Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Memberships provide TCHS funding

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, June 28, 2011
Vintage postcard pictures a Frederick cotton gin, 1908
Historical Society Memberships Appreciated
There is no holding onto the past, but Tillman County Historical Society works to preserve memories of the people from our area’s past and the way things used to be. Tillman County and Southwest Oklahoma have a strong proud heritage. The people and events who shaped that heritage should not be forgotten.
There is no more important way to support the work of the historical society than through purchase of an annual membership in the organization. All money that is raised by the TCHS goes toward operation of the Pioneer Townsite Museum in Frederick and toward projects that preserve and honor memories of the past.
Every spring the historical society conducts an annual membership drive. Although the organization does accept memberships throughout the year, most dues are received in the spring and early summer.
Following is a list of current TCHS members. A look at the list shows that many friends and neighbors do support the work of the historical society.
If you have not paid dues to the historical society, dues begin at $10 for an individual, and go upward from that point. Most people pay at whatever level they are comfortable, knowing that the money is tax-deductible and goes toward a good cause.  All membership dues and other contributions to the TCHS are greatly appreciated.
Dues may be mailed to the Tillman County Historical Society, P.O. Box 833, Frederick, OK 73542. They may also be paid at the Pioneer Townsite Museum or to TCHS treasurer Cathy Riggins at Benson Law Firm.
The current 2011 TCHS (as of June 28, 2011) membership list is as follows:
Ade Construction; Doug and Cindy Ade; Al and Phyllis Allee; Kay and Danna Atkins; Merle and Ann Atkins; Bobby and Carol Lynne Bagwell; Mr. and Mrs. W.R. Bartholomew; Ron and Evelyn Barnett; Andy and Sharon Bennett; Mr. and Mrs. Baffrey Bentley; Loyd and Judy Benson; Beverly Bloom (Krause Family); Bob and Glenna Bobo; Mark and Judy Bobo; Phillip and Susie Brannon.
Also, C &  B Insurance Agency; Mr. and Mrs. Paul Carpenter; Darla Carr; Walteen S. Carson; John Cassidy, Jr.; Cacy Caldwell; Tony and Karen Caldwell; Sherrill and Mary Helen Clayton; Su Clifton; Joe and Anna L. Cook; Crawford Abstract; Ben and Felisha Crawford; William H. and Carol Crawford; Jayme Culbreath; Louise Dalton; Sam and Linda Dickson; Dan and Twyla Elsener; Mrs. David Fry; Francis and Edna Frye.
Also, Gamma Kappa Sorority; Dr. and Mrs. Gilbert Gibson; Frances Goodknight; John and Maggie Goodknight; Melvin Goodknight; Mike and Delores Green; Dana Greer; Janell Griffin; Mike and Debra Hagy; Delores Haynie; Carol Hefner; Greg and Wendy Howard; Max and Barbara Hurst; Oral and Mary Jones; Sue Ann Kauffman; Elene Kinder; Joe Ed and JoAnn Kinder.
Also, Ann Lemert; Lewis Investments; Jim Jack and Nieta Faye Loftis; Robert and Glenda Lorah; Patti Lovejoy; Jack and Carol Lowery; Pat and Nancy McAlister; Tim and Susan McCay; Joyce McCarey; Rosemary Madden; Shirley Mahanay; Trent and Dawn Mefford; J.L. and Virginia Merrill; Paul W. Nicholson; Kenneth and Carolyn Nicks.
Also, Dena Northcutt; Jay and Rhonda Oxford; Tyler and Lacey Oxford; Roy and Shirley Perkins; Kenneth and Janice Pool; Johnny Powell; Marcy Prescott; Margie Prescott; Ronald and Margie Ray; Glenn and Kay Redeker; Karen Ribando; Carol and Frances Ridings; Cathy Riggins; Zinifred Robinson; Homer and Sharon Ryan; Watha Shanks; Jim and Joani Smith; Joan Smith; Sue Smith; and Sonic Drive-In.
Also, Paul Stoll; C.J. and Gwen Stoll; Gussie Taylor; Ava Ruth Tidwell; Tillman County Farm Bureau; Bill and Barbara Tucker; Ethan and Lindsey Treadwell; Gary and Julie Tyler; James Tyler; Joe and Marilyn Vaughan; Ray and Virginia Walker; June Wells; Margaret White; Eddie and Julane Whitworth; Rodger Wirt; Buddy and Jean Wolfe; Gwen Woods; Mari Wright; and Joe A. Wynn.

