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Vol 25  Issue 1,282  August 19, 2021

PO Box 2, Ardmore, Oklahoma 73402

Email: butchbridges@oklahomahistory.net, Phone: 580-490-6823

“What we have done for ourselves alone dies with us,
What we have done for others and the world remains and is immortal.”

A Glimpse Into The Past

Spikes, Ties and Steel in Oklahoma

The entire line of the Santa Fe across the state of Oklahoma from Arkansas City, Kansas to the Red River and through Carter County was placed in commercial operation June 12, 1887. The line from Arkansas City to Purcell was constructed in the name of the Southern Kansas Railway Company and AT&SF owned subsidiary which later but was taken over by the parent company.

In 1912 construction of the Oklahoma, New Mexico and Pacific Railway was started under ownership of Jake Hamon and John Ringling for the purpose of connecting with the lines serving Ardmore to deliver freight to the western parts of the county. The original plan was to have the road go as far as Lawton at least but the discovery of oil west of Ardmore provided the line with all the business it felt it could handle and the rest of the proposed road was abandoned.

At the western terminus of the line a town was laid out and given the name of John Ringling. Town sites were also established and given the names of Healdton and Wilson. The line operated at good profit from the time of the driving of the golden spike at the Ardmore terminal by Hamon until it was sold to Santa Fe in 1926. From about 1915 the line had been under the sole ownership of Ringling and was managed by Tide Cox who still makes his home in Ardmore. Santa Fe combined the operations of the line with its own and abandon its depot and most of the railroad bed within the city limits of Ardmore.

I depot still stands at the corner of North Washington and 3rd Avenue Northwest and is leased to the American Legion Post for a headquarters. The old road bed has been paved and named Railroad Avenue.

A branch of the Rock Island Line was another of Ardmore’s early rail facilities. The company no longer operates in Ardmore and its facilities were abandoned several years ago.

At present Ardmore is served by the Santa Fe and Frisco lines.

Ardmore rail car off the track.


Ringling Depot in 1941.


The old Ringling Depot today at 3rd and North Washington in Ardmore.


“John Gow here again. You also asked about the rail line to Ringling. It was built in 1913 by John Ringling, of Ringling Bros. Circus fame. Its official name was the Oklahoma, New Mexico, and Pacific Railroad (almost every railroad name west of the Mississippi ended with “and Pacific” to show it had lofty goals of reaching the west coast, though most never came close), though locally it was always called the Ringling Railroad. An interesting and long-lived myth grew up around the line. I heard it when I was a kid in Ardmore 40 years ago, and it’s still circulating, and that was John Ringling built the road to have rail access to a new “winter camp” for the circus, at Ringling, Oklahoma. In fact the line was built purely as a transportation business venture, with the original plans calling for building a line west from Ardmore through Waurika to Lawton. It would connect with other railroads in both Waurika and Lawton and mainly serve the agricultural market of southern Oklahoma. Grading of the line began in May 1913, and track started being laid west from Ardmore at the beginning of August. However, a mere 6 days after track-laying began the Healdton oil field was discovered. This changed everything. By pure luck the railroads owners were sitting on a new and unexpected source of tremendous profit, just 28 miles west of Ardmore. The plans to continue west to Lawton were shelved. The line was soon so busy the rail sidings on the Santa Fe for 50 miles north and south of Ardmore were full of cars waiting to get onto this line.

Interestingly, the current town of Healdton is not the original Healdton. There was a town by that name close to the oil fields, but the railroad wanted a slightly different location to serve the oil fields and also wanted to employ a common money-making scheme used by railroads at the time. The railroad located its town about 1 mile west of Healdton, and named it New Healdton. It was obvious that all the business of serving and supplying the oil field would flow through New Healdton, as well as the money to be made serving the field workers: they were going to need food, shelter, clothes, supplies of all kinds. The people of Healdton saw which way the wind was blowing and bought land lots in New Healdton which the railroad conveniently had for sale, and moved to the new site. After only a few weeks the Post Office declared the town would change its name from New Healdton to just Healdton, and that is the town we know today.

