Venture off the beaten path and explore Oklahoma’s almost forgotten history in one of its ghost towns.
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With a history full of Land Runs, Native American territories, Civil War battles and railroads, Oklahoma’s past is full of towns that sprung up overnight and faded away just as quickly. Whether you’re researching your family’s genealogy or are just looking to satisfy your curiosity, turn off the main road and discover the fascinating history of Oklahoma’s ghost towns.
Located midway between McAlester and Wilburton in southeast Oklahoma is the ghost town of Adamson. In the early 1900s, this four square mile area was alive with up to 15 coal mines, four of which were considered major producers. During World War I, coal was the chief energy source and Adamson was a bustling hub that produced trainloads of coal on the Rock Island and Katy Railroads that ran into the town.
Tragedy struck on September 4, 1914, at Mine No. 1 when one miner heard a cracking noise in the mine and everyone was ordered out. All but 14 men were able to reach the tenth level of the mine before the mine caved in, sealing in the victims 800 feet below ground. The last man out of the mine, Anthony Benedict, created a monument to honor the fallen miners. The monument sits on the property of the Benedict family off Hartshorne Adamson Road. Today, the once booming town has nearly all been swallowed up by extensions of Lake Eufaula. The monument, a small cemetery and several houses are all that remains of Adamson.
Attractions near Adamson: Nearby Krebs is home to many popular Italian restaurants including Pete’s Place, Roseanna’s Italian Food and Lovera’s Italian Grocery, which began when Italian immigrants moved into the area to work the coal mines. To the near west, Wilburton is home to Robbers Cave State Park.
Directions to Adamson: From the intersection of Highways 69 and 31 in McAlester, head east on Highway 31 for 3 ½ miles. Exit on Adamson Road and continue east for 7 ½ miles. Adamson is located just west of the Adamson Road/N420 Road intersection. The monument is located at 4974 Hartshorne Adamson Road.
Known for years as the “Sodom and Gomorrah of the Plains,” Beer City was located just east of Tyrone, south of the Oklahoma-Kansas line in Oklahoma’s northwest panhandle. The town sprang up in 1888 after the completion of the Santa Fe Railroad into Tyrone. At the time, Kansas had strict prohibition laws, and Beer City, which was just a few miles south of the border, was more than happy to keep the alcohol flowing. One of the first businesses in the city was the Yellow Snake Saloon & Hotel run by savvy businesswoman Pussy Cat Nell Jones.
At its peak, Beer City consisted of a handful of saloons, brothels and dance halls. Since the area was located in No Man’s Land, a 170-mile long strip with no formal ownership, local business owners advertised in various newspapers to visit “the only town of its kind in the civilized world where there is absolutely no law.”
An August 2, 1889 edition of the Woodsdale Sentinel of Paris, Texas, reported the story of a Beer City man whose body was found riddled with 74 bullets. Local legend goes that the man was a self-proclaimed town marshal who milked money from the business merchants in exchange for keeping the peace. Pussy Cat Nell grew tired of the fee and, along with 14 other men, shot the man to death. In 1890, No Man’s Land was officially included in the Oklahoma Territory and the town ceased to exist. Today, the area is used for agricultural purposes only.
Directions to Beer City: Beer City was located just south of Liberal, Kansas, and east of Tyrone, Oklahoma. It is now farm land.
Unlike other Oklahoma ghost towns, Boggy Depot was not part of the Land Run, nor was it ever home to any mining operations. Instead, it was first inhabited by early Chickasaw settlers in the 1830s and became a popular crossing point for folks traveling west. The first post office for Boggy Depot was established on November 5, 1849. One year later, the Butterfield Mail and Stage Coach Line began to run through the busy town.
Townspeople made their living off a nearby toll bridge crossing the nearby Clear Boggy River, as well as a cotton gin, flour mill and seed mill that were established in the town. Choctaw Chief Allen Wright, who coined the term “Oklahoma” to name the Indian Territory, lived in Boggy Depot and is buried in the small cemetery.