 _ _ _
Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s Board of Directors. He can be contacted by email at

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Photos from TCHS files

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, June 21, 2011

Pictures capture early-day scenes
     The following early-day photos from files of the Tillman County Historical Society capture places, people and events from the area's past.
1903 Children's Band

This fascinating scene, likely Frederick, is dated 1903. It shows a children's band, outfitted in hats and carrying musical instruments. The group includes a goat pulling a wagon. Three females on a horse are behind the band. It is difficult to identify the location. The painted sign on wall of the brick building at right reads, "Greever & Thomas, Clothing & Dry Goods, Shoes, Hats, Caps" A wooden building across the street reads "PRINCE". The part of Oklahoma Territory that included the area that would become Tillman County was opened to settlement in August 1901, with towns and communities springing up in the years that followed. This photo, taken in 1903, was only two years after settlement.
 Tillman County Historical Society photo
Early Baptism

Early church baptisms were commonly done in creeks or ponds. This early baptism photo is undated, with no location or church named.

 Tillman County Historical Society photo

First Frederick Methodist Church
The first permanent building of the Frederick Methodist Church is pictured here. Back of the photo identifies its location as South 10th and Dahlia. It stood for only a few years before the congregation replaced it in 1910 with a new church building that was constructed at 12th and Grand.

 Tillman County Historical Society photo

Panorama Photo, 1910

Frederick in 1910 is pictured in a panorama photo that was taken from atop Frederick High School, a building that was located at the East Grand location where Frederick Middle School now stands. The photo looks to the west-northwest, and numerous current homes and businesses are recognizable. At lower right, a groundbreaking is being held for a new Methodist Church (built in 1910 at the 12th and Grand location where the current First United Methodist Church stands). The large building one block west is the First Baptist Church, a beautiful building that would be destroyed by fire in 1931. An early lumber yard was located at site of today's Frederick Carnegie Library. A livery stable stood at the location of today's Frederick Cleaners.

 Tillman County Historical Society photo
Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society's board of directors. He can be contacted by email at

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Birkhead photo taken in 1968

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, June 14, 2011
R.H. Birkhead at the Frederick M-K-T depot, 1968.                 Copyright David Plowden.

