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.
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.