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Gainesville's Chickasaw Hotel

Updated: Aug 19, 2023

A primer in Texas/Indian Territory relations

Map of streets and buildings depicted as red yellow rectangles.
An 1887 Sanborn map of Gainesville shows the locaton of the Chickasaw Hotel fronting the Texas Wagon Yard, two very fitting names that recognize the often-violent relationship between Gainesville and Indian Territory.

The relationship between Gainesville, Texas and Indian Territory as explained by the Chickasaw Hotel.

Gainesville in Cooke County, Texas sits just a few minutes south of the Red River and for a long time, could be considered the gateway to Indian Territory. There are many stories behind that designation, a few of which I'll share here.

The Chickasaw Hotel opened in 1887 or thereabouts. Named for the nation that has resided on the north side of the Red River since the 1840s, its address was 209-213 N. Commerce Street, between West Gorman and West Broadway streets. Before its erection, North Commerce Street was known as Dye Street and West Broadway was Hudson Street. These street names changed soon after the hotel opened.

The Chickasaw Hotel had its own "parking lot," called the Texas Wagon Yard, that faced N. Chestnut Street and sat directly behind the hotel. It hired experienced stone cutters to beautify its semi-two-story, bricked edifice. It featured a restaurant, a barber shop, and a saloon operated by the Easterwood Brothers.

Just a month after it opened, a shooting took place in the Texas Wagon Yard between the sons of the Howtons and the Pairs, both of whom had been meeting "at different places in Indian Territory" to plan a train robbery. They then met on July 2 at the Easterwood Brothers' saloon, where they began to quarrel - I don't know if this is true or not, but I bet one of the men had come to Gainesville to tell the law about the scheme. After the shootout which also involved the fathers of the two young men, the injured parties were taken to the hotel to be tended. One man of the Howton sons died during the shootout.

Newspaper headline On Texas Soil. The Six-Shooter is Brought to Bear at Gainesville to Settle an Indian Territory Feud.
A newspaper headline from the shootout at the Texas Wagon Yard in 1887

Some "normal" news about the hotel: It was also known for its hospitality and support of the Farmers Alliance of the 1880s and 1890s, where the union held their meetings inside a "quiet, comfortable retreat." But, in 1889 and 1890, guests from Indian Territory died of typhoid and consumption inside their hotel rooms. A German man was arrested for being drunk behind the hotel in 1892. In 1893, a woman on her way to Muskogee delivered a baby in one of the rooms. In 1894, a man from Arkansas City was arrested based on a warrant, but the Cooke County sheriff did not know why; that same year, thieves who robbed a man in Sherman were taken prisoner at the Chickasaw Hotel.

Some "salacious" news about the hotel: In 1894, Ella Aud and Edgar Townshend of nearby Sivells Bend were arrested at the hotel under suspicion that they drowned her/their two-month-old child on Fish Creek. Ella was seeking to escape and over-nighted at the hotel after purchasing a train ticket to Ardmore (today's Carter County, Oklahoma). In 1891, an unmarried couple, spending the night at the hotel and seeking employment as teachers, were arrested for "not strictly complying with the law." The county sheriff "rudely broke into their room and draffed the fellow out of bed" before hurrying him to the county jail. I guess because of that incident, a 65 year-old-man from Saddlers Bend married a 17 year-old girl at the Chickasaw Hotel in 1896 so as to be "legit."

By 1913, the hotel had shrunk to less than half its size and had moved to 215 N. Commerce Street. By 1922, both the old hotel structure, which had been divided into three separate parts, and the hotel at 215 N. Commerce were vacated. In 1925, Gainesville mega-businessman H.W. Stark purchased the site and built the one-story, bricked storefronts that now grace the former site of the Chickasaw Hotel. Today, one of the buildings is a Daquiri Shack, and the former 215 N. Commerce hotel building is a barber shop. The Texas Wagon Yard now hosts the city's summer musical festivals... did the city, perhaps, name the venue "The Texas Wagon Yard?" That would actually be awesome.

Also, if you happen to search online for "Chickasaw Hotel Gainesville," Google will send you the Winstar Casino. A fitting tribute!


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