Monday, October 1, 2012

"The History of Cabin Creek Crossing"

          Since my little book was published, I've had questions about the name "Cabin Creek Crossing Books."  Well, for starters, it seemed appropriate for me! 
          The area in northeastern Oklahoma where I live is the site of two of the Civil War battles in Indian Territory...and probably the most interesting ones.  Obviously there was not a lot of action this far west, but feelings ran just as deep on each side.
          We attended the biannual re-enactment of the battle this past always an interesting experience.  Before I share those pictures, perhaps a bit of background is in order!
          For many years the main thoroughfare through the wilds of Indian Territory was known as the Texas Road.  From Fort Leavenworth in Kansas this road ran south through unsettled land to Fort Gibson, then on to Fort Washita on the border of the Mexican province of Texas.  It was a supply route for the forts and a hopeful tomorrow for intrepid settlers looking for a new life on land of their own.  They were willing to brave the Territory that was a refuge for outlaws, rustlers, and various Indian tribes to find a place of their own on the fertile rolling plains west of the Ozarks.
           As years passed the Texas Road became an artery of commerce as well, moving supplies, cattle drives going northward.  When the lands were divided among the Indian tribes, much of the eastern and northeastern part of the territory was given to the Cherokees.  Many of these families became prosperous by recreating large farms, even plantations, as they had had in the southeast.  One of those, Joseph Martin, maintained over 100,000 acres in cattle in that part of the state close to the Grand River.  He built a large antebellum home for his family next to the Texas Road....close to a ford across Cabin Creek.

           When the Civil War came to Indian Territory, that supply line became known as the Military Road, moving supplies to Fort Gibson from Kansas.  Martin's homestead became a strategic location on the trail because of his blacksmith shop and stores, plus places for wagons to camp...close to that ford across Cabin Creek.

          Most of the Cherokees joined the Confederate forces, led by one of their own, Stand Watie.  Early in the War the Confederates attacked a contingent of soldiers from the Kansas forts but were defeated.  Later in the War however, the Confederates, by then needing almost everything from shoes to uniforms to medicines, heard that another wagon train was on its way.  This one consisted of over 100 wagons.  This time it was a total rout.
          A surprise attack created chaos for the Yankees who had not even bothered to unhitch the mules from the wagons that night.   The noise of the resulting battle panicked many of the  mules who stampeded over the cliffs with their wagons; others wagons were captured by the Rebels.  Pursued by the Union forces, some of the Confederates escaped to the west driving the wagons loaded with supplies (valued at over $1.5 million, including a hefty payroll bound for Fort Gibson).  The rest of the Southern forces managed to escape southward....across the ford at Cabin Creek.

          There were scars from the battle that stayed visible for years; time has softened most of them.  Stories of the war are still told...but what happened to the payroll gold remains a mystery.  A Confederate cannon that was knocked off the cliff during the battle has remained embedded somewhere in the creek for years, mute witness to what happened there.  The waters in the creek are much deeper now thanks to the completion of the Pensacola Dam, but all along that bend in the creek the memories still linger about what happened that September night...close to the ford across Cabin Creek.


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