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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

Water defines
local historical events

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew

When researching the Panhandle and adjacent areas, it's interesting to note most historical sites and happenings occur along our creeks and rivers.

Our earliest towns of Fort Elliott, Tascosa and Old Clarendon are located alongside streams. The Red River Wars were named after the many tributaries of our largest river. The Alibates Flint Quarries are near the Canadian River. The early Indian ruins of Ochiltree County lie near Wolf Creek and the prehistoric bison and Indian finds near Folsom, N.M., lie alongside Wild Horse Arroyo.

Common sense tells us this coincidence is because man and beast need water daily. The various wars, battles, historical happenings and settlements came about because that is where the animals and people gathered.

By studying a relief map of our area, we find that all creeks and rivers in the Panhandle mostly run from west to east and are located about 20 to 30 miles apart. This fact was significant to the Indians, comancheros, soldiers, buffalo hunters and trail drivers because they knew if they were going north or south, water was just ahead.

The Indians and comancheros met and traded at these streams. Soldiers hunting Indians went to known water holes first. Buffalo hunters always traveled to the streams to seek their prey and trail drivers planned their daily drives to always end with the presence of water.

On one hand, water was a necessity. On the other hand, too much water became a danger. For example, the Canadian River in flood season presented a formidable barrier. For weeks after a flood, quicksand claimed many a person or animal through the years.

The crossing at Tascosa was safe, being narrow and seldom showed quicksand. The crossing at Indian Creek just east of Texas Highway 70, occurred when heavy floods along the creek washed a narrow band of gravel out across the Canadian River quicksands providing solid footing for man and beast.

As for water stories, few can top that of Lugert, Okla.

Founded along the banks of the North Fork of the Red River in 1901, Frank Lugert established a general store and post office at the site. At first, his main customers were outlaws hiding in the nearby Quartz and Wichita mountains. He sold more supplies in the dead of night than in daylight.

On April 27, 1912, a tornado struck the town of 300 people, killing three and damaging 41 of the 42 standing buildings. In 1927, the nearby town of Altus built a dam some 458 feet long and 27 feet high across the North Fork to provide water for their growing city. This became today's Lake Altus.

Sadly, the lake water at high level would bury the old Lugert town site beneath its surface. A few wooden buildings were moved to higher ground. The rock and brick buildings were left and were eventually buried.

When the lake waters are low, the old relics come into sight, providing a neat photo opportunity for both hikers and boat enthusiasts. The foundation of the school building, built in 1938, is a favorite. Imagine, our own buried town only a few hours drive away.


Delbert Trew

"It's All Trew" Column
- May 17, 2006


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