Lake Texoma

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Twelve Mile Prairie

by
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Twelve Mile Prairie lies between the four corners of Kenefic, Nida, Cobb, and Brown, Oklahoma. It is not a town, but a community on the very northeast edge of Lake Texoma. Even though it was Chickasaw land as of 1856, white settlers emigrated there to farm its rich soil. Many families staked their claim, grew up, and became successful in Twelve Mile Prairie. The Chickasaw tribe charged the settlers a generously small yearly tax until tribal lands were outlawed.


Sparse History of Life in Twelve Mile Prairie


William J. Cleveland moved his family to Twelve Mile Prairie in 1884 from Fannin County in covered wagons. They crossed the Red River at Colbert Crossing. Their first log house had shuttered windows and a cat chimney [mudcat chimney] made of dirt and sticks. William’s son, Elmer, described the area as a, “…paradise in which to live”. (1) Charles William LeGran Liles moved his family there about 1900 and lived in a dugout. (2) Clarence Colbert, of the prominent Chickasaw Colbert family from Mississippi, married Rosabel Davis and moved to Twelve Mile Prairie in 1889. (3)


On one of the Ancestry.com message boards, a woman named Ollie May Turner, a.k.a. Nee Jackson,* reported going to school there in a corn crib. (2) Twelve Mile Prairie was integrated, but white children had to pay a subscription fee to attend the Civilized Tribe schools in the late 1800s.


The settlers had to haul water to their homesteads and drive their livestock to water supplies until they dug wells. Plentiful wild game roamed the prairie. Prairie-Chickens would not go into wooden traps. To catch the Chickens, settlers built arched cornstalk traps which were attached at the corners with wooden pegs. (1)


George Washing Newton from Virginia


Loyd Wayne Newton, great-grandson of George Washington (G. W.) Newton wrote a detailed account of his family’s history in his book, Twelve Mile Prairie. (4) This book gives us wonderful stories about generational family farm life and growing up in Twelve Mile Prairie. G. W. gave the area its name that stuck.


G. W. was born in Mecklenburg County, Virginia, and fought in the Civil War as a Confederate soldier. Loyd describes G. W.’s account of the battle at Gettysburg. He suffered with severe shell shock from that horrific bloody battle and several battles before Gettysburg. The account is worth reading. After the war, G. W. was restless. He married Althea Crumply. They moved to Mississippi and had one son, William. Althea died in childbirth. The territory of Indian Nation seduced G. W.’s wandering soul. He left William with friends, wandered around Indian Territory, and moved to Dallas. The friends entrusted with William followed him to Dallas. William Newton met Della Penny there.


The 1890s: William and Della Newton


William and Della married in Sherman, Texas, in 1896, and they moved to the place that G. W. named Twelve Mile Prairie. Loyd wrote about family memories that include simple and grand events. Della was thrilled when Teddy Roosevelt visited Caddo and Durant on his way to a wolf hunt with Jack Abernathy after touring Texas. Of course, William drove Della to see Teddy.


Della and William had 14 children. But, two of them died; one in childbirth and one hours after birth. William took her for a walk after the second baby died to the nearby creek (probably Bois d’ Arc Creek). It was high summer and they pretended the water was cool and laughed about Della’s hairpin falling out. William wondered why they didn’t spend more time together like that. Della began to pull out of her depression.


The Indians taught the Newtons how to pound corn into coarse meal. William always remembered that they were on tribal lands and was thankful for the peace the Indians instilled in their lands.


The 1930s: The Newton’s on the Twelve Mile Prairie


The depression and the Dust Bowl invaded the Newton’s lives in the early 1930s. They could not plant crops from 1931 to 1936. William said the dust continued, but they did not experience the Dust Bowl like in the western part of Oklahoma. Their house burned to the ground in 1936. William borrowed money, bought more land, and built a new house. He dug a well and put in a windmill.


Eventually, William expanded his farm to 320 acres. He worked eight teams in the fields, owned 21 milk cows, 40 head of hogs, and a smokehouse full of meat. Della took care of 100 laying hens and 100 turkeys for slaughter. Plus, William added cotton as a crop.


At harvest time, all the neighbors helped each other gather in the crops, and sometimes there were over 80 workers. Della cooked for all the hands when it was harvest time on their farm. She did not leave the kitchen until everyone had eaten and the kitchen cleaned.


The 1950s: Grandpa Newton, the Third Generation, and Polio


Even though the family considers William Newton part of the second Newton generation, William became Grandpa Newton. Several of William and Della’s children married and moved away to other parts of Oklahoma and Bakersfield. California, but a few stayed on the family farm.


In 1950, one of William’s grandsons and son Lloyd and Thelma Newton’s son, Wayne, was just starting to walk, but he drug his left leg. The family took him to a Catholic hospital in Tulsa. They learned that Wayne had contracted a virus that caused polio. Franklin Roosevelt had given approval for Dr. Jonas Salk to develop the polio vaccine, but it was not released until 1955. Wayne underwent a series of injections. Wayne, not yet a toddler, had to stay alone in the hospital for therapy treatments. Sometimes, his family couldn’t visit him for a month or more which tore up Thelma’s heart. Wayne eventually recovered.


By 1954, Grandpa Newton’s grandchildren attended school at Cobb Elementary. The kids went to Della’s for lunch. A neighbor made bird houses and water dippers out of different sized dried gourds. The kids loved the wildlife and the birds. They loved their favorite swimming hole a half a mile from their house at Bois d’ Arc Creek where they built fires and skinny-dipped in the cool water during the springtime (but mother and dad did not know).


