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By Melyn Johnson
This travel adventure starts on Highway 62 traveling east out of Oklahoma City. The destination is Boley and the adventure is to explore some of our rich and vibrant African-American history in Oklahoma.
Boley is about 45 minutes out from OKC and the point of interest is the old bank building on Main Street. Although it isn’t open for business anymore, in November of 1932 Oklahoma raised outlaw Pretty Boy Floyd had some gang member try to rob the bank. The townspeople didn’t let them get away with it. It’s a fascinating story focused in one of Oklahoma’s historical all-Black towns (established in 1903) at Oklahoma’s first Black owned bank. The person who can open their small museum and tell you all about the attempted robbery is Henrietta Hicks at HHicks@wwtech.org.
If you’re still in Boley at lunchtime, be sure to eat a wonderful Southern comfort meal at Pookey’s Restaurant on the highway. Techincally, it is called McCormick’s Grill if you’re looking on www.TravelOK.com for information, but the locals just call it Pookey’s.
The next jaunt on the tour is to Fort Gibson. Going on I-40 east, then 69 north, and east on 62, you are at the heart of the land of the Buffalo Soldier. Here, in Oklahoma’s oldest town, the first fort was built and is open for touring. You can meet Omar Reed, historian at the fort, who will tell you all about the Buffalo Soldiers. If you bring a group, call him at 918-478-2669 and he’ll dress in the Buffalo Soldier uniform for your group. While there ask him to send you down to Uniforms of Antiquity, another fascinating place that brings history alive. The trip to Fort Gibson from Boley takes almost two hours, but is well worth the drive.
Following the mobsters and military, the Oklahoman to celebrate next is lawman Bass Reeves. Take the 15 minute trip to Muskogee and visit the Three Rivers Museum at 220 Elgin to find out more about this hero. Reeves became the first African American Deputy U.S. Marshal on the western frontier in 1874 when Fort Smith, Arkansas, Judge Isaac Parker commissioned 200 deputy marshals to hunt down fugitives in Indian Territory. Reeve’s devotion to duty is legendary. He never rejected an assignment. A story in the Muskogee Phoenix newspaper on his death in January 1910, lionized the old marshal and said he “knew no master but duty.” Three Rivers Museum phone number is 918-686-6624.
The next stop on the tour is to backtrack back down Highway 69 and visit the Honey Springs Battlefield outside of Rentiesville, another of Oklahoma’s historical all-Black towns. Honey Springs is the site of the largest Civil War battle in Oklahoma, fought by black, American Indian and white troops on both sides. The battle's heroes were men of the 1st Kansas Colored Volunteers, the first black regiment to be organized for the Union, three regiments of Texans, as well as eight Indian regiments. To find out more, go to www.honeysprings.org.
A day filled with Oklahoma heros is what this trip brings. For more information on these and other roadtrip ideas, visit www.TravelOK.com or call an Oklahoma Travel Counselor at 800-652-6552.