It's odd for a town located in one Indian nation, to be named for another Indian nation. No one really knows how Cherokee Town, a community, at the site of a rock bottomed river crossing over the Washita River three miles east of Pauls Valley, came to be so named. The Cherokee were certainly aware of the crossing for the famed Cherokee warrior, Dutch, used the crossing when hunting buffalo in 1834. Oral history explains the name as coming from a band of Cherokee who settled along Cherokee Sandy Creek before the Civil War but doesn't specify if they were a part of the Texas Cherokee driven out of Texas in 1838-39 or a part of the bunch ˜invited' to leave Texas in 1855, but the former is the most likely. The earliest description of Cherokee Town comes from Col. Charles DeMorse who, in April, 1862, attended a peace conference between the Confederate government and the Plains Indians at the site. Between 1862 and 1869, various elements of the Osage, Caddo, Shawnee, Delaware, Cherokee, Comanche, and Wichita took refuge at Cherokee Town to avoid the ravages of war in their home territories. Even after the war, a good part of the Caddo continued to refuge in the Middle Washita between Cherokee Crossing and White Bead Hill, and when, Dr. John Shirley ventured to the community in 1864 to open a trading store; old timers report seeing as many as 500 Comanche at a time riding into Cherokee Town to trade.
As time went on, Dr. Shirley built a ferry at the crossing, and then, in 1870, when Shirley got the contract to blast a government road from Caddo on the MK&T Railroad to Fort Sill the wily Irishman led the road right by his store and over to the crossing where his brother had constructed a bridge. Since government roads from Fort Arbuckle and Fort Sill to Fort Smith forked at Cherokee Town, and a branch of the Shawnee Cattle Trail came by, the village was the most important community in the area for many years. In its zenith, Cherokee Town boasted a hotel, store, post office, government warehouse, stage depot, blacksmith, several dwellings and the only all weather river crossing of the Washita River north of Colbert Station. Business in the cross roads community was brisk. From 1871 to 1887, stage, freight, and migrant traffic moved through night and day. The crack of the driver's whip mingled with the constant lowing of oxen in the twenty yoke teams hauling freight and stage passenger's groans mixed with the excited yelps of mover's children and bull whacker's curses. At times, Cherokee Town was the location where the government beef allotment was parceled out to the Comanche and Kiowa, a task accomplished by simply turning the Indians loose on the herd and standing back while they slaughtered the beef and butchered them on the spot. One old timer complained the constant din at Cherokee Town was sufficient to cause hens to lay flat eggs and pronounced his intention to move to a quieter place--say, Chicago or Kansas City.
When Dr. Shirley died in 1875, his widow sold out to Dr. William Walner, an intermarried Choctaw citizen, who turned management of the property over to his son, John. Cherokee Town's history as a community ended when the railroad by-passed it in 1887. Though some of the buildings continued in use as private homes on location for a few years, but most business were hauled south to the new depot of Walner and one or two buildings were removed to the new depot of Paul's Valley.
Where did you get your information? It was the 1836 bunch from Texas that settled there, and you know that since two major territory roads crossed there they must of had stagecoach traffic early on. Thanks so much for your help.
What 1836 bunch? The Texas Cherokee were driven out of there in two bunches in 1838 and 1839. Prior to their arrival along the Washita the area had semi-permanent camps of Caddo and Wichita but no one else wanted to live there because the Osage and Comanche both claimed it as a hunting ground and neither tribe was good at sharing. As to sources, start with Grant Foreman, "Advancing the Frontier," then A. M. Gibson's "The Kickapoos, lords of the Middle Border," and Dianna Everett's "The Texas Cherokee, a people between two fires, 1819-1840." The rest of it you will find in The Chronicles of Oklahoma, Spring, 1987 in "Traders along the Washita." If you know of an earlier settlement I like to know about it, and the source too.
This is a great, GREAT report on Cherokee Town, I.T. - - fantastic information; and, thanks so much for citing your sources. Excellent, extremely interesting story!
Regarding the stage traffic mentioned by the guest earlier, although one old timer reported the Butterfield line came through the Washita Valley, the closest confirmed sighting of a Butterfield Coach before 1871 was one traveling westward in 1859 along the old California Road some 20 plus miles north. The site of Cherokee Town was on the western edge of civilization"”off the normal line of travel and to my knowledge no stage had a route through the area until after the Civil War because the only communities of any importance west of Edward's Trading Post were Fort Arbuckle, the Wichita Indian Agency and Fort Cobb. Both were primarily government institutions and had their own means of receiving mail and visitors, thus had no need for a stage. Mail before the Civil war was delivered to Ft. Washita either by freight wagon or army approved means from Fort Smith; from there it was delivered by rider to Forts Arbuckle and Cobb and non military residents living close to these posts were required to pick it up there. During the Civil War, there were some mail riders contracted but delivery was sporadic. In the years immediately following the war, it took a while to establish the normal government services in Indian Territory, Cherokee Town was no exception. And, although mail resumed delivery at Fort Arbuckle in 1868, until well up into the 1870's, most mail received at all the communities in western Indian Territory were addressed Fort Smith, Arkansas as that facility was thought to be the last reliable post office.
A small trading post and blacksmith shop was in operation in the area prior to 1836 when a bunch (small group) of Cherokees settled into the area; the town itself squawtted on the south bank of the Little Sandy Creek with the Cherokee Crossing,named after the town, a little over a mile southwest of the town: it's easily located on any map dated at least 1870. One thing about Dr. John Shirley - the only post master of Cherokeetown (August 17, 1874 to May 10, 1877)- while he was away visitng the better hotel in Anadarko he died rather suddenly of ptomaine poison from his meal.