The dissolution of Boggy Depot began after the boundaries between the Chickasaw and Choctaw tribes were determined. It was marked as Choctaw land, so many Chickasaws moved westward. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad moved into the area about 12 miles northeast of town in what is now known as Atoka. Many people moved to be closer to the railroad and the Boggy Depot Post Office moved to a new location in 1883. Now, the only remains of the original Boggy Depot are the small cemetery and a marker to indicate the Butterfield Mail and Stagecoach Line. The area is now known as Boggy Depot Park and boasts a fishing lake, nature trail and campsites.
Attractions near Boggy Depot: In addition to Boggy Depot Park, nearby Atoka offers Scotty’s Blue River One Stop & RV Park, McGee Creek State Park and the Atoka Museum, Civil War Cemetery & Visitors Center.
Directions to Boggy Depot: From the intersection of Hwy 7 and Highway 69/75 in Atoka, head west on Highway 7 for 11 miles. Turn south on Park Lane Road and drive for 4 miles.
Some of the earliest documented settlers to the Sooner State were Josiah S. Doak and his brother. The Doaks moved all their goods from their Mississippi home up the Kiamichi River and ended up just about a half mile northwest of historic Fort Towson. The fort was established just a few years later and the area of Doaksville began to grow. In addition to being a great area for trade, Doaksville was also established as a center for Native Americans to collect their annuities. From 1850 to 1863, Doaksville was the tribal seat of the Choctaw Nation, and Doaksville was later where Confederate General Stand Watie surrendered his weapons during the Civil War.
Doaksville had all the makings of a town that would stand the test of time had it not been for the Civil War. Many of the farming operations quit for lack of workers and the need for western trade disappeared with the creation of forts and towns further east. Today, remains of Doaksville can still be seen near the old cemetery. Headstones from the 1800s dot the cemetery and nearby craggy rock foundations spring from the earth.
Attractions near Doaksville: The Fort Towson Historic Site offers free admission and self-guided tours. Raymond Gary State Park, Pine Creek Lake and Lake Raymond Gary are all located in Fort Towson. General Stand Watie is buried in Grove’s Polson Cemetery, and nearby Hugo is known as “Circus City USA” because it houses three travelling circuses each winter, as well as the famous Mount Olivet Cemetery.
Directions to Doaksville: Follow Highway 70 into Fort Towson. Exit on Red Road and continue 1 mile. Cemetery is located on the east side of the road.
Like many of Oklahoma’s ghost towns, Ingersoll began when Native American reservation land was opened to public settlement. The town gained momentum after the Choctaw Railroad opened a line in 1901. Within one month, Ingersoll’s population boomed to more than 1,500 people, and it was officially incorporated the next year. The flourishing city quickly became known as a sinful town because it was home to seven licensed saloons and two pool halls.
In 1909, Ingersoll was considered for the location of the county seat, but lost out to Cherokee. Following its defeat, Ingersoll’s population gradually declined. Now, this once-bustling town is home only to a few businesses, including a barbecue restaurant. An old grain elevator, which is no longer in use, can still be seen off the side of Highway 64.
Directions to Ingersoll: At the intersection of Highways 58/8/64 and 64/11 in Cherokee, head west. Hwy 64/11 is also known as Broadway Ave. Ingersoll is on the south side of the road, roughly 2 miles from the intersection.
Cayuga, a settlement in the northeastern corner of Delaware County, was founded by Native American Mathias Splitlog. Upon settling in present day Delaware County from his home in Ohio, Splitlog built a buggy factory, a general store and a blacksmith shop to promote town commerce. Splitlog was also responsible for the construction of a Gothic-style Catholic church that still remains to this day. Atop the belfry was a 1,600-pound bell that could reportedly be heard 12 miles away. Despite Splitlog’s dedication to Cayuga, the town faltered following a fire that consumed much of the community except the church. In 1972, the Cayuga-Splitlog Mission Church was added to the National Register of Historical Places.
