Eric Standridge is a freelance writer with an interest in history. His main focus is writing about Oklahoma.
Oklahoma Hidden Gems
People have long traveled all across Oklahoma in order to photograph both the natural and man-made wonders that the state has to offer.
The photographs below represent only a tiny portion of the unusual and fascinating places there are to see. There are thousands of photographs of popular attractions and places throughout Oklahoma; however, the "hidden gems" throughout the state seem to have been rarely documented.
In this article, it is the author's intent to highlight a couple of these places and to explain a little of the history behind them. In addition, the author urges you to get out and explore your world; to take time to search out and discover the hidden gems that are all around us.
There is a lot of speculation about this old building, and many of the old stories are simply not true. One of the most popular stories was that this was an old Indian school built in the late 1800s. This legend has finally been laid to rest . . .
This building was built in 1938 by the Works Progress Administration and served the community around Chelsea for many years. It had a large gabled roof. The windows, that reached to the eaves, had a green sheet metal inserts to protect against the elements. In the 1970s, a large additional structure was attached to the back of the building. Still standing in 1985, this building was 79 feet wide by 67 feet long and was used during this time as a private residence. Shortly afterwards, the building burnt down; it has never been rebuilt.
This wall is all that remains of a large schoolhouse. While the bricks from this building were recycled, somehow the pillars were overlooked and still remain standing. Hollister, Oklahoma has a population of 60.
McAlester is a place full of hidden treasures. Usually, when people think of McAlester, they think of places such as the Aldridge Hotel and the Masonic Lodge - all in South McAlester; however, not many take the time to visit "Old McAlester" on the north side. This is where J.J. McAlester formed the first town before the railroads came through.
North McAlester is full of places to visit. Some of these places include J. J. McAlester Mansion, Old Town Historic District, Tannehill Family Heirlooms & Gun Museum, etc. There's a lot going on in this area.
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This horse-riding-prisoner statue was found in North McAlester, towards the end of the old business district.
During the early 1900s, Picher, Oklahoma was a thriving mining town. Hundreds of people flocked there to work in the mines. The town was shut off from the rest of the world in 2009 by the U.S. Government. A century of unrestricted subsurface excavation dangerously undermined most of Picher's town buildings and left giant piles of toxic lead-contaminated mine tailings (known as chat) heaped throughout the area. Today, all that is left is crumbling ruins.
The Wichita Mountains
In our history classes, we all learned that Oklahoma was once part of the Louisiana Territory, but few people realize the significance of that.
The Louisiana Territory was once an administrative district of the Viceroyalty of New Spain from 1764 to 1803. During this time, Spanish explorers roamed throughout the region. Many were missionaries, others were explorers, and still more were out to find riches in gold.
During the late 1700s, the Wichita Mountains was teeming with these early prospectors. It is unknown when gold veins were first discovered there, but the tales of riches in the area were enough to lure a great number of prospectors into the area.
In a route that followed the Red River, the Spaniards would travel from the old world, up the Mississippi, down the Red River, and cross the country until they reached the Wichita Mountains. As more people arrived, small colonies were set up to support the gold mining activities in the area. Although virtually no trace of these colonies still exists, interviews of early settlers recall seeing "ancient" ruins of these miners from yesterday. Legend says that there was once a thriving own in the Wichitas. This town was circled by wood stockades to help protect against Indian attacks. Inside, there were numerous buildings, including a large Spanish fort. In fact, pieces of chain mail, rusted Spanish handcuffs, and even what appeared to be a rusted halberd lance have been found in the surrounding areas.
The image pictured here is a reproduction of a Spanish arrastra. A heavy log was attached in the middle and at the other end, mules were used to swing the log around the rock frame of the arrastra. As the log swung around the circle, it would grind the rocks together. As the rocks were ground, the Spaniards would search for gold in the resulting flakes. Most often, they came up empty-handed, but occasionally a small nugget or two could be found.
By the time the mini-gold rush in the Wichita's started in the late 1870s, very little still remained of these old mining camps.
Satellite Views of Oklahoma
Sometimes, the most fascinating views can only be seen from the sky. These images below were taken from Google Earth and show some of the more unusual aerial wonders that can be seen in Oklahoma.
© 2012 Eric Standridge