Photo captured end of 60-year career
Ray Birkhead was station agent at Frederick’s M-K-T depot for forty years, from 1928 until 1968. Before that, he worked in numerous other positions for the railroad in a career that spanned approximately sixty years.
There was nothing unusual about Birkhead’s last day on the job in the summer of 1968, except that the quiet afternoon was broken by a young photographer who wandered into the depot and struck up a conversation.
Birkhead could not have known that the photographer, a New Yorker named David Plowden, would become one of the nation’s most respected photographers. Neither could Plowden have known on that day in 1968 he would take a photograph in the old Frederick depot that would be one of the most memorable of his career.
Today David Plowden lives in Winnetka, Illinois. More than 20 books of his photographs have been published, he has taught and lectured at several prominent universities, he continues to work as a photographer, and he still lectures often.
I spoke with him last week to seek his approval to use the photo that he took of Ray Birkhead at the Frederick M-K-T depot. We had a long, fascinating conversation. He granted my photo request and explained the circumstances of how the portrait was made.
In 1968 Plowden had received a Guggenheim Fellowship and was travelling the country, taking photos of things that interested him. Then, as now, he had a fascination with rural America, wide open landscapes, and elements of American life that were passing away.
He happened into Frederick that day in 1968 and explored. He noted our grain elevators and the fact that there were two old depots – the Frisco depot which was then located on West Grand, and the Katy depot at 300 South Ninth. The M-K-T logo posted on the Katy depot caught his attention and he stopped to look around. Mr. Birkhead was the only one there on that summer afternoon. Plowden looked around the depot and made casual conversation with Mr. Birkhead. He noticed that Birkhead seemed to be putting things in place, and realized that it was after 5:00 p.m. He apologized for keeping Mr. Birkhead after closing time.
That’s when Ray Birkhead told David Plowden that he was retiring and that after 60 years, this was his last day with the company. Plowden told him that the occasion should be marked with a photograph, and he took a portrait of Ray Birkhead that afternoon with the stark simplicity of the M-K-T depot’s office as a background.
After the picture was taken, Birkhead and Plowden walked outside. Birkhead locked the door behind them, then he dropped his keys in the mail slot. “For the next man,” he said.
Whether by circumstance or destiny, David Plowden had arrived at the fading old Katy Depot in Frederick, Oklahoma, at the precise time to capture the end of a 60-year career. David Plowden is still awed by that fact.
Ray Birkhead never saw the portrait. It was almost a year later before the photo was prepared and Plowden had an opportunity to mail it to Birkhead. The package was returned, marked “undeliverable.” Birkhead had apparently left Frederick.
He died in Florida in 1971.
The photo that Plowden took that day has been published several times – first in a 1972 Plowden book. It is also included in Plowden’s most recent book, Requiem for Steam: The Railroad Photographs of David Plowden (Norton, 2010).
When we talked, Plowden told me that he lectures often and he always shows the portrait of Ray Birkhead and tells the story that led to its taking. Wherever he speaks, it always draws an emotional response.
I told Plowden that I would ask this column’s readers for information about Ray Birkhead or his family. Anyone who has stories about Birkhead or knows whereabouts of his descendents should e-mail me ( I told Plowden that I would pass along any information.
Plowden is known for his powerful black-and-white photographs that depict images and landscapes in America’s rural and urban settings. In addition to his books, Plowden’s work is included in the permanent collections of many art museums, including the Smithsonian and the Library of Congress. Some of his amazing work can be found at his website,
Plowden’s most recent book, Requiem for Steam is available at Amazon.
The entire body of his work, including the complete archive of his notes, negatives and prints, has been bequeathed to the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Yale University.

Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Depot served M-K-T Rail Line

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, June 7, 2011
Frederick's Katy depot was in a neglected state prior to its removal in 1973.

Katy Depot was Frederick's second train station 
      Most of us recognize that the 1901 Frisco Depot, now located at the Pioneer Townsite Museum, is a Frederick treasure. In the 1980s the depot was moved from its original site on West Grand Avenue, placed at its present location at the Pioneer Townsite, restored, and saved for future generations.
Many people are not aware, though, that Frederick once had two depots. The Katy depot, which was located at 300 South Ninth Street, was built in 1907 to serve the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railroad.
Part of the depot was moved away after damage in the 1973 tornado.
Like the older Frisco depot, the Katy Depot was of wood construction but built in a more distinctive style.
It stood on South 9th, across the street from the old Ford dealership, in gradual decline until the summer of 1973 when it received extensive damage in the June 1973 tornado that swept through Frederick.
Most of the depot was torn down soon afterward but the most distinctive part of the structure was moved to a location near Altus where it was converted into a home.
In January 1969, Frederick Leader reporter Richard Break wrote about the Katy Depot which, at that time, was still a functioning but fading business location. The article was reprinted in the Tillman County History, Vol. II (1978)
Following is Break’s January 12, 1969 article:

"The local Katy railroad depot, once the proud and stately center of a booming railroad industry, will celebrate its sixty-first birthday this month in quiet obscurity.
"More than half a century since its construction, its paint blistered and pealed by the scorching southern Oklahoma sun, the wooden structure still stands in the 300 block of South Ninth Street.
A 1970s print by Frederick artist Larry Greer depicted the Katy depot.
“Construction of the rustic old station began in December of 1907 and was completed nearly a month later in January, 1908.
“The depot was constructed by the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railroad – long since vanished from existence – as an exact replica of the company’s Wichita Falls station.
“Throughout its long history as a Tillman County landmark, the building, like many others, has played an important part in the rich history of the area.
“Gone now are the busy days, when as many as eight station employees scurried back and forth conducting the business of the booming passenger and freight operations.
“The clatter and bustle of the busy waiting room have long since faded away, but the novel old potbelly stove and hard, straight-backed benches still remain as mute testimony of the station’s history.
“A visit to the station today will find the main portion of the building just as it stood 50 years ago. A small black and white sign still hangs over the ticket window – closed since April 1954, when the line’s last passenger train stopped at the station.
“Proclaiming the existence of a past prosperity for the railroad in this county seat town is the fact that during the height of rail activity, as many as six passenger trains made their way to the depot daily.
“Flourishing during the period from 1920 through the late 1940s, the local railroad industry, like its big brothers on the national scene, began its decline as automobile and air travel increased.
“H.L. Hollister, for whom the town of Hollister was named, was the first Wichita Falls and Northwestern line agent. Other early-day agents were C.A. Davis and E.P. Mitchfield.
“Serving as station agent during most of the past 61 years was Ray H. Birkhead, who retired last September after serving as local agent for 40 years.
“In the beginning, two passenger trains came into the city each day and Frederick was the end of the line. A year later, the line was extended north through Tipton and Altus towards Wellington, Texas. Then the railroad built the line through Mangum to Elk City, which was to be the terminus.
“Before that work was finished, the road extended on toward Woodward, and in 1912, another extension, this time to Forgan – was made.
“In 1912, the company sold to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas (M-K-T) lines. There were three daily passenger trains, two regular freights, and three or four extra freights coming in as needed.
“Birkhead took over the local agent’s job in May of 1928, after serving as agent at Tipton and cashier-telegrapher at both Frederick and Hollister.
“When Birkhead assumed his duties as agent there were five other employees, including a cashier-telegrapher, car clerk, yard clerk, warehouse foreman, and trucker. Additional clerks were soon needed and added to the staff, bulging the number to eight employees.
“Once the primary mode of both personal travel and transportation of all types of commodities, trains to Frederick at one time were swarmed by harvest workers, their families, and belongings, who converged on the area during cotton harvest.
“During the peak of local activity, November 1924, Birkhead recalls that some $16,000 worth of tickets were sold during a single month.
“In continuous use since its erection, the depot was once the focal point for a number of extra trains labeled “football specials” as city residents followed the Frederick Bearcats to athletic contests at Hollis, Grandfield, and Mangum. Many of these trains were composed of as many as 16 cars.
“The only break in operation of the station came for a period during World War I when the Katy and Frisco companies pooled facilities, using the local Frisco depot for the center of activity.
‘Today, the once busy depot is manned only by the agent, Eugene Dowdy of Grandfield, who handles the single freight load with ease.”

NOTE: Acclaimed photographer David Plowden visited the Frederick Katy Depot in 1968 on the day that R.H. Birkhead retired after 40 years as station agent. The photographer made a portrait photo of Birkhead which is published in Plowden’s latest book, Requiem for Steam: the Railroad Photographs of David Plowden (Norton, 2010). Plowden wrote that on Birkhead's last day with the company he was asked to unceremoniously lock up and leave the key in the mail slot when he left. Birkhead died in 1971 in Florida at age 79.

Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at

Photo of the depot move taken by the late Joe Miller, The Frederick Press

Katy depot pen-and-ink print by the late Larry Greer used at this site with permission.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Early Frederick Photos

Sent to The Frederick Leader and The Frederick Press, May 31, 2011
Photos show early Frederick
Four photos from Frederick’s early years show the town as it used to be.
These photos are from the collection of the late Madge Cohea Dombrowski.

This undated photo was probably taken in Frederick’s first decade, looking east on Grand Avenue from a point near the intersection of Eighth and Grand. Downtown Frederick was a busy place. Its street were crowded with wagons, horses, buggies, and new-fangled automobiles!

In 1910, proud automobile owners arranged their cars at Ninth and Grand for a photograph. The camera is pointed toward the west.

Comanche Chief Quanah Parker rode in a parade in downtown Frederick in 1910. A Frederick band marches in front of him. Location of this photo is the 100 block of West Grand. The camera is pointed toward the west.

This panorama photo of Frederick was taken in 1924 from atop the old city water tower at West Grand and 3rd Street, looking eastward.
The Tillman County Courthouse (center of photo) was new. The Simmons Cotton Gin is at bottom of photo. Grand Avenue and downtown Frederick is at right.
Joe Wynn is a member of the Tillman County Historical Society’s board of directors. He can be contacted by e-mail at