Attractions near Cayuga: Cayuga is located on Grand Lake O’ The Cherokees and boasts many park facilities. Visit the Twin Bridges Area, Cherokee Area, Honey Creek Area, Disney Area, Little Blue Area, Bernice Area or Spavinaw Area of Grand Lake State Park. Visit the amazing Har-Ber Village, the country’s largest outdoor museum, in Grove.
Directions to Cayuga: From the intersection of Highways 59 and 10 in Grove, follow Highway 10 east for 3 miles. Continue to follow Highway 10 north for1 1/2 miles to E 260 Road. Turn east and continue to S 670 Road (The road will T). Continue south on 670 Road for 1/2 mile. Cayuga Splitlog Church is located on the west side of the road.
The little town of Fallis in western Lincoln County is unique not only because of its history, but also because of its citizens. Founded before statehood, Fallis was a regular small town dotting the Oklahoma landscape. It prospered because of its location on the Katy Railroad and was the site of the first oil well in Lincoln County.
Despite its population never reaching over 350, the small town of Fallis produced six significant literary figures in the middle of the 20th Century: Blanche Seal Hunt, author of children’s stories for Household Magazine; Beulah Rhodes Overman, popular author of short mystery stories; Vingie E. Roe, Western author; and writer Althea Caldwell Connor. Fallis resident Jenny Harris Oliver became the state’s poet laureate in 1940, and Delbert Davis received the same honor in 1963. Now, only a scattering of dilapidated homes and dirt roads can be found in Fallis.
Attractions near Fallis: A short drive off historic Route 66, visitors to Fallis can visit the Tres Suenos Vineyards and Winery in nearby Luther or the colorful POPS, an iconic symbol on the Mother Road in Arcadia.
Directions to Fallis: From I-44, take Exit 158 for Route 66 toward Wellston. Off Route 66, take the first right onto N 330 Road. Continue 1 mile and turn left on 1st Street. Continue 1 more mile and follow the road as it turns to Fir Road/N 330 Rd. Continue north for 6 ½ miles to Fallis Road and turn west. Continue on Fallis Road for 3 miles.
At its peak in the 1890s, Ingalls counted 150 among its population, including a mix of notorious outlaws. In the town’s early years, the Doolin-Dalton gang spent their days hiding out peaceably in the community and their nights spending their money in Ingalls’ saloons. Law enforcement made plans to capture the Doolin-Dalton gang in 1893 by posing as homesteaders with covered wagons. On September 1, fourteen deputy U.S. Marshals lost the element of surprise when a witness warned gang members, and a traditional Old West gunfight broke out between the outlaws and law enforcement agents. Although all gang members survived, the outlaws took out three lawmen.
Ingalls was renamed Signet in 1921, but when residents protested, its initial name returned. Today, visitors can visit Ingalls to see replicas of former local buildings, including the Pierce O.K. Hotel where outlaw Arkansas Tom Jones posted up during the battle before eventually surrendering. In 1938, the town dedicated a Battle of Ingalls Stone Monument to honor the memory of the three U.S. Marshals who lost their lives in the scuffle.
Attractions near Ingalls: Located halfway between Stillwater and Yale, Ingalls offers close proximity to Payne County historical treasures like Oklahoma State University and must-see roadside attractions like the Optimus Prime and Bumblebee Transformer Statues. History buffs can also continue their road trip journey through a Historical Cultural Landscape Self-Guided Driving Tour of North Central Oklahoma.
Directions to Ingalls: From Stillwater, head east on State Hwy 51/E 6th Avenue toward S Lewis Street. Turn right onto Doolin Drive/N3435 Road and continue for 1 mile. The Ingalls Hotel Replica is located at 12398 E 19th Ave, and the Battle of Ingalls Stone Monument is located off E 19th Ave & Ash St.