Introduction and Interests
Quanah, Texas — History in Memories
Dr. Orville Boyd Jenkins
I grew up in Quanah, Texas, from age 2 1/2 to 15. Quanah is the county seat of Hardeman County, which is bordered on the north by the Red River, with Oklahoma beyond. Quanah is 8 miles from the river. My father established a radio station there in 1951. The station's call letters, KOLJ, were from Dad's initials: Orville L Jenkins.
The town had a population of only about 3300. The county had only one consolidated high school, Quanah High School. But the radio station served a wide area covering several Oklahoma and Texas counties. The station still operates on its original frequency of AM 1150. At one point in its history, new owners changed the call letters to KREL. In October 2009, I got an email note from the current owner John White with this update:
"I just wanted to let you know the station is still alive and well and in fact I was able to get the original KOLJ call letters back this year. In June of 2008 the station was silenced following the collapse of its broadcast tower after a tornado came through. I was able to get the station back on-air and built a new tower and in the process was able to purchase the station from its previous owners."
On a visit back to Quanah for the Fall Festival in September 2011, I got to meet John White in person for the first time. It was great to learn more about the later history of the station and see how it is going with renewed vigor under John's creative leadership.
John takes advantage of the Internet and modern technology, enabling KOLJ to provide many services for the community. John integrates the radio broadcast services with the multiple media available now, such as Facebook and other Internet services.
With the new technology, carrying a transmitter on his shoulder, John can broadcast direct from anywhere! He still broadcasts the Quanah Indian sports games, just like my father had done when I was a kid. I remember sitting in the skybox with Dad and Bob Stabler, while they were calling the Friday Night football game. In those days KOLJ was a daytime only station, so they would record the game, then reply it on Saturday! I was pleased to know John's current license allows low-power night broadcast, providing 24-hour broadcasting!
In October 2007, I was checking some references on the Internet, and for some reason looked up Quanah. I found an interesting writeup with photos in a Texas Travel site that has much interesting history and culture. There are more photos and information on QuanahNet.
Seeing some photos of buildings in the town brought back memories of childhood places and events. I got to go back for a visit in 2011 for the Fall Festival and School reunion. Again in 2013 this was possible and in these two visits I was able to renew acquaintances and visit some more landmarks.
The Hardeman County Jail
The town was established in 1884.
Quanah was organized in 1884 as a stop on the Fort Worth and Denver Railway. The county seat of Hardeman County was moved from Margaret to Quanah in 1890 after an acrimonious battle that contributed to the splitting off of the southern section of Hardeman County as Foard County. The courthouse, constructed in 1908, anchors what is now the historic downtown district. ("Quanah, Texas," Wikipedia).
We had a couple of exciting events while I was on duty. There was a chase across several counties of north Texas, after a robber robbed a store. He was being pursued by the Texas Highway Patrol with the various localities cooperating as he progressed from west to east. The building for the fire and police station also housed the city administration offices. The fire department is still there, but the police are in another building on the next block south.
On the side street south across from the admin and police building was the auto parts store run by the Newsoms. In September 2011, I found it in the same location I remembered, run now by Gary Newsom! The Newsoms lived on the next block over from our house across the alley on 12th Street. They went to our church, First Baptist Church. Randy Newsom was the age of my brother Greg.
The Water Tower
The air raid/tornado siren was placed on top of that tower. This was active during the long tornado season we experience, being in part of the notorious Tornado Alley of North America. This was also the town's fire siren. We were only a few meters from it. That siren could be heard all over town, so it drove us nearly insane every time it went off!
The town could get water from deep wells into the famous Permian Basin, a part of the great Oglala Water Reservoir. This extensive underground natural water reservoir has over the decades continued to get lower and lower. But the gypsum base of the land affected the water.
Only 9 miles west of us was the world's biggest gypsum mine, and the largest production plant of wallboard, which is called sheetrock there, or at least was when I lived there. In other parts of the country, I later heard the word drywall for this sheetrock wallboard. This industry was a major portion of our county's economic base.
