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Small Town Matters: An abundance of history, natural beauty can be found in Davis

Kristi Brooks / Red Dirt Report
Junk City USA sits on the edge of Davis, welcoming visitors to town.
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DAVIS, Okla. – It was unusually hot for the month of February. I looked at the temperature gauge as I pulled into the town of Davis, Oklahoma: it read out eighty degrees. The first thing I saw was a huge KFC bucket propped up on its side next to a building labeled Junk City, USA. They were closed, but it immediately put a smile on my face.

Arbuckle Historical Society

A few blocks into town I noticed the Arbuckle Historical Society Museum with a flag waving in the breeze proclaiming that they were “Open.” Going inside, I saw that there was a wide collection of items being preserved. With the exception of the museum director, Gwen Williams, there was no one else inside of the museum and the silence was almost deafening.

Gwen Williams is the Arbuckle Historical Society Museum Director. (Kristi Brooks / Red Dirt Report)

She was sitting in the alcove enjoying the sunlight, and when I came in she stood up and immediately tried to apologize for not being able to help me or answer questions because she had lost her voice. However, she did her best to point out things I might find of interest. Right next to the door there was a mannequin of a buffalo soldier, I was looking at his vintage costume and she came over to push the red button in front of him. It turns out he was an animatronic character. He started moving and talking, telling the story of the buffalo soldiers.

Just behind him there was another room that had several well-preserved items ranging from a giant loom to a turn of the century wedding dress and infant toys. The other end of the building had library, a room dedicated to old farming equipment and tools, and even a wicker basket casket from the early 1900’s.

As I was exploring the last room with the old newspaper printing press and the high school memorabilia; a low rumble began to echo through the building and the walls began to vibrate. I thought for an instant that I might be caught up in an Oklahoma earthquake, but then I heard the train whistle and realized what was happening. The museum itself was originally a Santa Fe Depot, built in 1907. It has been placed on this National Register of Historic Places, and the train still goes by on those tracks at least twice a day.

I have to say that I easily could have spent a whole day in the museum and not seen everything they have on display. However, since I wanted to try and find out more about the area I had to leave. Ms. Williams suggested I go to the library that was just around the corner if I was interested in more information.

Davis Public Library

The library was in fact just around the corner in a small brick building. When I went in I found one of the most helpful librarians I have ever encountered. Jonathan Edwards is originally from Locust Grove, Oklahoma, so when I told him that I was interested in any local history or areas of significance he might have said that although he didn’t know of any personally, that they had quite a few books available.

Jonathan Edwards, librarian at Davis Library. (Kristi Brooks / Red Dirt Report)

One of the books he pulled down was titled, “Davis, Oklahoma” and it was published in 1981. The book was a collaborative effort between people in the city and they were able to collect quite a few historical stories, pictures, documents, etc, that put together an interesting picture of the town in the early years. The one thing we could not find much information on, either in that book or in two different volumes of Murray County history was the mysterious castle at Turner Falls.

Edwards went above and beyond to try and help me find information, and when we were unable to find it in the books, he pulled out the microfiche containing the Davis newspaper during the year it was supposed to be built, 1930. Even though we didn’t find any information relating to the castle, the newspaper took us on a trip back through time. There were a lot of ads for “Ginger-Ella” and notices about whose family was visiting for the week. The town had truly been a community-centric one.

Turning from the newspaper to the Internet, we were finally able to find some information. It turns out that a professor at the University of Oklahoma, Dr. Ellsworth Collins, built the castle. A great deal of thought and effort had gone into making sure that the castle was constructed from native rock with a basis in old English architecture. Construction on the castle stopped during the depression when funding ran out; however, the part that was finished was the summer home to the professor.

Edwards talked to me up until it was time for him to close the library, and even promised to get back to me if he was able to find more local information and history.

Turner Falls

Turner Falls. (Kristi Brooks / Red Dirt Report)

Just outside of Davis is the entrance to Turner Falls. The park was open and we drove in. I had taken my 4-year-old daughter with me on this journey because she usually loves to go walking in nature. However, she had fallen asleep in the backseat by the time that we parked to go up to the castle I could not wake or convince her to walk around, so I did not get to explore much of the park on foot.

The beauty of the area, however, was undeniable. At least two roads in the park had been designed as bridges where the water from the falls flowed over them. I moved my car onto them with the slightest of hesitation. My car does not sit very high up, and I was having flashbacks to the last time I drove through water and shorted out my horn. The hesitation was unwarranted, as the car easily passed the bridge without an issue, and then we were right up next to the falls.

I parked in the car for a moment and watched the water cascade down the rocks for a while, watched the families running and playing in the fading sunlight and I realized what a beautiful piece of nature the town of Davis was lucky enough to be able to enjoy. Leaving the park itself, I pulled off into a nice little scenic turnout that looked over the falls and the castle and spent a moment admiring it from afar.

Even though the sleeping and reluctant child sidetracked my trip to the castle, I plan to soon to explore it and to take a long walk through the park and enjoy the scenery.

Collings Castle at Turner Falls. (Kristi Brooks / Red Dirt Report)

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About the Author

Kristi Brooks is an Oklahoma native, born and raised. Even though she’s traveled around the...

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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

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