Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.
There is a place in southeast Oklahoma that conjures tales of medieval knights, wholesome princesses, and glorious adventures. It is a place rich with history but nearly forgotten in the echoes of time.
Situated on the southwest slope of Cameron Mountain, near Poteau, Oklahoma, Captain's Castle sits like a misplaced Arthurian legend. Also known as Reynold's Castle, the massive stone structure is truly a unique architectural wonder.
The Castle's Origins
The castle was built by Captain J. E. Reynolds for his wife Felicity in 1890. Constructed with native stone quarried from a nearby hillside, the Captain's Castle was modeled after the medieval castles of ancient Europe. According to deeds left behind by Felicity, the castle originally sat on 240 acres. The walls are two feet thick, and both the inner and outer layers of rock are insulated with gravel and sand. Despite the cold stone walls, the castle remained comfortably warm because the Captain installed several coal-burning fireplaces throughout the dwelling. With its stone turrets accentuating the roofline and with two octagon-shaped towers, this citadel home could also easily hold off a horde of ruthless barbarians.
While the Captain's Castle is, indeed, particularly fascinating, the real story lies behind the man who created it.
The Captain's History
James Reynolds was born on July 17, 1837. Not much is known about his early history, but it can be said that he was a passionate and domineering young man. Reynolds was considered "The Original Male Chauvinist" as he had little respect for women and even less respect for women's work.
That all changed with the onset of the Civil War.
Reynolds was around 25 years of age when he joined the War. Having been raised in a southern family, he quickly joined sides with the Confederates. He was wounded multiple times at the Battle of New Hope during the bloody Atlanta Campaign. The injuries were so serious that he would have died had it not been for the two daughters of his commanding officer who tenderly nursed him back to health. During his service, he rose through the ranks of Company K, 30th Mississippi Infantry ("Dixie Boys" of Carroll County). Eventually, through hard work and dedication, he became its captain shortly before the War ended.
His experiences in the Civil War left him a changed man. Chivalry replaced chauvinism. He now showed women the utmost courtesy, a trait that would remain with him for the rest of his life. This was exemplified in his reverence for the two sisters that saved his life. His respect for them was so profound that towards the end of his life, he commissioned a large marble statue of the sisters in order to commemorate the incident. The statue was to be placed above his future burial plot.
Building a Dream
When the War ended, Captain Reynolds did not surrender, but instead drifted off to Mexico. During his short time there, he was highly influenced by the high grandeur of the wealthy and elite. When he finally left Mexico a few years later, he was determined to build himself a castle like the ones he had seen in Mexico.
Reynolds eventually settled in Indian Territory with his new wife Felicity and established his family just outside of Fort Smith where the community of Arkhoma exists today. The Captain prospered in the Indian Territory, becoming a successful merchant and rancher. He was heavily involved in the development of coal mines in the region.
The Reynolds family, which grew to include a number of children, lived in their Arkhoma home for more than twenty years until the Frisco Railroad was built in southwest from Fort Smith to Paris, Texas in 1886. Two years later, a post office was established in the new railroad town of Cameron. In 1890, Felicity secured title to a parcel of land there. Construction of Captain's Castle began when Reynolds was 53 years old. Within a few short years, a great medieval castle rose from the side of Cameron Mountain.
Legend has it that there was another castle built nearby. According to this same legend, there was an intense feud between the two families, resulting in the complete destruction of one of the castles. Reynold's Castle survives to this day, while only broken ruins of the other exists.
The Captain Who Couldn't Let Go
Despite the many years that had passed since the Civil War ended, Captain Reynolds remained a true confederate. He dedicated one room to preserving mementos of the Civil War, including many flag-draped portraits of Southern generals. No matter how hard he tried, he could not leave the Southern ideals behind.
In the later months of 1904, Reynolds joined an Indian-led attempt to secure separate statehood for Indian Territory. The former captain became a delegate to the Sequoyah Convention that convened on August 21, 1905. He was 68-years-old, but still displayed that youthful passion of his younger years. After many days of intense debate, the proposal was ultimately shot down. The state that would have been named Sequoyah was quietly integrated into the state of Oklahoma.
The Captain and Mrs. Reynolds lived in the castle at Cameron until around 1911. He was around 74-years-old when he became heavily involved in the development of the modern community of Arkhoma. The couple built a new home there and it is where Reynolds lived out the rest of his life.
Late in life, he wrote that he was "still an unreconstructed Confederate," explaining to a niece that he "surrendered [his] individuality" when Southern soldiers stacked their arms and surrendered. In an interesting footnote to his life, the Captain contacted another former Confederate officer, Virginia's "Gray Ghost" John Mosby, at the outbreak of World War I and offered to join him in forming a unit of former Confederates to fight in Europe. He was 77 when the First World War broke out in 1914.
The Passing of the Captain and His Wife
Reynolds and his wife Felicity, a descendant of the famed Choctaw leader Greenwood LeFlore, died in 1920. The Captain passed away on June 16, just a month away from his 83rd birthday. His wife died a short time later. They are both buried in Fort Smith's historic Oak Cemetery. Their graves are marked by the statue of two young women helping a wounded Confederate officer from a battlefield. It was Reynolds' final tribute to the memory of the two young Georgia girls who helped him at New Hope Church more than fifty years before.
