We began Day 4 with a visit to the Overholtzer Mansion in Oklahoma City. It was built in the early 1800s and remained in the same family until it was turned into a museum in the 1950s. Interestingly, through three generations, almost nothing in the house had been changed (other than the kitchen) since it was built.
The old television is one of the few updates to the house.
Our next stop was the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City. We had been here once before when Tom was young and “before Sammy.”
There were some very nice displays of western themed art as well as excellent static displays on Indian life, ranching, the Army in the old west, and the Indian Wars.
One are that was neat was a recreation of a typical western town street. Each of the buildings could be entered and had nice staging with props. There were not plaques or explanatory signs. At first I thought this was a bit funny, but I guess those signs would have broken the ambiance of the street.
There was also a large area dedicated to Western movies.
The displays about the life of the cavalry and infantry on the plains were quite good. This is one of the few places I’ve seen any real mention of the infantry in the Indian wars. Most of the focus is usually on the cavalry.
After this museum we headed down to the stockyards district and had huge hunks of cow before heading out of town toward Arkansas.
We began Day 5 at Fort Smith in Arkansas. The fort’s history goes back to 1803 when two companies of the US rifle Regiment established the fort to try to quell unrest between Osage and Cherokee Indians. We didn’t expect to spend much time at Fort Smith, but there was enough to see that we stayed two hours.
By the time of the Indian Wars, Fort Smith was the major supply depot for the various forts in the Indian Territory (what is now Oklahoma). It was also the Federal Courthouse for a huge region of untamed territory. As such, Judge Parker’s court, assisted by hundreds of deputy marshals who scoured the Indian Territory for outlaws, dispensed sure and swift justice.
The visitor’s center has a nice movie about the history of the fort and a number of very interesting static displays. The recreation of the overcrowded jail facilities was quite interesting.
There was also an interesting display of the commissary, from which supplies were distributed to Indian reservations, Indians traveling the Trail of Tears, and the various US Army forts within the Indian Territory.
We then travelled to Petit Jean state park, Arkansas. Though a state park, Petit Jean has the feel of a National Park, including a grand lodge, hiking trails, boating, fishing, etc. We stayed in a “rustic cabin” that might be nicer than our house.
After checking into our cabin, we hiked to Cedar Falls. It was only two miles, but there was quite a bit of elevation change, and the humidity was terrific.
After our hike, we had dinner in the lodge restaurant. The food was excellent and very reasonably priced. We bought a bottle of muscadine grape juice and toasted to the fact that when this trip is completed we will have been to all fifty states as a family.
After dinner we spent a couple hours at the pool, staying until almost dark. Then we returned to our cabin to relax for the evening.
Tomorrow we are off to Mississippi.