They fished crawfish holes with a pole, a line, and a piece of bacon fat and caught rock perch with earthworms. They picked and crushed polk berries [sic] for red ink and cut feathers to make quill pens. The kids played with fireflies and listened to frogs and crickets and night birds. Newton descendants still live in the area. Thanks to Loyd Wayne Newton, there is a written account of Twelve Mile Prairie’s history.


A Medley of Quotes from Loyd’s Book


“This is the crossroads of nature with God’s grace to guide it’s steps…Like the presence of my Father that left a legacy of moral fiber, my character was formed here…I learned about inner strength and the determination to continue in the face of disappointment…This is perhaps the greatest legacy we can bestow our children; the capacity to be enchanted by the quiet gifts of everyday life.” (4)


Poem


Upon this land, that truly God has made was placed a Family rooted and grounded in His grace.
From the Prairie, and the Streams, and the Lakes, it was Elohem!
From the Beginning till the End, In my Memories, I will always think of Him!
From the Dawn of every New Day, let Me always Come & Pray!
Giving Him Thanks to let Me Stay!


Loyd Wayne Newton** (5)


Not Too Much Has Changed


I found Twelve Mile Prairie while researching about a year ago, and wanted to write about it, but I could not find much to write about. I knew there was an ongoing story to be told that has not ended yet in Twelve Mile Prairie. So, I tucked it away in a file and kept searching for material.***


Twelve Mile Prairie has not changed much since the early Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Pioneer days. It is still a prairie full of rich farmland. Some say that you can still see the pioneer’s wagon wheel ruts in the ground, and the grass grows tall where it can. It is on the edge of the northeast waters of Lake Texoma and the Tishomingo National Wildlife Refuge. Maybe you cannot catch Prairie-Chickens in cornstalk live traps these days, and wolves seldom roam about.**** But, I bet the birds and the frogs and the polk berries [sic] and the swimming holes are still there. *****


In 1919, a real estate ad in the Durant Weekly News advertised: 101-170 acres, 153 in cultivation, black waxy land, lays level, plenty of water, one set of improvements, located in Twelve Mile Prairie 7 miles from town On state highway This is a fine home Loan $10,000 Price $115 per acre.


Where is Twelve Mile Prairie?


Between:


SH 22 on the north
SH 78 on the west and south
SH 48 on the east


Nida is on SH 78 (going north) and SH 22 on the northwestern corner of Twelve Mile Prairie.


Brown is where SH 78 turns east from north/south on the southwestern corner. 


Cobb is on SH 78 close to SH 48 is the southeastern corner.


Kenefic is on 22 SH and SH 48 closer to the northeastern corner.


The Blue River winds north/south through the eastern edge of Twelve Mile Prairie. The Bois d’ Arc Creek headwater looks to run off of the southern part of the Blue River in this area curly-que to the west for several miles. Cobb is just a little bit southwest to that area. More than likely, that is the area where the Newton’s on the Twelve Mile Prairie estate was located.


Notations


* Nee is a French prefix used to indicate a married woman’s maiden name. I find much Chickasaw usage of Nee and that many of the eastern Native Americans married French husbands before and after the Indian Removal Act. Nee appears to be an adopted term for Chickasaw married women.


** Chapter Six in Loyd’s book includes poems written by Newton family members. This poem is in the preface and has Loyd’s name underneath it.


*** I would love to learn more about life on Twelve Mile Prairie. If you know of someone who lives there, or of a family that has roots there, and they want to share their memories, please email me. luminiservices@gmail.com


**** They [Lesser Prairie-Chickens] once roamed the sagebrush and shinnery oak of the Southwest by the millions, but today occupy just 16 percent of their historic range. In 2012 the Lesser Prairie-Chicken population bottomed out at 35,000 individuals — until it reached a new low of only about 17,616 birds the very next year, a decline of about 50 percent. The bird's numbers rebounded in 2014–15 after the end of a drought in its range, but biologists are worried about another population decline in 2016, even with adequate rainfall. (6)


***** Loyd is referring to pokeweed berries which are bright crimson and poisonous to humans. Poor and cultured folks eat young pokeweed stems and leaves by boiling them multiple times to remove the poison. Pokeweed is the subject of the song, “Polk Salad Annie” by Tony Joe White. The traditional dish is called Poke Sallet or Poke Salit. Pokeweed grows in 44 U.S. states and eastern Canada. Pokeweed elements are being studied as a treatment for cancer and AIDS and even a booster for solar cell energy. (7)


Sources


1. https://digital.libraries.ou.edu/utils/getfile/collection/indianpp/id/7050/filename/7051.pdf


2. https://www.ancestry.com/boards/thread.aspx?mv=flat&m=895&p=localities.northam.usa.states.oklahoma.counties.bryan


3. http://files.usgwarchives.net/ok/bryan/history/postoffices/posthist.txt


4. https://www.iuniverse.com/bookstore/bookdetail.aspx?bookid=SKU-000065417


5. Newton, Loyd Wayne. Twelve Mile Prairie. iUniverse, Bloomington, New York, Shanghai, 2008. p. xi, 66, 67.


6. https://www.biologicaldiversity.org/species/birds/lesser_prairie_chicken/


7. https://georgiawildlife.com/out-my-backdoor-wondrous-pokeberry


Pictures


1. Cover of Loyd W. Newton’s Twelve Mile Prairie
2, Google Map of Twelve Mile Prairie
3. Bois d’ Arc Creek Headwaters
4. Nail’s Crossing Bridge, Kenefic, OK
5. Real Estate Ad 1919, Farm for Sale, Twelve Mile Prairie
6. Ripe Pokeberries
7. Young Pokeweed
8. Male Lesser Prairie-Chicken
9. Female Lesser Prairie-Chicken
10. Juvenile Lesser Prairie-Chicken


 


 


 


 


 


 


 


 




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