• Watch for holes in the ground
  • Don't pick up anything that compromises the integrity of the site, whether it be a brick or a
    piece of metal
  • Obey NO TRESPASSING signs
  • Ask permission to enter, if you can. Most people will be accommodating to your requests.
  • Watch for signs of vandalism. Alert the historical societies if you see anything, and take
    care that there aren't any bad influences lurking about!
  • Turn off the car and explore!
In the early 19th century, the eastern portion of the Red River Valley between Texas and Oklahoma was mostly populated by Native
Americans, however sparsely - the Caddo had already been driven off the land, through force or by fleeing the approaching white man. It
was right after the Louisiana Purchase, and boundary lines had not been well established. Further, the surveys of lands given to the
Choctaws and Chickasaws were faulty - whether this was intentional is open to debate - and the whole area was in dispute. Did it belong
to T
exas, Indian Territory, or Arkansas Territory?

Within the next twenty years, the wild grass prairies and wooded hills would be populated by newcomers. Anglo American settlers eager
for the new lands acquired by the Purchase would try to settle around the river. They brought with them African American slaves. The
Trail of Tears would lead the dispossessed
Choctaws and Chickasaws into a new frontier, vacated a few years earlier by the Quapaws.
The river, while still a wild stream, was slowly being transformed into a thoroughfare.

The Fort Beckons
To help settle the area, Fort Towson, built in 1824, served as an outpost to protect travelers and the newly arriving Indians. The
Choctaws, originally from the Mississippi Valley, settled near the fort in the town of
Doaksville, which they selected as the seat of their
tribal government (the Chickasaws would move further west to settle at
Boggy Depot). Doaksville also became a hub for commerce
throughout the region. It would have its own jail, hotel, and tavern.

Across the river, Anglo American pioneers who'd been chased out of
Indian Territory settled the southern portion of the Red River. They
chose a site that they discovered was the safest for river crossings, and one that was not too far away from the fort and its business.
Along with African American slaves they founded Jonesboro. It also became the northern gateway to Texas, welcoming the likes of
Stephen F. Austin and Sam Houston. The town grew into a sizable river port, hugging the river banks with brick-built homes, wooden
warehouses around the port, and small industries.

Jonesboro found its end rather quickly. In 1846, a tremendous flash flood literally  drowned the town. A contemporary account explained
how the river grew almost a mile wide. Jonesboro citizens decided to move to drier land. Most moved to nearby Clarksville, and others
relocated to surrounding towns such as Boston (New), DeKalb,
Paris and Bonham.

Luckily, Doaksville didn't sit right at the river. It survived the flooding, but couldn't survive the demise of Fort Towson. As the line of
American settlement forged west, so did the fort's soldiers, and Doaksville severely declined in population. When the railroad bypassed
the town after the Civil War, the Choctaws moved the government seat to Tuskahoma. Doaksville ceased to exist on later maps.

The Trail Lures
While the frontier stagnated during the Civil War, it rebounded into a frenzied push to the west afterwards. Small towns west of what is
today Interstate 35 began appearing. In Texas,
Spanish Fort became a rough and tumble border town. The first inhabitants of the town had
been the Taovayans, who successfully beat Spanish troops by building (or occupying) a moated fort in the late 18th century. Anglo
settlers claimed the site for themselves and named it Spanish Fort (believing the canon and fort they found belonged to the Spanish).
Located just a few miles east of the river crossing at Red River Station,
Chisholm Trail cowhands would visit to buy supplies, meet up with
friends, and maybe order a new pair of boots at H. J. Justin's shop on the town square.  Outlaws called Spanish Fort home, too - its
proximity to Indian Territory making for an easy getaway. The town found its demise when the railroad laid tracks farther south.

Fleetwood, Oklahoma, is another
Chisholm Trail era ghost town. The cows would ford the river at Red River Station in Texas and pass
through Fleetwood and its dry goods store. Fleetwood served as the last supply stop for trail hands heading north. Fleetwood remained a
small ranching center even when the trail trickled to a halt, as a toll ferry and later, a toll bridge, spanned the river crossing. Until the first
half of this century, Fleetwood had a school and grocery store. As opportunity lured younger people to the larger towns and a free bridge
was built west on US 81, Fleetwood succumbed to modern flight.

I chose to include these four ghost towns because each were directly related to one another. As you can read from their histories, the
Red River Valley is indeed interconnected, the river not separating two states but defining their shared past.
Doaksville - From US 70 in Fort Towson, take the north road to the cemetery (signs posted). Drive to the back of the cemetery (which is
worth a visit in its own right, with WPA built stone walls and hand carved tombstones) and you'll find a set of stairs. After traversing
them, you'll enter a trail leading to the old Doaksville settlement. An archaeological survey done by the Oklahoma Historical Association
uncovered several stone foundations. Along the trail, signs explain what the remnants once contained. This is a fun but eerie walk
through a deserted town in the middle of a forest. I heard footsteps walking behind me when I was there, yet I came alone...  

Jonesboro - Jonesboro (or Jonesborough) is located on a tight bend of FM 410 where the settlement of Davenport now lies (FM 410 is a
looping road that connects on both ends to FM 195 in north western Red River County). You'll find a roadside park with a few historical
markers and an old tombstone which was discovered by a farmer plowing his field. After the flood of 1846,  Jonesboro was carried off
brick by brick by other settlers. Even the graveyard was dismantled. Martha Sue Stroud, resident Red River County historian, details the
sad demise in her outstanding book, "Gateway to Texas: The History of Red River County." Further down the road is the site of a Caddo
archaeological excavation.

Spanish Fort - This ghost town has still quite a few residents, but can be considered a ghost nonetheless for the history that used to be
here. Situated on FM 103 (north of  US 82 in Nocona on FM 103- follow the signs), it sits close to the river. You'll find an old store,
abandoned school, and a few historical markers. Don't miss Old Spanish Fort Cemetery, where gunfights ended many of the lives buried
there. The remains of the fort are on private land.

Fleetwood - Take US 81 to Terral, then turn east down Main Street (follow the historical marker sign). The old store catches you by
surprise. Northeast behind the store are the remains of the school house. Further east down the road is a group of markers recounting
the history of Fleetwood.. The sweeping views alone are worth the trip.
Looking inside the abandoned store in Fleetwood, Oklahoma. See any ghosts? I don't, but I do see some bullet holes...
The grave of Jane Chandler Gill at Jonesboro is said to be the oldest Anglo grave in Texas, or at least the Red River Valley. While the
historical marker claims she died in 1816,  Skipper Steeley, a historian from Paris, Texas, found evidence that she actually died in 1846.
This unmarked cement grave at the Old Spanish Fort cemetery looks a little like a shroud.
Four Red River Ghost Towns
Store at Spanish Fort along the Chisholm Trail
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
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