Is There A Ghost Town Under Lake Eufaula?

Yes. There is an important road intersection and a town now under Eufaula Lake. A little bit east of Eufaula Lake’s southernmost arm sits a ghost town.

North Fork Town, Indian Territory, on the fork of the Canadian and North Canadian Rivers was close to the intersection of the California and Texas roads. Creek Indians founded this town. Adamson, Indian Territory, then Oklahoma, boasted 15 coal mines in its heyday. Both towns have a story to tell. 

North Fork Town

The underwater town in Oklahoma literally in Eufaula Lake became a town on the way to the California Gold Rush, with the southern route to California on the California Road. The California Road intersected with the Texas Road and a trading post became North Fork Town. 

The Texas Road was the main north/south route used by the Cherokee, Creek, and Choctaw Nations of Indian Territory in eastern Oklahoma. Historians have suggested that the Texas Road may have been used as early as the 1820s or even earlier. We know that in the late 1800s, farmers in Oklahoma were digging up Spanish conquistador armor in their farmlands.

The Texas Road came into  Oklahoma from near Baxter Springs, Kansas, and besides North Fork Town, it went through today’s towns of Vinita, Pryor, Wagoner, Fort Gibson, Checotah, Eufaula, McAlester, and Durant, and crossed the Red River into Texas at Denison.

The California Road carried over twenty thousand future gold barons through Oklahoma in 1849 alone. Parties traveled westward from Fort Smith and Van Buren, Arkansas, over a Canadian River route blazed by Josiah Gregg, author of Commerce of the Prairies, in 1839. By 1849, the federal government began protecting the emigrants and escorted them thereby officially establishing the California Road. 

The intersection of these historic roads along with the underwater town are in Eufaula Lake. A trade center grew up west of the confluence of the Canadian and North Canadian Rivers. The Creek Indians developed the trade center into the thriving town of North Fork Town. 

How North Fork Town Got Its Name

The north and south forks of the Canadian River join together a few miles west of their confluence with the Arkansas River. 

These two forks seriously confused early explorers who did not realize the forks were two separate branches of the rivers. They even confused them with the Red River much further south. The Creeks named the trading center North Fork Town. On roads as well traveled as the California and Texas Roads, horse trading was significantly important. 

North Fork Town Is Born

The Creeks may have also called the town Micco because there was a post office nearby with that name. The Creeks established the trading post in 1823, and settled the town around the 1830s. 

North Fork Town was nestled in between the two forks of the Canadian and North Canadian Rivers. North Fork Town became an important meeting place for the Indian’s intertribal council meetings. The Five Civilized Tribes uprooted from the southeastern U.S. met there because of its centralized location within the five nations of those tribes. 

North Fork Town’s location was very close to where Spanish exploring expeditions crossed the Canadian and North Canadian Rivers while searching for gold and silver in the 1600s. French fur traders came to the area during the 1700s, and were called frog traders. They had trails on both rivers.  

The first trading post only lasted three months in 1823, and North Fork Town really began growing when several stores and a blacksmith shop sprang up along with log homes in the 1830s. By 1849, it was a lively town and gold miners bought supplies, horses, and mules from North Fork Town’s merchants. 

The Asbury Manual Labor School of the United Methodist Church chose an 80-acre farm for a site in 1848 at North Fork Town. The Methodist Church began serving the Creek Nation in Alabama in 1822. Francis Asbury founded The Asbury Manual Labor School in Alabama. The Methodist missionaries moved to Indian Territory with the Creeks after the Trail of Tears. 

The school’s property fenced about 30 acres, and included a 20-square foot log house with a porch, kitchen, stable, chicken house, and some fruit trees. The farm cost $300. It was a boarding school, and the first classes were held on August 8, 1848, in the log house. The school used the log house for two years. Under a treaty with the Creek Nation, the U.S. government spent $5,000 for improvements. 

The U.S. funds built a stone and brick building three stories high with the building materials shipped from Lewisville, Arkansas, on the Arkansas River and then taken to the school site by ox-driven wagons. The new building was 110 feet long and 34 feet wide and had 21 rooms with large halls. It held 100 students, employed 24 teachers, and one preacher, and 30 students attended classes the first year. It continued to be funded by the U.S. government. North Fork Town established the Micco Post Office in 1853. 

The Civil War devastated Indian Territory. The Confederate Commissioner to Indian Territory, Albert Pike, negotiated treaties with the Creek, Choctaw, and Chickasaw Nations to establish a Confederate supply base in North Fork Town during the Civil War in July 1861. Reconstruction did not treat North Fork Town any better than the Civil War did. The Asbury Manual Labor School was destroyed during that time.

Creek Chief, Samuel Checote, negotiated with the U.S. government which came through with $6,000 to rebuild the school. The school then burned down three times in 1868, 1881, and 1887. It did not reopen in 1887. Its cemetery was relocated before Eufaula Lake was impounded.

North Fork Town began to die when the Katy Railroad bypassed it in 1872. The Katy built a supply depot in Eufaula, Oklahoma, while building a bridge over the Canadian River. The supply depot warehouse stored iron rails for the tracks, and they called it Ironhead. 

