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Posts tagged ‘National Register of Historic Places Jackson County Oklahoma’

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

Olustee Public Library and Park

Olustee library

If you ever find your self having to go down Oklahoma Highway 6 in the far southwestern part of the state, you will go through the tiny town of Olustee.  As you enter the town you will go right past the library and park and except for a small sign you might not know it’s on the National Register of Historic Places.

The park itself is interesting enough- a full block with old style playground equipment, you know, the stuff most people my age played on before the safety nazis took over.  You have the big old metal slide, teeter-totter, and swings.  There is an old Frisco caboose sitting in the northwest corner of the park and a sidewalk trail that leads around the whole park.  The park came into existence in 1920 when the New State Womens Club developed the property to help improve the quality of life in Olustee.  The Womens Club had been formed in 1907 to help establish a library and park in the small town.

Throughout the 1920’s members of the club took care of the park by planting trees and in 1925 the club turned over ownership of the property to the town of Olustee. Plans were made in 1921 for a small building to be placed in the middle of the park to be used as a library.  But the depression slowed the development of that plan.  In 1936, two members of the Womens Club met with representatives from the Works Progress Administration to see if they could get help with the library project.  It was approved quickly and work started on the building in April 1936 with the stone quarried from a local farm.  Since 1907 there had been temporary locations for a library in Olustee and by August 1936 a permanent building was done and filled with books donated not only by the Womens club but other residents of the community.  The New State Womens Club maintained not only the library but the park from the opening until the 1990’s.  At that point the library closed, with all the books and town records still inside.  The library and park were placed on the National Register in March of 2008.

I would love to go in the building, just to see the records and journals left behind.  The park is just a normal park.  I tried to get Mae to go down the slide, but it was 106 degrees out and she had a dress on, so it wasn’t happening.  It’s an interesting stop if you happen to be in that area.

Olustee library 6

Olustee Public Library, Olustee, Oklahoma, 2015.

Olustee park

Olustee Park, Olustee, Oklahoma, 2015.

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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