Gilsonite, C.N., I.T.
Gilsonite was a community located 3 miles south and 2 miles west of Sulphur. Gilsonite was named for the mineral that is abundant in the area. The mineral is a combination of oil and silica sand that occur naturally in the earth. This natural asphalt was mined and shipped by rail, from Dougherty and Sulphur, to States all over the country. The Bronerwick mine opened in 1895. The Silver Downward Asphalt Company of Ardmore transported the asphalt.
The mineral now know as Gilsonite was discovered in the early 1860's, but it was not until the mid-1880's that Samuel H. Gilson began to promote it as a waterproof coating for wooden pilings, as an insulation for wire cable, and as a unique varnish. Gilson's promotion of the ore was so successful that, in 1888, he and a partner formed the first company to mine and market gilsonite on a commercial scale.
The post office opened on March 31, 1900 and lasted until Feb 27, 1909. There was a school there in 1901 with Miss Myrl Spivy as the teacher. There was a school for Indian children as early as 1905. A telephone line was run from Davis to Gilsonite in 1901.
At one time the community employed hundreds of people from the neighboring communities of Drake and Nebo and was a bustling collection of mills, commissaries and workers houses. The Barber Company opened a mine in 1908 and many of the streets in Sulphur were paved with their asphalt. The invention of the asphalt batch plant spelled the end of the community as shipping cost were more that the new equipment. The mines began to close. By 1922, the town was all but closed down.
The community of Five Lakes now exists on top of the old Gilsonite community. It is not asphalt that created the new village. It was recreation and retirement to the "five lakes" that are actually the water filled strip mines that remained. Many a county youngster has been rushed to the emergency room from jumping at the "pits". It was a real thrill to jump off a 60 foot cliff into 100 foot deep water. The trick was to make a 'long' jump. The fellow with the short jump ricochet off the cliff wall and broke most every bone when he hit the water. The old telephone line from Sulphur to Gilsonite can still be seen stretching south of Veterans Lake, on south across the hills, nailed to the top of the old fence posts.
Dennis Muncrief, November, 2000