I remember the name of the company as the Acme Bestwall Gypsum Company. It was owned by Georgia Pacific. I learned it is still operating. On certain days, with the West Texas plains winds, white dust would swirl in the air and settle over everything. On our house plot, we had our own well, which we could use for irrigation of the garden and lawn. This led to a white crust over the plants, because of the lime and gyp from the water. In the summer the city had to buy water from sources across the Red River in Oklahoma.
I remember the city water always had the taste of iron and gypsum, but the taste became much worse, almost revolting in the summertime. Our well water tasted worse than the city water, but I expect it was quite healthy! But bottled water had not yet become the effete commercial product it is now. When we would water our hugely productive truck garden, the whole area would be white, from the high quantity of gypsum in our well water. Yep, this was sheetrock country – we watered our gardens with it, we washed our clothes in it, we drank it and we covered our walls with it!
Johnsons's Rexall Soda Fountain
I remember that one Mother's Day back in the 1950s it was in Johnson's Rexall Drug Store that my two little brothers and I together bought a camera for our mother. Dad took us in there and we all pooled our money to buy that Kodak Brownie camera. She used it until just a few years ago, bringing it with her on two trips to Kenya to visit us, and trips to many other places. It finally got too hard to buy the film for it, and she had to "upgrade" only a few years ago.
The QA&P Railway
The QA&P was the first railroad in America in which a founding shareholder was an American Indian. Chief Quanah Parker, for whom the town is named, encouraged investment in the modern technology, considered a bane to the Plains Indians and the iron horse cut through hunting lands of the Native Americans. Chief Quanah was an original partner in the QA&P. Cattle shipping was a large part of the early transport business, and the cattle sale barn still was a big operation when I was living in Quanah.
For the Texas Sesquicentennial Celebrations (1958), they remodeled the old depot/station at 101 Mercer Street downtown, about one block west of Main, a block north of the Quanah Hotel. This was the exposition center for the Centennial of Quanah, and later became a permanent museum.
Acme was about 5 miles west of Quanah, on Hwy 287. Sometimes some of us would ride our motor scooters out to Acme. Cushman Eagles were really popular then, and there were a lot of them in Quanah. These filled a real need, as most of us had to work at various jobs and needed to get around town, as well as to school and other legitimate activities. And, remember, the dogs all ran loose in town, and some of them liked to chase the scooters.
Winter Work and Play
I remember besides working at KOLJ and the Jenkins Laundry, I delivered the Sunday Oklahoman newspaper, like the Post Office, sun, rain, snow. There were some tough winter days on Quanah streets. I delivered the papers door to door on my Cushman Eagle. I remember in the aftermath of one of the blizzards, the streets were covered with snow znd iced over. I was up and out in the freezing wind.
On such occasions, I would hand deliver the paper to the porch so it would not get lost or wet in the snow and ice or rain. I remember stepping up onto a covered porch over on 114th Street near the Crowell Highway. I was just placing the paper just outside the screen door, when I hear a growl and turned to see a huge white dog over in the shaded part of the porch, still sitting, but on high alert, looking and sounding agitated.
I sweet-talked and sidled over to the steps and was able to get off that porch safely. I must ahve secreteed a lot of adrenaline. That vivid pcture and the sounds and smells of that event have stayed with me through the decardes!over to the I remember that morning. After that I was much more alert for loose dogs on the dark porches.
I remember some storms that shut the town down, and we had the run of the streets. We could go out and play in the streets! We could go out and skate and skid our scooters on the ice-covered streets! But we were safe and careful – at least I was.
And here's a confession – some of you can join me in this, I remember being in a group! I remember grabbing on to the back bumpers of a lone car when it would come slowly down the snow-ice covered street by Travis Elementary School (now the Quanah Junior High School) on Cain Street, an old stylish brick street. We would ski along behind the car for a few yards. Were we crazy or what? But it never seemed dangerous in the town where everybody knew everybody and we roamed all over town on foot or bike or scooter.
