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A History of the Captain's Castle in Cameron, Oklahoma

Updated on April 9, 2017
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I am a freelance writer with an interest in history. My 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.

Cameron castle and grounds, 1959
Cameron castle and grounds, 1959

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.

Captain's Castle
Captain's Castle

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 statue that resides over Captain James E. Reynolds' final resting place.
The statue that resides over Captain James E. Reynolds' final resting place.

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.

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      dora piersant 5 weeks ago

      loved the info on the castle have always been fasinated with it would love to be able to go inside and look around

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      Matthew Harmon 7 months ago

      Arkoma is a town, not a community and it's spelled A-R-K-O-M-A

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      Tina 2 years ago

      My grandparents lived there from 1967 to around 1980 i would love to see it again

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      summer.smith.kersh 2 years ago

      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.

    • melissae1963 profile image

      Melissa Reese Etheridge 2 years ago from Tennessee, United States

      You really have a talent for bringing Oklahoma history alive. I'm going to share this with my students.

    • traveleze profile image

      Lee John 2 years ago from Preston

      wonderful hub, really enjoyed reading this!

      Thanks

      Lee

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      waco 2 years ago

      I live about 8 miles from this it is so pretty

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      Bobby Parker 4 years ago

      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.

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      john Bice 6 years ago

      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

    • Urbane Chaos profile image
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      Eric Standridge 7 years ago from Wister, Oklahoma

      Money, Pam - Thanks! I just find it's an interesting topic, and something that not many really know about.

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 7 years ago from United States

      I really enjoyed your hub. It was so well written and interesting.

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      Money Glitch 7 years ago from Texas

      Congrats on being nominated for the HubNugget Wannabes! Nice hub, castles always carrier such unique stories about their history. Good luck to ya!

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      Eric Standridge 7 years ago from Wister, Oklahoma

      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!

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      Elayne 7 years ago from Rocky Mountains

      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.

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      The Rope 7 years ago from SE US

      Great story. You've definitely got my interest in learning more! Congrats on your Hubnugest nomination!

    • ripplemaker profile image

      Michelle Simtoco 7 years ago from Cebu, Philippines

      You drew me into this story with such delight :) Congratulations for your Hubnugget Nomination. :) Yes, you've been nominated. Check it out: http://hubpages.com/hubnuggets10/hub/10-New-Author...

      Enjoy the Hubnuggets :)