The name Eufaula comes from a Creek city of the same name in Alabama and in the Creek language, Eufaula means "here they split up and went many places". A tent city sprang up fast in Eufaula. Soon, most North Fork Town's businesses moved to Eufaula. Then, as with early western railroad towns, the outlaws moved in. 

Katy railroad officials notified Washington D.C. about the deadly criminal behavior in Eufaula. Washington sent the Secretary of the Interior, Secretary Cox, to see what the troubles were. He was just in time to officiate at the Canadian River bridge opening. A murder and robbery happened while the secretary’s rail car was parked in Eufaula. Then someone shot at him while was trying to address a crowd of people the day after that. 

Secretary Cox ran to his rail car. He did not go back outside in Eufaula and immediately sent a telegram to his office and advised the U.S. government to send in the Buffalo Soldiers to tame the region. The Micco Post Office closed in 1863. Today, if you want to visit North Fork Town, the only way to do so is to don scuba diving gear. 

An excerpt from the Chronicles of Oklahoma on OKGenWeb:

“A ‘Grand Council’ called by the Creeks was held in May, 1842, on Deep Fork River in the vicinity of North Fork Town. It was attended by representatives of both Upper and Lower Creeks, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Caddoes, Seminoles, Delawares, Shawnees, Quapaws, Senecaa, Osages, Pawnees, Kickapoos, Wichitas, Kichahi, Piankashaws, Tawakonis, and "Isterhutkeys," or white men. The Creeks were the hosts and supplied food for 2,500 persons encamped in a space two miles in circumference. The plot was filled with fires, tents and other temporary shelters. The prairies and woods for three or four miles were crowded by horses hobbled and feeding on the lush grass. Good order and friendly feeling prevailed, but the proceedings were interminable owing to the need of translatingthe speeches into many languages.

The principle object of the council was the adoption of rules of conduct for the common good and all of the red men entered into the spirit of the meeting and took home with them many new and novel impressions that were to aid them in living neighbor to the recently arrived Indians.

The most important personage present was General Zachary Taylor, who went to the meeting from Fort Smith by way of FortGibson. He was greatly pleased with the initiative of the Indians and remained two days. He made a speech and took occasion to inquire of white captives among the Comanches in Texas. Word of this matter was transmitted by Secretary of State Daniel Webster through the War Department and resulted in the following years in the restoration of a number of white children who were carried to Fort Gibson and restored to their families by the officers. This meeting raised the Creek Nation in importance among the wild tribes.” (1)

Adamson, Oklahoma

Adamson was four square miles. Adamson is still on the map, but all that remains is a monument to coal miners who lost their lives, a cemetery, and a few houses. 

Adamson’s mines supplied coal for the World War I (WWI) effort when coal was the major energy source. The Rock Island and Katy Railroads carried out train cars loaded with coal. Italian immigrants settled in Adamson to work the coal mines; there is a great Italian grocery store and restaurant close by Adamson today. 

Adamson is located about halfway between McAlester, Oklahoma, and Wilburton, Oklahoma, on Adamson and East Adamson roads. Pete Adamson owned a coal mine and is the town’s namesake. Adamson was most prosperous between 1913 and 1919 and especially active during WWI when its population grew to 3,500. Four of the coal mines were major producers. 

Both the Rock Island and Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railroad, aka the Katy Railroad, built spurs into Adamson specifically to haul the coal. The Rock Island Railroad folded in 1902. The Katy continued to serve Adamson. Descendants of the mineworkers still live in the area. Adamson experienced a terrible mining disaster on September 4, 1914. The town never recovered after 1919.

Mine No. 1 Collapses

Joe Benedict, the son of Anthony (Tony) Benedict, was the last man out of the mine alive, leaving 14 men behind 800 to 1,000 feet underground. Joe was not born when the mine caved in, but Tony recounted the story throughout Joe’s life. 

One of the miners heard a cracking sound in Mine No. 1 at quitting time, and all the miners were ordered out of the mine. Tony remembered looking back and watching the lights on the miner’s hard hats go out one by one as the earth covered them up to their deaths. 

Rescue workers were not able to recover the 14 bodies. The miners who made it out alive made it up to the tenth level of the mine before the cave-in. Joe Benedict lived near the mine for many years. Two stone walls at the entrance of the mine and broken planks were all that was left of Mine No. 1 by the 1980s. 

Most people in Oklahoma had forgotten the tragedy except the family members left behind until sometime in the 1960s. Oklahoma’s chief mine inspector visited the Adamson mining region and found there was no marker to memorialize the men who died so many years ago in 1914. 

A business in Poteau, Oklahoma, 53 miles away, donated a granite slab for a memorial marker. Local residents raised funds for the inscription of the names of the 14 men. Some of the inscriptions only list the first initial and last name of the victims.  After the marker was installed, Joe welcomed visitors to the marker. He lived only 150 yards from Mine No. 1’s entrance. Joe would tell his father’s stories to the visitors. Joe Benedict died in 2011. Joe Benedict is buried in the Adamson cemetery. 

Sources (Page 82)

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