Farther west was the small town of Goodlett, about 9 miles from Quanah, I think. I remember the old Goodlett school gym had become a skating rink and we would go on Friday or Saturday nights to skate. Lots of church youth groups had parties at the Goodlett skating rink.
Also in Goodlett, my father had a Mexican restaurant for a while, not long, maybe a year or two. I remember he had a counter and display selling Mexican leather goods, like purses, belts and wallets.
Dad brought back gifts of authentic Mexican leather bullwhips for us. I remember using mine with great excitement and glee. I don't remember many details, but my brother Greg might have some complaints about that in his version of the story.
Bob Nelson, who also grew up in Quanah, and was one of the Cushman Eagle group, wrote me in March 2010 to comment on the role of Fred Koch, whose family I know from the Quanah Tribune-Chief newspaper, in the restoration and historical focus in Quanah:
"Fred Koch has been instrumental in preserving some of the buildings downtown and in reviving interest in the town's heritage."
While in Quanah for the 2011 All-School Reunion and Fall Festival, I got a chance to see some of the restored buildings and ongoing projects Fred has been fostering, through the Three Rivers Foundation. This is a cultural heritage and arts foundation with offices in Quanah and Crowell, in Foard County south of Quanah.
I had the delightful thrill of meeting an old school mate Carolyn Chapman Wilson, who is the Director of Arts for the Foundation. They are in the process of restoring many of the old business buildings on Main Street. They have a beautiful ballroom in what used to be the M E Moses Variety (5-10c) Store. The School Reunion had their closing banquet in the ballroom. The Foundation has many cultural projects going on several levels.
Carolyn and her staff are cataloguing a donated collection of 60,000 classic vinyl LP record albums, now in the climate-controlled storage basement of the Foundation's ballroom. Oh, and Carolyn showed us the beautiful and functional bar they bought from the set of the old TV series "Gunsmoke"! I was so excited with everything I forgot to take a picture of the bar and the beautiful ballroom and main salon! This was remedied when we returned for the 2013 reunion.
Steve's Boot Shop
One of the places I remember in downtown was Mr Podrovitz' boot shop, on the east side of Main Street. I was always fond of Mr Podrovitz. We always took our shoes to him for repair. I loved the smell of leather in the shop. He would always talk to me when I would go in with my father.
Mr Podrovitz' son Steve is one of the people on the Quanah discussion group and he and I were visiting in February 2014. He told me more details about his father. Steve said his father was from Yugoslavia and his original name was Stephan. He went by Steve. I had somewhat vague recollections, but recall his accent. Steve says that at the outbreak of WWI his father was put to work making shoes for the German soldiers.
Stephan learned other languages in the concentraton camp where he was placed, and spoke 17 languages. He learned English when he came to this country. Stephan's funeral was conducted by a Catholic priest who was in the camps with him. On my visit in September 2013, I saw a pair of boots made by Mr Podrovitz, now on display in the Quanah Museum. Mr Podrovitz is a fixture in my childhood memories.
Hardeman County was a big ranching area. Cotton had also been big there when I was very small. I remember for the first few years in Quanah, we lived about a mile south of the city limits on the Crowell Highway, now Texas Highway 6. The family just north of were an old couple named Jenkins, too, but they were not kin to us. Their son Hayden Jenkins was the veterinarian. I remember walking across the huge field to visit them. Mrs Jenkins would give me cookies!
We rented the house on a cotton farm, while the owner, Hamp Stepp ("Old Man Stepp"), continued to raise cotton. I used to talk with Hamp's son Alvie when he was out there to supervise the cotton picking. I remember I was quite young at the time. I could not have been over 6, since we moved from the farm into town before my 7th birthday.
I would stand out in the edge of the field past the east end of our house talking to Mr Alvie about the crop and the cotton picking operation, while the pickers were working. He told me about the plant, the cotton, how the cotton forms in the bolls and then is picked. I always enjoyed learning how things worked, how things grew, how crops were managed and harvested.
Alvie had a daughter about a year younger than me named Mattie. In September 2011, on a visit to Quanah for the All-School Reunion, I met Alvie's son Malcolm.
