The Pavilion Springs
In his 1906 survey of the springs of Sulphur Springs Reservation, Professor Gould declared that the Pavilion Springs were the most important in the reserve.
One could easily debate that universal statement when compared to the amount of water carried away from the Bromide Springs, but, one thing is for sure. If it were not for the early popularity of the Pavilion Springs, the reservation and the future Platt National Park most likely would have never came into being.
Some stories relate visits to this area and were referred to as the "Buffalo Suck". It was described as little more than a muddy seepy place where buffalo would roll in the mud to protect themselves from insects.
As early as the 1840's, the Chickasaw Tribal Council would meet in the area to conduct tribal business each summer.
Noah Lael, a white man, married Lucy Harris, daughter of Governor Harris, and built the first house just south of the springs in about 1878. As late as 1887, pilgrims reported that they camped at the springs and there was not but one house in the area.
Lael later sold his improvements to Perry Froman. Froman and forty-nine investors formed the "Froman White Sulphur Springs Townsite Company" (Sulphur Post-July 8, 1904) in the early 1890's. They applied to the Chickasaw Council for a townsite charter but were denied the charter as the Council felt that it would not be appropriate for a wealthy few to control the springs and creeks of the area which excluded the poor.
This did not impede the frenzy of platting a townsite and selling lots that they did not own. By the late 1890's, a two story pavilion building was built over the two main springs. The springs at that time were known as "The Seven Sisters".
According to the Curtis Act of 1898, all towns in Indian Territory, with a population of 200 or more, were to be surveyed and platted and that land was to be withheld from the land allotments of the various tribes.
The land however, was not free to those claiming the structures located on them. If the owner wished, after the platting and appraisal of the land, they could buy the land on which their home or business was located.
The entire town of Sulphur Spring with a population of 1,200 was located around the "town square" with Big Tom as the centerpiece. The land that became Platt National Park was set aside solely to preserve these springs.
The three-man appraisal committee established a fair market value for the lots. The owner of the structure was informed of the lot value and they could pay 50% of the value if it was a home or 62½% of the value if it was a business. The money collected by the government for the lots was deposited into the general fund of that tribe.
There is a map in the Park archives entitled "Sulphur Springs Reservation, Showing Land Claimed for Appraisement". The map is dated July 21, 1904. The map clearly shows the Blocks and Lots, numbered and with the owners name written on the lot.
George H. Schweining owned a hardware store in old Sulphur Springs, I. T. The store was located on the north side of Lot 3 in the middle of the block and on the south side of 'B' Ave. In plain English, this would be about one hundred yards southeast of the present Pavilion Springs. This store would later become very important to the Park.
Early settlers of Sulphur realized the importance of keeping the springs and creeks of the area together before the allotments became effective. Their efforts, along with the Special Indian Inspector Joseph Swords, finally got the area reserved from allotment and protected from "civilization".
In 1902, an act was passed by Congress and the government bought the first parcel of land from the Chickasaw Nation for $20 and acre or about ten times the going price for land at that time.
Since the Pavilion Springs were the center of the town, it was essential that all buildings be removed as quickly as possible in order to develop the park. Only the old hardware store was left and used by the reservation as the first park office. The stone from the building was later used to build the Lincoln Bridge.
The first building project in the Reservation was to tear down the old two-story structure over the springs. The main Spring, "Big Tom" was re-worked to improve flow and a new single story pavilion was built.
Since Congress did not see fit to spend much money on the little reservation, the early buildings and footbridges built in the park were constructed from salvaged material from the houses of the town that did not sell at auction.
In 1908 a tornado came through the Park and nearly destroyed the pavilion. It was racked by the wind and leaned so badly that bracing was placed around the structure to keep it from falling on some innocent visitor.
In the early years, there were seven springs in the group. The largest was Big Tom which flowed 73,440 gallons per day. Next to it in flow was Little Tom. Another smaller pavilion building was built over the next most important spring called Townsley Spring.
As time passed, several of the springs were re-worked and piped together. Several remodel jobs and another pavilion building was later added.
In the 1930's, the CCC came to the Park and began a major renovation of most of the buildings. It was decided that a new pavilion would be built of a more rustic nature. The material would be native stone and rough sawn lumber. The grounds adjacent to the area were re-graded into a more simple and natural appearance.
A new 1¼ mile trail was built from the Pavilion Springs to Buffalo Springs along the banks of Travertine Creek. Another new trail was built to Hillside Springs.
© by Dennis Muncrief - 2006