The West was won not only by brave cattle drivers and fearless pioneers. It was also won (or lost - depending on how you view it) by the
simple act of commerce. Before the railroads cut swaths through the landscape to bring goods to settlers, steamboats on the Red River
supplied everything from coffee to ammunition. And one of the oldest of steamboats - a 140 foot long side wheeler - is now a notable
wreck in the Red River.

Located in the middle of the stream a few miles down from Ft. Towson, the wreck was first discovered by local landowners in 1991, after
flooding exposed it. But it was only in 1999 when someone decided to notify the Oklahoma Historical Society. The OHS realized right away
what a significant find this was. Not only is the wreck the first recorded Oklahoma shipwreck, it is also the earliest known wreck in western
rivers. Soon, OHS, along with the Texas A&M Nautical Archeology Department, conducted an extensive survey on the site. According to
Fort Towson records, the ship, built in the 1830s,  probably sunk in the 1840s. The researchers have learned that the ship was named
Heroine, and its mission was to bring supplies to Fort Towson. It had also stopped at nearby Jonesboro, TX befoe it hit a tree stump
obscured in the river and sank. No one died in the wreck, and much of the cargo was removed before the ship hit the sandy bottom.

The Red River Wreck is a well-known archeological site and is protected as such. Since all land surrounding the wreck is private, you can't
readily access it unless by boat - and then, as we all know, the river is still treacherous. Therefore, it's best just to live vicariously through
the photographs of others, found on these websites:
Recreated Shipwreck Model
Oklahoma Historical Society Information on the Wreck
Red River Project
Now why's this river called Red?
Wreck on the Red
The ship was bringing supplies to Doaksville and Fort Towson. Today, Doaksville and the fort are archaeological sites themselves.
Remains of the paddle wheel, courtesy of the nautical archaeology department of Texas A&M.
Visit a thorough treatment of their explorations
here.
The Heroine docked at Jonesboro, TX, before embarking on its  doomed journey to Fort Towson. Jonesboro does not exist anymore, having been
swept away in a flood in the 1840s. Above is the grave to Jane Chandler Gill, one of the only remnants of the once bustling river city.
Three's more archaeology to uncover on the Red River - I found this possible outline of a boat wreck at Arthur City between Hugo, Oklahoma
and Paris, Texas via Google Maps.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com