Cherokeetown was a designated stage stand for a cross-country stage line, and it had a wagonyard as well as a campsite for freaghters and traders and travelers of all kinds. The military supplies hauled through the town was during the Civil War and later the Indian wars.
My only interested in Cherokeetown is where are the wagonyards located and how was the town laid out; but you might find this legal helpful: SE1/4,NE1/4, NW1/4, N1/2,NW1/4, SEC. 25, T3N, R1E.
Some books: Chronicles of Oklahoma(29), Oklahoma Place Names, Oklahoma Ghost Towns, Tenacious Monks & Maps: 1870 topographical survey & others - I'll dig up my Texas books and papers in the near future.
I forgot a source you can easily find it is Lost Treasure magazine for February 2004
Dixie Smith, who moved into the Cherokee Town area a couple of years after the Civil War said Doc Shirley told him there was a log trading post on the spot when he arrived in 1864 that looked to be 15 years old, that would place settlement in the late 1840's or early 50's. I was prowling around Cherokee Crossing once when an old timer came by. He pointed out the lay of the town, describing where various structures had been. According to him, it was strung out along the ridge, or terrace, between the river and the old Wilson and Lael places. He said Lael's blacksmith shop was near the walnut grove at the river's edge, on the south--that he had found a lot of horse shoes, nails, and wagon parts there. Other folks who live in the immediate area have told me there was a log cabin and what appeared to be a blacksmith's shop 1/2 mile south and on the west side of the river. Lots of wagon parts have been found in the bottoms along or near Nigger Sandy Creek. You might try there. The info on the earlier settlement is interesting and I'll try to find the articles you're listing and describing. It would be great to push the date of settlement back, but quite honestly, after about 20 years of research, the 1838-39 Texas Cherokee influx into the Washita Valley appears to be the best bet for the first settlement of Cherokee there.
I revisited a couple of sources and thought I'd add them to the confusion. One is the location of the river crossing. In 1870, a survey of the valley was completed which clearly shows Cherokee Town in Section 25, NW ¼, 3N, 1E, and ½ mile east of the mouth of Cherokee Sandy Creek. The road to Okmulgee and the road to Boggy Depot crossed at this point. The river crossing is shown to be in the NW ¼ of the SW ¼ of Section 26, approximately one mile southwest of the Cherokee Town crossroads. This location is consistent with the description of distance from store to bridge by Sarah Ann Harlan in 1876. In other words, the road ran southeast to the crossing, then northwest to Waite's and Pauls Valley. Since wagon parts were found along the small creek southeast of Cherokee Town, that might be the location you seek. The other reference, a piece of physical evidence supporting the existence of a Cherokee village along the Washita prior to the Civil War, is the map of the Fort Arbuckle Military Reserve drawn by Lt. Wheaton, in July, 1857 and published in 1859. The area encompassed by the reserve is around 9 ½ miles long and 6 miles wide, and clearly shows at the northeast extremity of the reserve, on the east side of the Washita River, a populated area labeled Cherokee Town. Its placement appears to be at or near the location of Kickapoo Sandy Creek and where other maps show a Kickapoo Town. However, by 1857, the Kickapoo had moved to a location some 50 miles west of the Fort. So, how does one explain this discrepancy? The explanation, I'm toying with is that, while the map is correct in most aspects, it is distorted in the northern presentation of the Washita River by the compression of nearly 11 miles of river course into an area meant for 6 miles. This portion of the river simply does not match the scale accorded the rest of the map. An examination of the trend of the Washita River course as it appears on the Wheaton map in comparison to an 1883 Railroad Survey map of the Chickasaw Nation and present day maps demonstrate, at least to my weak old eyes, is that the section of river drawn north of the entrance to Wildhorse Creek corresponds to section of river from the present day crossing of State Highway 7 thence north to a mile south of the present day crossing of State Highway 29. And, if I'm correct in this assertion, then the Cherokee Town depicted on the Wheaton map and the Cherokee Sandy village is one in the same. If you have a different perspective, I'd like to hear it.
In reading what you say I find that my 1870 map of the area, which is on a scale of 2" to the mile, must be distorted for it shows the Cherokee Crossing apx a mile southwest of the town, and shows the town to be an eighth of a mile southeast of Little Sandy Creek, but what would that surveyor know standing there while the town was still standing. The last good picture of the Cherokee Crossing that I saw was in the Wynnewood newspaper in early 1983
I was kind of surprised by what the survey showed as well since there is a hard pan exposed at the end of the ridge almost straight west of old Cherokee Town. But,according to William Nicholson, who was touring the Indian Agencies, and who drove a buggy from Fort Sill to Cherokee Town in last week of November in 1870, "Cherokee Town is a mile or two east of the Washita." Unless the river has shifted it's course by over a mile, then he had to have gone by way of the crossing shown on the survey, because it's only about a half mile from the river to the site of what is traditionally felt to be Cherokee Town. Nicholson describes the road leading to the crossing this way: "...down the valley of the Washita to Smith Paul's large farm-then took the left to the Ferry opposite Cherokee Town-crossed by moonlight & went to Dr. Shirley's 2 miles beyond Cherokee Town, through a muddy and circuitous route." As I said earlier, the buildings of Cherokee Town were spread out between the crossing and the creek, and along the terrace or ridge, it was not a cluster of buildings exactly at a crossroads.
In a few days I'll check the drift of the Washita River and see how reliable your description.
Tower the 1897 topo may of the area confirms the 1870 survey map, but I'll keep hunting formy other information. I'll be back.
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