Day Fifteen: Atoka, Oklahoma to Sherman, Texas

October 27, 2019

Retracing Lena Huppler Bevers’ Travel Log

Mon. – Oct. 27.

Left Caddo and had fine roads all the way.  Ate dinner in Denison while Mr. McElhany got his car fixed.  It would not run good.  Left there and drove to Van Alstyne where we stayed all nite. – Lena Bevers

After two and a half days of rainy and overcast skies, we started our journey today with sunshine and light breezes – a beautiful day for searching for landmarks of Herbert and Lena’s trip to Texas.  Our first stop was in Caddo, Oklahoma, where the Bevers family spent the previous night one hundred years ago. 

“Caddo’s druggist, William Frances Dodd was an ardent supporter of the [Jefferson] highway and worked diligently throughout the process of creating and building the road. He must have felt great pride and satisfaction when he saw its completion and watched people use it. Hundreds passed through Bryan County on ‘sociability runs’ and many stopped in Caddo to visit, give speeches, and spend money. Mr. Dodd and his lovely wife participated in several of the excursions, joining with friends here and continuing to New Orleans. He and his wife were well-known figures at meetings and conventions. Sadly, Mr. Dodd died suddenly in his pharmacy in 1924.”1

“As automobile ownership became more common, automobile associations, such as the Jefferson Highway Association, formed to promote automobile use and the needs of drivers for good roads.

“These associations organized and hosted sociability runs/tours, which were primarily taken to bring distant communities closer together. They also afforded auto owners an opportunity to drive to see what at that time were considered ‘novel’ places.

“Two notable social runs traversed the approximately 2,300-mile distance of the Jefferson Highway. The first occurred in July 1919. Participants traveled from New Orleans north to Winnipeg, Canada. The tour was organized by J. D. Clarkson, the general manager of the Jefferson Highway Association, and was called the “Palm to Pine Sociability Run” in honor of the designated starting and finishing points of the run. …

“… Communities along the touring route were urged to host celebrations in honor of the motorists. They were also encouraged to send motorists to meet the touring party before entering a community. Newspapers along the route featured stories about the tour and community events organized in their honor.”2

(Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
Caddo, Oklahoma (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
The Caddo National Bank building, second from the right in the photograph above, is dated 1913. (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
Sunday morning in Caddo, Oklahoma (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
The plaque on the tan building above.

In Florence Bevers’ travel log, she records that the two-car caravan went through Durant, Calera and Colbert on their way to Denison.3  When my mother and I left Caddo, we decided to follow the route that the locals take to Durant, Oklahoma.  Writing about the Jefferson Highway, Caddo’s city website states: “The ‘old highway’ is still a popular way for locals to travel to Durant and avoid the busier [U. S. Highway] 69/75.”4  On Google Maps, the road to which the Caddo city website refers is Caddo Highway or Old Highway 69.  (The original Oklahoma portion of U. S. Highway 69, which was given this numbered designation in 1925, was the Jefferson Highway.5)

Caddo Highway, formerly U. S. Highway 69 and formerly the Jefferson Highway (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)

The people of Durant are proud of their historical district.  We found several streets with well-maintained historical buildings.

This monument was “erected in honor of our gallant Confederate soldiers” in 1917. (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
The current Bryan County Court House was previously: Most Worshipful Grand Lodge of Oklahoma of Ancient Free and Accepted Masons; building dated 1917. (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
Original brick pavement in one of the historical streets of Durant (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
Durant National Bank on the left is dated 1900-1916; on the side of the building on the right the painting reads, “We Love Downtown Durant.” (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
Durant, Oklahoma (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)

Below are the running directions of Route 721 in The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, explaining the route to take from Durant, Oklahoma to Denison, Texas.  A few miles after Colbert, the automobiles had to cross the Red River on a toll bridge.6  This was the third toll bridge that they crossed.  The other bridges were at Omaha and La Platte, Nebraska.  The toll for this bridge was 25 cents per car.  The bridge is no longer in use.  We traveled on a modern bridge to the north of Carpenters Bluff Bridge.  Lena mentioned in her travel log that Mr. McElhany got his car fixed in Denison, Florence explained that the engine was not running right.  At the bottom of the running directions there are two garages noted.

Carpenters Bluff Bridge (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
Looking down one lane of Carpenters Bluff Bridge, a horse and pedestrian lane is on the right, (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
Sgt. Anthony Simmons Veterans Memorial Bridge (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)

Upon entering Texas, the speed law was: “Reasonable and proper.  Public highways 25 miles per hour; in or near built-up sections, 18 miles per hour; business districts, 15 miles per hour.”7  When the Bevers family arrived in Denison, they had their dinner, so that is where we ate as well.  Many of the restaurants were closed because it is Sunday, but when we inquired about a restaurant at a gas station, a local resident directed us to a very nicely restored burger place.

State National Bank, Denison, Texas, 1919 (Courtesy of TXGenWeb Project10)
Main Street, looking west from Rusk, Denison, Texas (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
The National Bank of Denison, dated 1912 (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
A mural on the side of a building in Denison (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
A highly-recommended burger place where we ate lunch, Denison, Texas; note the original brick pavement. (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)
At the corner of Main Street and Houston Avenue, Denison, Texas (Photograph by MRW October 27, 2019)

At Denison, Jefferson Highway veered off to the south east, headed for New Orleans.  The King of Trails Highway continued south from Denison to Van Alstyne.  The Herbert Bevers and Mr. McElhany continued following the King of Trails Highway to Van Alstyne where they stayed the night.  My mother and I didn’t find a motel in Van Alstyne when we were using an online travel website, so we chose to stay in Sherman, Texas instead.

Notes:

  1. Town Restoration Association of Caddo, Jefferson Highway, http://www.caddo-ok-today.org/JeffersonHighway.
  2. Iowa Department of Transportation, History of the Interstate Trail, Jefferson Highway and Jefferson Association: 4, https://iowadot.gov/autotrails/history-of-the-jefferson-highway-4.
  3. B. Winkelmann, Our Trip to Texas [Transcription of Our Trip to Texas by Florence Bevers, 1919] (unpublished, n. d.): 3.
  4. Town Restoration Association of Caddo, Jefferson Highway.
  5. Jonita Mullins, The drive is fine on Route 69, https://www.jeffersonhighwayinoklahoma.com/the-drive-is-fine-on-route-69.html.
  6. Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7 (New York: Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, 1920): 607, https://ia601208.us.archive.org/26/items/case_gv1024_a92_1920_v_7/case_gv1024_a92_1920_v_7.pdf.
  7. Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7: 864.
  8. Automobile Blue Book Publishing Company, The Official Automobile Blue Book 1920, vol. 7: 607.
  9. Main Street West from Rusk Avenue, Denison, Texas, http://sites.rootsweb.com/~txpstcrd/Towns/Dennison/denisonmainst80.jpg.
  10. State National Bank, Denison, Texas, http://sites.rootsweb.com/~txpstcrd/Towns/Dennison/DenisonStateNationalBank1919.jpg.

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