BIG CANYON, C.N., I.T.
GPS coordinates; 34.21.47N, 097.01.32W, Gene Autry
Some, will tell you that the names of Big Canyon were also Crusher or Arbuckle. That is not so. Crusher was a town of it's own renown. Arbuckle is another question. Big Canyon is located about 5 miles south of Dougherty, down a county road, along the east bank of the Washita River. I do know for sure, that it was there, and is now gone. I saw it go. All that is left is a big hole in the side of the mountain. In the early 1960's, my father was friend of a foreman of Dolese Brothers. We went to the town on a Saturday morning. We saw all the buildings being loaded onto moving vehicles to be removed from the town site. It was a clearance sale, everything must go. The post office, the store, the school, and the houses. The employees were given their pick of the buildings. My father's friend bought a house for a few hundred dollars and had it moved by truck. I was really impressed that a town could be moved so quickly.
The post office was established on May 11, 1904 with George Lantis being the postmaster. The post office lasted until 1961.
Big Canyon had no reason to exist except to furnish stone for the ballast of the Santa Fe Railroad. When the railroad came through in 1886, road building materials were badly needed to put the railroad up to grade going through the rugged Arbuckle Mountains. This link in the railroad was critical for the Purcell to Galveston section. Many of the houses in the 'Canyon' were the little red houses of the Santa Fe employees. As late as the 1920's, there are references to the collection of several 'villages' around Big Canyon. Could these have been Crusher or Arbuckle? I don't know.
There were many narrow, winding dust filled roads to the various villages. There were many Mexican and Austrian families that worked and lived in the area. The roads around the mountains were so narrow that one team could not pass another. The main town contained the typical amenities of any mining town owned by the company. It had a post office, commissary, a cook house and the superintendents house as well as the clerk's house. There was also a dormitory for the single men. The 'town' contained eight houses of questionable substance. There was a community well for all the families to fetch water.
The quarry was owned by the Dolese Brothers ( John, Henry & Peter) by the early 1900's. They took good care of their employees while living or dead. If an employee died, they paid all the burial expenses and buried them in the 'company' cemetery. I have seen the funeral home records and have seen the many times that Dolese was the payer of all the burial expenses. The Dolese company also had a company farm on which the local boys could work and make money during the summer. Spring water was piped to a spigot at the back door of each house.
It is said that Fred Schoepee was the first settler and that Robert Krebs built the first house. It has been reported that the O.K. Construction Company built crusher No. 1 in 1904. That may be so, but is highly unlikely it was the first crusher because the Santa Fe railroad was obtaining crushed rock from the site since 1886. Maybe the railroad was using blasted rock and not unscreened, crushed rock. I worked for the Dolese Company for a while as a crusher operator and believe me, there is a difference.
The work at the crusher was piece work. Each man loaded a car and pushed it to the siding where it was loaded into a "Dougherty" car. This is the belly dump car that is seen on the railroad today. This name is known all over the country, today, among railroad workers. A "dinky" engine pulled it to the main siding. In their heyday, Dolese Bros. may have employed as many as 300 workers.
As early as 1904, there was a subscription school in Big Canyon. There was also a school in the community of Crusher which was about a mile east of Big Canyon. Board Hollow was the location of the school. Miss Ora Johnson was the teacher who earned $50 a month. E.A. Murcheson was a teacher among others.
Families that were present at Big Canyon at one time or another were:
Dennis Muncrief, November 19, 2000