One bright, sunny, and very hot day, I traversed the Texas portion of US 82 into Archer County from Wichita County, on my way to some ghost towns (Dundee and Mankins). I had to make a double take, though, when I caught sight of a beautiful, hand-carved stone marker that commemorated the "Buffalo Road" that apparently was comprised US 82. Of course, I took a photograph and, for a very long time afterwards, wondered how this epitaph came into being - how old was it? Who decided to place it there? Was its information reliable? And thus, a long, haphazard journey of information gathering began. It was long because I didn't spend a whole lot of time on it, and it was haphazard because most of what I discovered about the markers came from random encounters. Once I did learn about the markers, however, I came to appreciate the man behind them all the more.
Jack Loftin, the remarkable man who wrote, created, and repaired the stone monuments, proved to be a true history machine. Though now regrettably deceased (he passed away in 2015), his legacy lives on substantially, not just in Archer County's stone marker program but also in the contributions he made through the Archer County Museum, Archer County historical Society, and as author of the book, "Trails through Archer." In this well-researched tome, he extensively documented the history of this incredibly interesting county that lay on the Texas "frontier" in the period after the Civil War.
Loftin was a north Texas prairie man through and through. He was born in Young County but grew up on his parents' ranch in Archer County. His family was one of the original Anglo landowners in this part of Texas. In the 1950s, he served the US in the Korean War and also studied mechanical engineering at Texas Tech in Lubbock. He was a fossil collector and archaeology enthusiast, and he created extensive maps that cataloged the history, flora, and fauna of his beloved home. His influence extended beyond Archer County's boundaries, too - he assisted Young, Jack, and Wichita counties in their history-fact-finding-missions as well.
If you decide to traverse Archer County (as well as parts of Jack, Young, and Wichita counties) and you keep your eyes open while doing so, you will discover dozens of these stone monuments, all placed in the location where history was actually made.The beauty of Jack Loftin's legacy lies in discovering that there are many other dedicated women and men inside local historical and genealogical societies that freely share their time, knowledge, and resources. People like Loftin are unique, and yet their generosity can be witnessed in many different places. Hats off to you, Mr. Loftin!
The first marker I encountered that Jack Loftin made near Holliday, Texas.
This home-made marker, erected by the Archer and Young County historical societies, commemorates Rock Station (which never existed) along the Butterfield Overland Stagecoach trail. It also alludes to the Warren Wagon Train Massacre, the prelude to the Red River Wars.
A stone marker appears on a calaboose in Holliday, Wichita County, Texas.
North Star School was in operation from 1898 to 1943 and still stands, along with Loftin's marker, along US 281 near Scotland in Archer County.