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Posts tagged ‘Jackson County Oklahoma History’

Museum of the Western Prairie

Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus

Windmill at the Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

A few months ago I went on a road trip to the southwestern part of the state.  It was August and 104 degrees out but I didn’t care, there were places I wanted to go and see.  I went looking for the Cross S Ranch Headquarters south of Olustee and couldn’t find it.  Eventually later that day I ended up in Altus and had time to visit the Museum of the Western Prairie.

It’s back off the road in a park, a low building with dirt up around it to make it look like an old dugout home from the late 1800’s.  I had been there before many years ago and saw a picture of downtown Eldorado, Oklahoma, that showed the Farley blacksmith shop.  This was the shop that my great-great grandfather Jeff Farley ran in the 1890’s.  So on this visit I wanted to find that picture again and show it to Mae, just to emphasize our family history here in Oklahoma.

The building had been remodeled a few years ago, so things had changed and the picture was no longer on display, but there were still plenty of other exhibits to show her just how our family lived in that time period.  They had the usual covered wagon and other household items from the time of settlement in Jackson County.  But one of the more interesting items on display was a console from the Atlas missile silos that surrounded Altus and it’s air force base from 1962-1965.

Control board for Atlas rocket in Altus

There is more outside in the courtyard that showcases the history of southwestern Oklahoma.  Windmill, farm equipment, a buggy, and the Criswell half-dugout.  Davis and Sarah Criswell built the half-dugout in old Greer County (now part of Jackson County) around 1900.  This dugout is a great example of what a family home looked like out on the western prairie.  But also in this courtyard is where I finally found the Cross S Ranch Headquarters building.  It’s still in the process of being restored (for more info read my previous post about the history of this building).

The museum was started in 1966 when the Western Trail Historical Society started raising money to build a museum in Altus.  The building was completed in 1970 and officially became a Oklahoma Historical Society field museum in 1973.  The Criswell half-dugout was placed there in 1976 and the Cross S Ranch Headquarters was rebuilt there in 2009.

So if you’re a history nerd like me or just want to get an idea of what life was like on the western prairie around the turn of the century, stop and check this museum out.  Takes about an hour to see everything.  Older kids might like it but younger kids would probably be bored, not a lot of kid type stuff to do.  I do hope the next time I visit they have that Eldorado picture back out.

Address: 1100 Memorial Drive, Altus, OK.  From Main Street (or State Highway 6), turn east on Falcon Road, then go less than a quarter of a mile to Memorial Drive.  The museum sits at the end of the road.

Hours: Tuesday- Saturday 10am-5pm.

Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus 3

Cross S Ranch Headquarters

Cross S Ranch Headquarters 3

Cross S Ranch Headquarters, Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

While I was bored over the summer, I found a listing of all the locations in Oklahoma on the National Register of Historic Places.  I then started getting curious, do some of these places still exist?  So just using Google Maps Satellite Images I would put in the address or coordinates to see if the building was still standing or if something had happened.  The majority of the time everything was the same but there are some places that are gone.  Why are they gone?  What happened to them?  Fire, tornado, moved?  So I have set out to find these historic places and give everyone an update.

One of the first places that caught my interest was the Cross S Ranch Headquarters in Jackson County.  It should have been on a country road West of Elmer and South of Olustee but no matter how many times I looked, I could not find a building on this piece of farm land.   So off to southwestern Oklahoma I went, at the beginning of August in 100 degree heat (I’ve never been accused of being smart).  After a short drive through Elmer, trust me it’s a small town, I ended up close to where the ranch headquarters should be.  I was close because the road didn’t look too good and after the rains they had in May and June, I didn’t know what I would find further out.  But I was on the location of Cross S Ranch.

Cross S Ranch

Actual location of the Cross S Ranch, the headquarters building would have been in this field.  Looking to the west from County Road N199, Olustee, OK, 2015.

The Cross S Ranch was started on this open prairie in what was then Greer County, Texas by the Eddleman Brothers.  L.Z., Ira and Lee Eddleman started grazing cattle in this very area in 1880.  This was in a time that the cattle could roam free without fences or borders.  In what many believe was 1891, the brothers built the two-story headquarters building out of limestone.  It was not only the headquarters for the ranch but a home for L.Z. Eddleman.  Around 1893 the brothers moved out of cattle ranching and solely into the breeding and breaking of horses.  This continued until the 1900’s when the brothers eventually moved away from the Cross S ranch, onto other ranches they owned not only in Oklahoma but around the country.  L.Z. Eddleman did still own the Cross S and used it from time to time at this point, mostly for farming.  The headquarters building was still used as a home until the 1930’s and afterward may still have been used by members of the family for various reasons, such as family reunions.  By the 1970’s the ranch was no longer owned by the Eddleman family and the headquarters had been abandoned.

In 2006 the ranch headquarters was included on the National Register of Historic Places.  But the building was in horrible shape, the roof was falling in, the second story floors had rotted away, and the stone blocks were collapsing.  That is when the Museum of the Western Prairie in Altus moved in, raising money to have the headquarters building moved.  In 2009, they started dismantling the stones and moving everything to Altus, where the building was then reconstructed.  This is why I couldn’t find it, the building had been moved, it is now rebuilt in the courtyard next to the museum.  It is nice the way it’s been refurbished but I think I would have liked to have seen it restored on the prairie where it had been.

If you want to go look for it, you can find it at the Museum for the Western Prairie in Altus, 1100 Memorial Drive.   The original location of the ranch can be found 5 miles south of Olustee west of the intersection of County Roads N199 and E1750.

inside Cross S Ranch Headquarters 2

Inside the Cross S Ranch Headquarters.  The first floor has been restored, the second floor should be done in a few years.  Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

Cross S Ranch Headquarters marker

Stone marker with the Cross S brand stamped on it.  Museum of the Western Prairie, Altus, OK, 2015.

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