The Real Texas Or
Don't Mess with Oklahoma, Either!
Greer County, Oklahoma - formerly Greer County, Texas
by John Troesser
Book Your Hotel Here
get upset about Texas losing territory - it happened a long time ago and besides
- if we got it back it would only ruin Texas' world-renown silhouette.
reason the Bellville,Texas library (which is nowhere near Oklahoma) has a copy
of The Willow Community 1898 - 1994: A History of the Pioneer Town in Greer
It's one of those history books that small
towns get printed after a lot of hard work, research and years of cajoling people
into donating photos from their family albums which never seem to get put back.
What caught our eye was Greer, County. This was one of Texas'
semi-notorious ghost counties. "Ghost counties" were counties that were
approved by the State legislature but for one reason or another were never organized.
Usually it was blamed on a scrawny population. Greer County, Texas was approved
by the Texas Legislature in 1860 - 47 years before Oklahoma statehood.
Oklahoma has always been a good neighbor - except for that little bridge incident
in the 30s when Oklahoma National Guardsmen and Texas Rangers faced off on the
Red River - but that's another story. Then there's the story of Booker,
Texas that moved the whole town across the state line, but we won't bring
that up either. Anyway, Like a good neighbor, Oklahoma is there.
Willow is the quintessential Texas small town - except for the fact that it's
technically in Oklahoma. It had the same incidents, disasters, feuding, petty
rivalry, and fights with the railroad as it's neighboring towns in the Texas Panhandle.
Bank robbers in Willow were apprehended in Texas and herds of Texas cattle stampeded
in what would later become Willow. Even
Temple Lea Houston - the original Son of Sam - settled North of the
Red River and is buried there in Oklahoma.
Like any good small town - Willow had a rival. It's name was originally Kell
- but it was renamed Brinkman after a man who paid to have the town platted.
Three miles South of Willow, Brinkman had the advantage of having "the only
grain elevator for miles."
The importance of grain elevators in Oklahoma
cannot be overstated.
Both towns were on the railroad - but the
main difference is - at Brinkman the trains stopped. Children in Brinkman could
watch the show as the locomotive let off steam and took on water. Willow children
only got to wave to the engineer.
Willow got their Depot - or - The Day the Commissioner Nearly Got Hit by the 3:17|
One day a county
commissioner was visiting Willow and planned his departure by flagging down the
train. Evidently the engineer wasn't impressed by the size of the crowd seeing
the commissioner off or else he didn't recognize a VIP when he saw one and sped
right past. The commissioner's face was as red as a brakeman's lantern. The next
Monday morning, carpenters arrived and started building a depot for Willow. Never
underestimate the embarrassment of petty bureaucrats.
Willow had its
economic setbacks, too. In 1920 a fire consumed all the wooden buildings downtown
and the wooden parts of brick buildings. The townsfolk immediately set to work
cleaning the bricks so they could be reused. Willow also experienced three robberies
- or just two if you don't count the time the crooks got only "small change and
Rivalry between Brinkman and Willow grew to become
a full-fledged (but bloodless) feud and when a letter to the editor was published
- touting the advantages of life and commerce in Brinkman, Willowites gnashed
their teeth. Adding insult to injury - they had to buy a Brinkman newspaper to
read the letter.
During statewide school consolidation - both towns refused
to cooperate to decide which of them would host the school district - this caused
them both to be swallowed by a third district.
Time eventually settled things by population attrition. |
-------- Brinkman 100
-------- Brinkman 250
-- Willow: 220
1960: -- Willow: 180
Willow won the war, but the town had to swallow hard when
it was included in Ghost Towns of Oklahoma by John Morris in 1978.
Thanks to the efforts of the Willow Community Historical Association, people
(who have a copy) can look back to a time when everyone in Willow with a motor
vehicle brought it to Main Street for a picture (two cars and two motorcycles).
A time when people were Baptized in farm ponds and during Prohibition the local
still was known as "The Buzzard Canyon Brewery."
So, now that you've
been introduced to Willow, Oklahoma and some of its history, we hope that you'll
agree that it deserves to be included in Texas towns and please don't write the
editor to complain.
We hardly Knew Ye"
Owen Milton "Eightball" Campbell
One of the non-family entries in the
Willow, Oklahoma history is Owen "Eightball" Campbell. Eightball was a Dallasite
who came to Willow after WWII to visit an old Army buddy and never left.
The description of Eightball was written by a Willowite named Rex Wall who described
Eightball as a young Martin Van Buren. For readers who can't immediately conjure
up an image of Mr. Van Buren - he was a portly gentleman who wore sideburns as
big as bicycle mud flaps. It was these sideburns (outrageous for 1946) which caused
people to ask Eightball: "Has anyone told you you look like Martin Van Buren?"
Besides his 19th century tonsorial taste - he also wore no socks. At first
some people wondered "if it was safe to be around him." Willowites, like most
Oklahomans are sock-wearing people. The town of Willow breathed a collective sigh
of relief when it was explained that he was from Dallas. That explained everything.
Eightball worked for wages, sharecropped and did carpentry, plumbing and
electrical work. Nothing mechanical was foreign to him. He was a jack-of-all-trades
and as Mr. Wall describes his talents - he modified farm equipment and improved
upon its original design - "usually with a cutting torch."
a six-cylinder truck into an eight-cylinder vehicle with little more than a Swiss
army knife and a six-inch crescent wrench. He modified his tractor with a guide
wheel that would allow his tractor to plow (albeit in circles) while he was having
a beer in town. One day he returned to his auto-tractor just in time to see it
sideswipe his 8-cylinder truck that was parked on the field's perimeter.
Eightball was also an amateur radio operator and was known as "The Voice
of Willow." Exchanging postcards to verify contact with other radio enthusiasts
around the world also gave him the distinction of being the person who bought
the most stamps at the Willow post office.
He served as Commander of
the local American Legion Post from 1956 until his death in 1968.
his death, Eightball's friends asked his family in Texas if they would consider
allowing Eightball to spend eternity in Willow. The family agreed - after finally
remembering just who it was these people were talking about.
visit the Willow Cemetery today, you can't miss his tombstone. It's the only one
sporting a bowling ball with a large black eight painted on a white circle.
Your Hotel Here and Save