All the dirt, news, culture and commentary for Oklahoma's second century.

Railroad-building visionary had guidance from "brownies"

Google images
Arthur Edward Stilwell (1859-1928)
Fertile Ground Compost Service
Help support Red Dirt Report

OKLAHOMA CITY - On September 11, 1897, the final spike of what was then the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad was driven in an area just north of Beaumont, Texas and the dream of Arthur Edward Stilwell was finally realized.

Yet, many people don't know that Stilwell claimed to have had some help from "outside sources" in the ultimate terminus of the KC, P &G, later called the Kansas City Southern, a railroad that exists to this very day and even inspired a song - "Kansas City Southern" - by Turnpike Troubadours, the Oklahoma-based Red Dirt rockers.

Who were these outside sources, these "brownies," that Stilwell would talk about.

In a 2008 story by Texas historian Clay Coppedge, headlined "Texas Trails: The Pixies and The Man of Port Arthur," he notes how Stilwell (who has a town named after him in Adair County, Oklahoma) believed he was frequently visited and received "spiritual guidance" from these brownies, also known as fairies.

At the end of his life, Stilwell would downplay the involvement of "brownies" in his life - later referring to them as "hunches." But for much of his adult life he convincingly explained that these spirits and voices guided his decisions.

A year later, in 2009, the Beaumont Enterprise, an article headlined "'Brownies' scouted future for Port Arthur founder, spoke in nighttime visitations."

The story noted that Stilwell was a "believer in the supernatural" and that his prayers were answered by these brownies or fairy-like spirits.

In English and Scottish folklore, brownies "are said to inhabit houses and aid in tasks around the house. However, they do not like to be seen and will only work at night, traditionally in exchange for small gifts of food. Dobby, the house-elf in the Harry Potter series is based on English brownies, particularly as known in Yorkshire and Sussex.

"I was warned by my nightly advisors not to make Galveston the terminal of Kansas City Southern Railroad because that city was destined to be destroyed by a tidal wave," Stilwell would write in his autobiography.

Indeed, the worst natural disaster to ever strike the United States - to this date - was the 1900 hurricane that utterly destroyed the city of Galveston, Texas and would go on to kill 8,000 people. Stilwell's term as president of the Kansas City Southern Railroad coincidentally ended in 1900, after serving the role for three years.

In any event, Stilwell listened to the brownies. The brownies said an area along Sabine Lake - the future Port Arthur - would be better - and safer. They were right.

Stilwell would go on to build more than 3,000 miles of railroad, much of it paralleling 94-degrees west longitude, an area this reporter and researcher has noted (having spent a lot of time along that region) as experiencing a lot of strange and unusual activity, from Bigfoot sightings to the appearance of ghostly lights as noted by the frequent appearance of the "Spook Light" near Seneca, Missouri.

Along the route, Stilwell named many towns, including Mena, Arkansas, a town with its own air of mystery.

Interestingly, it was during my research on the small Sevier County community of Ultima Thule, Arkansas (and it's present-day neighboring community of Ultima Thule, Oklahoma, in McCurtain County, that led me to learn more about Stilwell. Stilwell's railroad would pass not far from this community.And while researching that, I came across another Arthur Edward - this was esoteric researcher Arthur Edward Waite, who lived at the same time and was a noted occultist and creator of the popular Rider-Waite Tarot deck. Waite was also born in New York , except Waite was born two years before Stilwell, in 1857. Interesting.

The man who chose the name "Ultima Thule" was the town's first postmaster, Joseph W. McKean, "a veteran of the Florida Wars and an 'intimate friend' of Andrew Jackson and Davy Crockett," notes the Arkansas Records Catalog.

The Roman poet Virgil coined the term "Ultima Thule" meaning "the furthest land … a far-off land or an unattainable goal." And in the 20th century, Nazi occultists believed in Thule as "the ancient origin of the Aryan race" and that a "race of giant supermen lived in Thule, linked into the Cosmos through magical powers. They had psychic and technological energies far exceeding the technical achievements of the 20th century."

As noted in 1932's "Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vo. 10, No. 4," Ultima Thule was just across the border from the Choctaw Nation in Arkansas and had a post office, blacksmith shop, general store and a gin.

This area, again, is very mysterious. The "Fouke monster" is well-known in southwest Arkansas. And Bigfoot sightings have been common - your humble correspondent reported on them as a reporter in Louisiana - along this route.

In fact, Caddo Lake, which dominates East Texas, was created - legends say - by an earthquake "foretold by the spirits to a Caddo tribal chief, who failed to listen to the warning," according to a Yahoo! Travel article on "Mysterious Caddo Lake." Other articles on Caddo Lake note that "hundreds of alleged Bigfoot sightings" have occurred in the vicinity of the lake.This borderlands area - a Shreveport native once told me - was a hideout for drifters and horse thieves. True Grit, best told cinematically in the Coen Brothers film, shows this along the Arkansas/Indian Territory boundary.

The 2009 Enterprise article notes that "Ghosts and supernatural voices guided much of Stilwell's life. In fact, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle and other authorities on the supernatural considered Stilwell to have had the greatest psychic experiences known to man, according to a June 15, 1922 New York Times article about Stilwell's gift."

Spiritualism was quite popular in the late 19th and early 20th century. Much of it has been debunked - as Harry Houdini did late in his career - but Stilwell was something different. Since an early age he knew he was going to marry a woman named Jennie Wood - and he did. This "corps of spirits," as Stilwell called it, helped him accomplish many feats - build railroads, establish cities and write books and songs. A renaissance man, regardless of the inspiration.

"The engineering plans that I have put in effect have all come from an engineer who been long dead," Stilwell said in the Times interview, published six years before his death. "I have transcribed scores of poems which have been dictated to me by poets. I have written the music of many songs, which have been dictated to me by musicians."

Stilwell, a native of New York, lived a life based on positivity and progressive thinking. As he noted in his book Live and Grow Young, he would note that "good thoughts are spiritual elevators." And Stilwell also wrote Universal Peace - War is Mesmerism. A true visionary, for certain.

Copyright 2013 Red Dirt Report

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About the Author

Andrew W. Griffin

Editor & Owner.

Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

read more

Enjoy this? Please share it!

About Red Dirt Report

Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

Member of the Oklahoma Press Association
Member of Investigative Reporters & Editors
Member of Diversity Business Association
Member of Uptown 23rd

Rotary Club of Bricktown OKC
Keep it Local OK