Saturday, May 7, 2016

Lenora Ghost Town

The church is buried in wild vegetation, but the gate at the end of the
sidewalk that led to the door can't help but make one think of the families
and newlyweds that ventured into the world from this sanctuary.

I asked my brother if he had been reading my blog.  He said that he had found it, but it just looked like a bunch of stuff about Oklahoma.  I apologize to my paddling readers, but in a state where there is more history than water, it is easy to go adrift.  I feel justified in some of it, because my paddling takes me into the history, like the articles about Medicine Park and Comanche Village, but some of it is just the result of life’s twists and turns.  This is one of those.

In the church's entryway was an old Lehman cistern water pump, which
has a series of cups on a continuous chain that rotate down into the water
as one cranks the handle on the side of the pump.

It was one of those days when nothing was happening, and nothing was going to happen, and we felt imprisoned in our little burgh.  We just needed to get out of town for a while.  It was time for a drive.  I had seen a short piece some time back about Oklahoma ghost towns, so I did a quick internet search.  The closest ‘ghost town’ to us was Lenora.  There was little information to be found except that it was once called “The Pearl of the Prairie.”  So, it was time to go pearl hunting. 

The pulpit, a couple old pews, and heater were left behind in the old
church when the congregation moved to the new Methodist Church.

 I went digging for more information later, and the history was not easy to find.  Most of what I found started with a book, “Ghost Towns of Oklahoma”, by John Wesley Morris, 1978, Page 120.  Lenora was named for two of its earliest settlers, Lee Moore and Nora Stovall.  It was home to John “Joe” Ventioner, a U.S. Deputy Marshall, who ended the criminal career of outlaw “Red Buck” Weightman.   I don’t know if this story is about Deputy Ventioner, but a lawman in town swore he would give away all of his guns.  He uttered his vow in disgust when he failed to hit a dime thrown into the air on his 86th birthday.

An old garage and store are all that are left of a once prosperous
Pearl of the Prairie.
The story about the demise of George ‘Red Buck’ Weightman, one of the most ruthless outlaws of the West, began before Ventioner’s involvement.  Red Buck, so named because of his red hair, was part of the Doolin-Dalton gang.  He had killed numerous men, plus three U.S. Deputies, was a horse and cattle thief, bank robber, and would kill any man for $50.  He had tried to shoot Marshal Bill Tilghman in the back, but was stopped by Bill Doolin.  After a train robbery in Dover, OK, the gang tried to hide out on a minister’s farm, but Red Buck murdered the Baptist preacher while stealing his horse.  While stealing a rancher’s herd, he shot the rancher for objecting to the theft.  Doolin felt Red Buck was such a liability, he kicked him out of the gang, but that didn’t do a thing to slow his criminal career.  After assembling his own crew, Red Buck committed several more murders throughout Oklahoma and Texas.  Hearing the Red Buck was back in the area, Ventioner and two other marshals gave chase.  They followed the crew to a farm near Arapaho, OK, south of Lenora, on March 4, 1896.  In the gun battle that followed, Ventioner killed Red Buck, whose partner, George Miller, shot Ventioner in the abdomen.  Red Buck went to the Arapaho Cemetery.  Ventioner went home to recuperate.
George 'Red Buck' Weightman on display when no one
claimed his body.  Credit: True West Magazine

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