The line was leased in 1925 to the Santa Fe railroad, the main railroad in Ardmore. It bought the line in about 1927. For reasons I have not yet been able to discover the Santa Fe moved the original location of the Ringling Road in Ardmore farther south, where the last remnant of it still exists today crossing over Washington Ave on steel trestles as the street curves under it on its way to Hardy Murphy Coliseum. The original site of the Ringling Road was on Washington Ave and 3rd Street, where the old high school is, close to downtown. Ringling’s Ardmore depot still stands at this site and has been an American Legion Post for decades. Stand back and look at this building and you can see immediately by the architecture that it’s a railroad depot, and a very handsome one, very late 19th/early 20th century style. And at the top of the depot on the side facing Washington Ave is a concrete casting that says “Ringling Road”. So Ardmore has the distinction of having 2 large railroad depots, the Santa Fe depot and the Ringling depot, when many towns its size have none.

The tracks left Ardmore by going west from this depot (you could see the hump in the road on A street, B street, C street, etc where the rails crossed the street when I was a kid. Perhaps you still can), eventually following Grand Ave. There was apparently a large servicing facility (like a steam locomotive roundhouse, etc) where the Ardmore Mall is today. The line produced less and less oil over the years and was finally abandoned west of the Uniroyal Tire Plant in I believe the late 1970s.”

June 1968
A well explosion killed Sherman Ray Goodwin, 37, of Milo. According to the company owner J. R. Biggs, Goodwin was on a platform about half way up the derrick when the tubing blew out of the hole. Goodwin’s steel hat had a dent about one and a half inches deep, said Biggs

June 1951
Lake Murray State Park will finished the physical year with a gross income of $200,000. That’s more than needed to make the payment on the $850,000 bond sale used to finance the lodge construction and other improvements at the park.

June 1937
All chances of securing more buildings are equipment for the Carter County Fair went glimmering Friday afternoon when an attorney, Russell Brown, and a delegation of prominent attorneys informed an official of the fair association it was not possible. When the legislature next convenes a bill will be introduced to enable cities where fairs are held to make a Levy.

The old Turner Falls gas station.


Last Friday I traveled to Atoka to see the Big Boy steam locomotive come through. It stayed about 30 minutes then traveled on south to Ft Worth and then on to Houston.



After the viewing the locomotive I went to Bledsoe Diner in Atoka and bought one the best hamburgers ever.


We’re now over the $1,068,600.00 dollar mark. sometimes progress is slow locating people or their kin with unclaimed insurance money at the State Treasurers office in OKC but we are making a difference in people’s lives.

I feel like we made another big step forward on connecting people with unclaimed insurance money. Imogene Gaddis of Mill Creek passed away a few months ago leaving behind over $23,800 in unclaimed money at the State Treasurers Office in OKC. She was never married, had no children and a few cousins, and all of them have passed except a cousin up by Tulsa. Thanks to some of you on here, I learned her name and phone number. Gave her a call. She is going to file a claim in OKC for the money. Hope she gets that $23,800.. It took a while to find that cousin, but persistence paid off. Thanks to those of you who helped! so the searching continues.

How long has it been since you checked your name or a family member’s name? Its easy to do a search at the Oklahoma State Treasurer link below. I think every state in the union has a unclaimed property website through the respective state treasures website.

Q.  When did Indian Territory enter the Civil War?
A.   July 17, 1863 – The Battle of Honey Springs

Q.  In 1977 at what girl scout camp in Oklahoma did 3 horrific murders take place?
A.  Answer in next week’s newsletter

For several years I have been thinking about creating a webpage about my days, actually years, as a reserve deputy sheriff with the Carter County Sheriffs Office. Someone jogged my memory yesterday asking for any stories about his uncle, Sheriff Robert Denney. So I decided to jump in head first and get the page started. It will take months, years go get all I want to tell into the webpage, but at least I’ve started.


Some mail from this week’s MAILBAG…..



Below is from This and That newsletter archives of August 20, 2009

Ardmoreite Herb Upchurch sent in some interesting photos this week of a plant growing on their property in the SE part of Ardmore. The plant is the Dodder Plant, actually its a parasite. Its also known as the Fishing Line Plant because it looks like a big tangled mess of fishing line, or Love Grass because it loves the plants it attaches itself to to death. Some call it Angel Grass. The Dodder Plant may have some medicinal properties too, at least that’s the way the story goes. If you make a lotion using the Dodder Plant and isopropyl alcohol, and rub it on your joints it helps relieve the pain. If a person was like my grandmother Addie Carmon back in the 60s, her arthritic knees hurt so bad, she took way over the recommended daily dosage of aspirin trying to relieve the pain in her knees. I remember seeing this Dodder Grass stuff along county roads and pastures in this area in the 60s when I’d ride my 305cc Honda Super Hawk on back roads.

