Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Medicine Park

Below the large dam that creates Lake Lawtonka, Medicine Creek
spills over a few other dams forming beautiful pools, this one for
fishing, others for swimming.

Medicine Park was opened officially as Oklahoma’s first planned resort on the 4th of July, 1908, by future senator, Elmer Thomas.  As a young lawyer in 1906, he decided that while the new lake provided a reliable source of water for the new town of Lawton, the surrounding thousands of square miles of prairie needed a recreational area.  The new resort started with a swimming hole in the creek below the dam, a few campsites, and a large surplus army tent with a wood floor where meals could be served.  In four years, it grew to include two inns for meals, lodging and dancing, a health sanitarium, tennis courts, spa, bath house, petting zoo, general store, a school, bait shop, electric plant, and the Dam CafĂ©.  The army tent was replaced by the Outside Inn, a three-story red cobblestone building erected in 1910.  It would be the focal point of the town, had a couple other names during its history, and would later be renamed the Old Plantation.  Medicine Park was billed as the “Jewel of the Southwest.” The area along the creek became the Bath Lake Park with landscaped walkways, gardens, swimming and sunbathing area, and bridges across the creek.  Crowds flocked to the community from throughout Oklahoma and North Texas.

A cluster of wild aster defy logic to find a home among large
red boulders.

After his surrender in 1886, Geronimo and his band of Apache braves were shipped by boxcar to Florida, where they were imprisoned for eight years.  Geronimo was held at Fort Pickens, Pensacola, and his followers and their families were sent on to Fort Marion at St. Augustine.  Geronimo later joined the others at Fort Marion as well.  In 1894, Geronimo was relocated to Fort Sill, and was baptized in the Methodist faith in Medicine Creek on July 1st, 1903.  He died of pneumonia on Feb., 17, 1909, and is buried in the Apache cemetery at Fort Sill.   

The red cobblestones from Mount Scott provide a seemingly
endless supply of building materials.  A beautiful, new home
across Medicine Creek uses just a sampling of the rocks.

While Elmer Thomas operated his resources in Medicine Park with strict guidelines, he decided to sell the lodge to finance his campaign for senator.  The main floor of the Outside Inn remained a restaurant and dance hall, but the upstairs became where the ‘pretty girls’ conducted business, and a whiskey still and gambling room found their way to the basement.  It was even rumored that tunnels were built for the escape of those that didn’t want to be found.  Everyone came to Medicine Park throughout the Roaring 20’s and into the 1930’s.  It became the playground for the elite, the rich, famous, the notorious, and for outlaws, horse thieves, and politicians alike.  Some of the names of those known to visit were Frank Phillips, founder of Phillips Petroleum; Will Rogers; Wiley Post; Bob Wills, the King of Western Swing and the Texas Playboys; Al Capone; Bonnie and Clyde; Pretty Boy Floyd; Lil Hardin, the 2nd wife of Louis Armstrong, and Her Swing Orchestra; Jack Abernathy, the nation’s youngest U.S. Marshal; Les Brown; and Roy Rogers and Dale Evans.

Many different ducks and geese find a home in the 
beautiful surroundings.

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