police". But, there was a rule against immoral conduct. It came to a head when City officials wrote the Superintendent a letter telling him to "lighten up" as the Park rules and the efficiency of the Rangers were giving Sulphur a bad name as a place where one could not have any fun. Greene fired back that he had every intention of enforcing every Park rule to the letter of the law and if that was the case, then so be it.
Other than the livestock laws regarding grazing, there were rules that a horse or mule could not be tied to a tree in the Park. Just for the heck of it we checked with the Chief Ranger and that rule is still in effect today. Seems that the horses eat the bark off the tree killing the tree. You can hitch your mule to a dead tree.
There was a rule against camping within 1,000 feet of a spring, today it is within 500 feet of a spring.
Other offenses drawing the attention of the rangers were possession of a firearm. Most often the Rangers would take the gun and issue a receipt to the owner who could pick it up at the Superintendents office when they left the Park. Most of the campers came in wagons and most carried a .22 rifle or shotgun.
Hunting was a serious problem in the Park in the early days. On a first offense the gun was confiscated for two weeks. On the second and subsequent offenses, the hunter was fined and the Superintendent seized the gun.
There were fishing regulations as well. There was no seining of minnows or fish. People who were caught "grab-hooking" fish were fined and their fishing equipment destroyed. Supt. Greene instituted a closed fishing season on Travertine Creek during the 'spawning season' of May through June.
The horse and buggy speed limit in the Park was "no faster than a walk". The fine was $5 for this offense and Ranger Townsley once chased an offender for 1-½ miles to apprehend him for racing his horse through a crowd of visitors at the Pavilion Springs.
Rangers admonished locals and campers that they could not pick up walnuts, pecans or wild grapes in the Park. Hack drivers had to have license card posted on the outside of a buggy so that Rangers could see that they were licensed to operate in the Park.
Rangers also seemed to have a real problem with visitors wanting to wash their feet in the springs where others were getting their drinking water. Campers wanted to wash their clothes and bathe in the springs, which were against the rules. Campers also wanted to water their teams at the springs instead of in the creeks. This is how cholera was spread in earlier times by allowing livestock and people drink from the same waterhole.
© Contributed by Dennis Muncrief, October 2006.