Last week I mentioned putting out our trap to catch a racoon.  A couple days later we had one, a little cute fellow in our trap the next morning.  He was taken 6 miles north of Lone Grove and turned loose, so he wasn’t killed or hurt.  He was just a little coon, and cute as can be.  I didn’t want to kill him anyway, and a friend north of Lone Grove coon hunts, so we gave the critter to him to turn lose on his back 40.

I ran across this site and just wanted to tell you that my brother and I grew up a short distance from the Ketchum’s Bluff and played there many times. Where the old foot bridge crossed there was and old column or two not sure in place back in the late 50?s and you could actually climb down and play around near the base. There was at last one cable as I recall that went all the way across. There was a lot of large rocks below and on one or two there were many names or initials carved where people had been long before my time probably. Most John + Beth, You know the type. My dad told me it was an old foot bridge. I have not been there in thirty years or more now. My memory is not that good for when I played there whit my brother I was probably in second or third grade. At the time it look like the grand canyon to me. I also recall dad worked in an oilfield and on the river bottom there was another foot bridge that was still in use when I was a boy in the mid fifties. People would cross and work in the oilfields on the Oklahoma side. I recall it looked like it was a hundred yards long and I only made it about half way before it started bouncing around and I got scared and turned back. I had not thought about that in years. Thanks for the memories you brought back.”

“If memory serves me right the old building at was actually and old home and a young boy I went to school with lived there. It has a basement that served as another living space. Not much more than two rooms up top and two below. Of course I can?t remember the boys? name. I may have the foot bridge confused with something else after I looked at the two columns I remembered the area better. Just behind the columns between them and the bluff is where I remember the initials being. If you ever get a chance to go back to Oscar look around where the old school was at it the old gate is still there is a marker as well telling when it was built. At one time there was a pretty good sized school building there and I recall a number of old foundations (pier and beam) out in the pastures around the school and old store. My dad told me at one time Oscar was an oil boom town and lots of residents. Just did not last long I guess. I have not been able to find any record of that or photos of the area at the time. I have an old year book from when we went to school there and if I get a chance I will send some photos of the old school. I remember in the summer going to baseball games behind the old Oscar store across from where the school was located. Forgive my rambling. I enjoyed this site immensely.”  -Boyd Raburn





Bunker Hill school: District #31 – Located five miles south of Lone Grove, Bunker Hill School was a two teacher, one room school offering eight grades of education.  It is now part of the Lone Grove School System.
“I got a kick out of reading the bit about Oliver’s Tavern in last week’s newsletter because that was “The Place” for teenagers like me to buy that old 3.2 beer back about 55 years ago. I spent many an evening drinking suds in Oliver’s.”  -Jim in Henrietta, TX
“I thought it may be forthcoming to clarify lingering assumptions regarding Wild Woman Cave and Bitter Enders Cave. Subsequently they both share a division of a larger interconnecting system. Therefore Bitter Enders Cave occupies the lower southwestern entrance adjacent to honey creek. This entrance abruptly ends due to impassable slump. Hence the derived name for ?Bitter Enders Cave? form a group of hiker in the 1920?s. Several other entrances do exist however all they all pose challenges. Trace dye tests have been established and evidence of dye has been recorded in several springs in and around the area.

In the early 80?s or late 70?s the cave claimed 2 people’s lives. Cave divers entered the cave with a common goal to extend surveys and locate new connecting passages. Due to unknown reasons, they drown. This resulted in the 2 deaths. Unfortunately, this ignited a heated controversy and sequence of legal actions against the land owners on behalf of the bereaved family members. Since this time, attempts to access Bitter Enders Cave or Wild Woman Cave has been strictly prohibited.  Bitter Enders Cave and Wild Woman Cave have been survey by several professional caving teams over the past 2 decades. Wild Woman Cave has been measured with over 3.1 miles of subterranean passages. This was recorded on by the NSS. This system is one of the largest known cave systems in South Central Oklahoma.” -Paul M. Rowan, Denton, Texas


See everyone next week!

Butch and Jill Bridges

“Friends Make Life Worth Living”Ardmore, Oklahoma


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