The Castle Today
The Captain's Castle is currently a private residence, but it can be seen from Castle Street in Cameron. One of the few castles ever built in the South, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
The current residents say that most of the historical information collected about their one-of-a-kind home was derived from a 1954 article in an Oklahoma Historical Society publication.
© 2010 Eric Standridge
Vonda Smith on January 21, 2020:
My friend ALVIN ADAMS JR lived in the Castle he was called Sonny He and I grew up & went to school together I met his wife at a school reunion & learned of his passing so so sad!!! That was in mid 90’s Also I by chance ran across Jimmy in the 90’s, he was in Tulsa on business and he lived in California
My uncle Jay Ellis told me many stories about the castle One about the war where men were on top of castle, men on top of store shooting at each other my uncle was 100 years when he passed
A lot of wonderful history in Cameron!!!
agnes kersh on January 20, 2020:
I graduated in 1959 with Jimmy Earl Adams who lived in the Castle. I heard he moved to California after graduation and as far as I know none of our classmates have heard from him. He did have an older brother but I can't remember his name. Loved the article!
Katie Duboise on January 19, 2020:
Tina Who was your grandparents that lived in the Castle?
RAL on February 14, 2019:
Does anyone know if the current owners of the Reynolds's castle welcome descendants to view the house and surroundings?
Tina on December 31, 2018:
Marie didway delia what year did ur grandparents live in the castle
Marie Didway Delia on March 01, 2018:
My grandparents, Boss and Belle Didway lived kind of next door to the castle. We could see it from their house. The Adams Family lived in that Castle when I was a small girl. We went to school with the Adams boys at Cameron. Seems like one of them was Jimmy, cannot remember the older ones name. Jimmy used to play with us occasionally when we were young and visiting my grandparents..... very fond memories of that neighborhood in my youth.
dora piersant on September 06, 2017:
loved the info on the castle have always been fasinated with it would love to be able to go inside and look around
Matthew Harmon on March 04, 2017:
Arkoma is a town, not a community and it's spelled A-R-K-O-M-A
Tina on August 04, 2015:
My grandparents lived there from 1967 to around 1980 i would love to see it again
summer.smith.kersh on February 23, 2015:
I really enjoyed reading this. I lived in Cameron and also attended Cameron school from 2nd to 8th grade and have drove by to see the castle. I wish I could get a tour of it but I guess they don't do that. I believe my grandma went to school with a kid named Reynolds at Cameron.
Melissa Reese Etheridge from Tennessee, United States on February 23, 2015:
You really have a talent for bringing Oklahoma history alive. I'm going to share this with my students.
Lee John from Preston on February 23, 2015:
wonderful hub, really enjoyed reading this!
waco on February 22, 2015:
I live about 8 miles from this it is so pretty
Bobby Parker on September 25, 2013:
Great story. I am a life long resident of the town of Arkoma... (yes, the spelling in the article is incorrect but a common misspelling) Both of my parents are also life long residents of Arkoma. My father is now 84 years old and knew several of the Reynolds family. I have heard many stories about Capt Reynolds but have never heard many of the fascinating details in this story. Thank you for posting this and for the research it took to bring out the story about Capt Reynolds, the Town of Arkoma he helped found and the beautiful castle that still stands to his legacy in Cameron, OK.
john Bice on December 22, 2010:
My grand parents ran a cattle ranch and they lived there for many years . I stayed there many summers with my parents on vacation. My grand parents last name was Adams. It was a great place. There was a peach orchard and strawberry farm on top of the hill.Kept my horse molly in the pasture down below
Eric Standridge (author) from Wister, Oklahoma on February 02, 2010:
Money, Pam - Thanks! I just find it's an interesting topic, and something that not many really know about.
Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on February 02, 2010:
I really enjoyed your hub. It was so well written and interesting.
Money Glitch from Texas on January 30, 2010:
Congrats on being nominated for the HubNugget Wannabes! Nice hub, castles always carrier such unique stories about their history. Good luck to ya!
Eric Standridge (author) from Wister, Oklahoma on January 30, 2010:
Ripple, Rope - Thanks for the vote of confidence! :D Still, I have absolutely no idea what a Hubnugget is, but if it has anything to do with precious metals, I already like it. I'll have to go find out what all the hubbub is about it..
Really, what's more important to me is that people learn that there's more to Oklahoma than cowboys and Indians - although there is plenty that here as well. Thanks for the nomination!
Elayne, same here. There's always something mystical about those ancient fortresses. It really surprised me at how many of them are in Oklahoma. Actually, I read about another one last night, but haven't got enough information about it yet.
And yes.. I'm green with envy! (or is that ivy?) I have always wanted to go visit the castles in Europe - especially Scotland!
Elayne from Rocky Mountains on January 30, 2010:
I really love castles. I went to Scotland last summer and saw many beautiful ones. Thanks for the informational and enjoyable hub. Aloha from Hawaii.
The Rope from SE US on January 30, 2010:
Great story. You've definitely got my interest in learning more! Congrats on your Hubnugest nomination!
Michelle Simtoco from Cebu, Philippines on January 30, 2010:
You drew me into this story with such delight :) Congratulations for your Hubnugget Nomination. :) Yes, you've been nominated. Check it out: https://hubpages.com/hubnuggets10/hub/10-New-Autho...
Enjoy the Hubnuggets :)