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Five Ghost Towns You Should Visit in Oklahoma

Ghost Town

Ghost towns exist everywhere. This is because pure inertia isn't enough to ensure that a particular location will remain inhabited for generation after generation. Instead, there needs to be reasons for people to remain there in spite of the other options that are available to them. There are some locations out there that are so advantageous that they have been inhabited on a more-or-less continuous basis since prehistoric times. However, most locations can't claim the same status, meaning that it is very much possible for them to attract residents for a time before losing that attraction for whatever reason. Sometimes, their decline can seem almost instantaneous. Other times, it is a depressing, dragged-out process. Whatever the case, once a location has lost the power to retain its population, it is on the path to becoming a ghost town. Generally speaking, ghost towns aren't the first places that come to mind when someone is thinking about an outing. By their very nature, they are lacking in retailers, entertainment venues, and other facilities capable of accommodating visitors. Still, ghost towns can have their appeal for visitors as well. For example, the gradual return of an once-occupied settlement to nature can make for some very striking images. Similarly, while not every ghost town comes with ghost stories, the absence of people in places that are supposed to be filled with people can give them a sense of intriguing unease. On top of this, there are some ghost towns that are effectively snapshots of a world that has faded from view, so there is an element of historical interest as well. As such, those who are looking into local sites of interest in the state of Oklahoma might want to check out some of its ghost towns.

1. Ingalls

Strictly speaking, Ingalls isn't a ghost town. After all, there are still a small number of people who live there, so it isn't 100 percent uninhabited. Still, Ingalls is often included in lists of Oklahoma's most notable ghost towns. For those who are curious, it was settled because of the Unassigned Lands land run that happened in 1889, which was made possible by the Muscogee and Seminole Indians ceding land to the United States after the American Civil War. Ingalls was important enough to have a post office at one point in time. However, its decline can be seen in how said post office was around from just 1890 to 1907. It has never recovered since the late 19th century and the early 20th century. In any case, Ingalls tends to be best-known because of its one-time status as a safe haven for outlaws. Primarily, this is because of the Battle of Ingalls, which was a shootout that happened between U.S. Marshals and the Doolin-Dalton gang on September 1 of 1893. The latter were some of the outlaws who used the town as a haven. However, the Doolin-Dalton gang's involvement in multiple bank and train robberies attracted the attention of the law in the form of 13 or 14 U.S. Marshals. The resulting gun-battle didn't go very well for either side. On the one hand, three of the U.S. Marshals were killed by the outlaws; on the other hand, one outlaw was captured, two outlaws were wounded, and the remainder were forced to flee. Unsurprisingly, the Doolin-Dalton gang members were hunted down aftewards. Some of them were captured. However, most were killed by either U.S. Marshals or bounty hunters. The last member was killed in 1898. Nowadays, there is still a stone monument commemorating the Battle of Ingalls.

2. Lenora

There isn't too much information about Lenora out there. However, it seems to have been at least somewhat notable on a regional basis at one point in its existence. After all, Lenora had a post office as well. Except its post office ran from 1896 to 1955, meaning that the town must have been relevant for a longer period of time than Ingalls. Apparently, the settlement was once something of a center of trade for its surroundings, which isn't that unbelievable considering that it once had a hundreds-strong population in a not very well-populated part of Oklahoma. There are still people living in the area, but there can be no doubt about the fact that Lenora meets the definition of a ghost town.

3. Picher

Picher is an example of a settlement that became a ghost town in relatively recent times. It was a center of both lead and zinc mining for a century's time. The problem is that said mining went unrestricted, which created some serious problems. For instance, much of the settlement had been dangerously undermined. Cave-ins were common. Furthermore, an investigation into the matter revealed that the situation had become so bad by 2006 that 86 percent of the buildings could collapse at any time. Simultaneously, there were mine tailings heaped about everywhere, which when combined with other environmental issues, meant that more than a third of the children of the settlement were suffering from lead poisoning in 1994. As such, it was no wonder that the government made an effort to get the people to leave, though as always, there were still a small number of people who chose to stick around.

4. Skedee

Skedee was once called Lemert in reference to a family of local landowners. However, it received a name change in 1902, with the new name referring to the Skidi Pawnee. In any case, Skedee got hit by not one but two kinds of events that can cause ghost towns. First, it was founded because of a oil boom, with the result that it took a serious hit when the oil ran out. Second, a railroad once ran through it. Unfortunately, it was destroyed by flooding in 1963. Skedee still had people living in it as of 2000 and 2010. Even so, the numbers made it very clear that it was on its way out.

5. Texola

Texola is situated close to the border between Oklahoma and Texas. In fact, it was surveyed eight times, with the result that parts of the settlement switched back and forth between the states in the earliest part of its existence. This explains much about Texola's name as well as its previous names of Texokla and Texoma. Nowadays, the place is home to the Magnolia Service Station, which is a site of some historical interest.

Liz Flynn

Written by Liz Flynn

Liz Flynn has worked as a full-time writer since 2010 after leaving a career in education. She finds almost all topics she writes about interesting, but her favorite subjects are travel and food. Liz loves the process of researching information, learning new things, and putting into words what others who share her interests might like to read. Although she spends most of her time writing, she also enjoys spending time with her husband and four children, watching films, cooking, dining out, reading, motorsports, gaming, and walking along the beach next to her house with her dog.

Read more posts by Liz Flynn

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