My wife and I went out to see the farm, and found the house was still standing, as I remembered it. Malcolm, also in town for the reunion, drove up while we were there and we had a good long visit. They are still farming the place, and we saw a cotton picker in the edge of the field just past the house.
Winter wheat was and still is an important crop. Driving through the area in recent years, I still see wheat growing, but less land than I remember seems to be under wheat cultivation.
Of course, with the ranching in the area, hay fields were a beautiful contribution to our flat and featureless land area.
Eleventh Street of Quanah was the cross-country highway US 287.
US Highway 287 was the major north-south route from Port Arthur, Texas to Choteau, Montana. It was going basically east-west as it went through our part of the country after coming northwest out of Fort Worth.
From Quanah, 287 heads on out to Amarillo before angling up to the northwest. This highway is still heavily traveled with commercial traffic. Since our time there, Quanah has built up its tourist trade around its colorful history. Downtown has been refurbushed, and some of the old buildings gradually restored, due largely to a grant from the while others have been razed. There are a lot of empty lots, now, where there were businesses or homes in the old days. The population of Quanah has continued to diminish and there are many vacant and derelict houses.
Four Winds Motel
Our house was near the west end of town. Ours was the last residence on 11th Street, everything west of us being business. The Kirkpatrick home across the corner was addressed on Combs Street, and their gas station was on the 11th Street side of their plot. I remember when the Four Winds Motel was being built about 3 blocks west of us, just past the Airport Road and the western Loop Road. An older motel in town was the 287 Motel, and there were probably others I don't remember.
The Four Winds Motel was built across Highway 287 from the famous Dutch's Cafe. It seems I remember that on one of our trips to Quanah, Dutch's was no longer in business. I confirmed this by finding that the Google Maps photo of the place shows the business in operation there is a place known as J A's Bar and Grill.
But I see current websites and listing for Dutch's, now under the name as Dutch's Restaurant. I found customer photos of the building and of the sign from 2011 (too small to post here). The story may be more complex than I understand at this point.
However, I note that on Superpages, the website link on the entry for Dutch's is for Briscoe's Family Restaurant, located in the Dutch's location Briscoe's Family Restaurant is now in the old Dutch's building, and you can even find it listed in directories under the name Dutch's Cafe. This makes me think that Briscoe's bought the name Dutch's and that both names are used in marketing the restaurant in listings, because of the fame of the Dutch's name.
In February 2014 I learned more about the Motels and their connections to Quanah families. On our Quanah discussion group in Facebook, I met another former Quanah resident, Patti Murphy Obannon, who tells me that members of her Murphy family owned both the 287 and the Four Winds motels. I learned Patti has written a book about her Murphy family, and she shared a few tidbits.
I had an uncle who was Chief of Police and my dad fixed TVs for everyone in town for many years. He worked first at Whites Auto until it burned and then moved his business to Becknells.
My memories that fit with these details, but I don't remember the specific people. I remember being given a tour with my father of the Four Winds when it was still under construction. So I guess it was Patti's uncle Joe Murphy that was showing my father and me around the shell of the Four Winds under construction. I remember it as the owner that was explaining it to us, telling where this and that would be, how the rooms were organized and such. But I did not remember a name.
Patti had some other salient information about her family history:
[Astronaut] Edward Galen Givens was my cousin. Edward Galen Givens was the son of Bill and Helen Givens. Bill Givens was my mom's first cousin. Their mothers were sisters. They were Maxwells and came to Quanah from Benton County, Arkansas. The Maxwell sisters had a grandfather, Abner Dunagan, who died on the northern route of the Trail of Tears just north of Benton County, Arkansas in Missouri [emphasis mine].
Wikipedia provides some details to properly introduce Edward Givens:
Edward Galen "Ed" Givens, Jr (January 5, 1930 – June 6, 1967) was an United States Air Force officer and a NASA astronaut. Selected by NASA in 1966 as a member of the fifth astronaut group and killed in an automobile accident, he was the only member of the Mercury/Gemini/Apollo-era astronaut corps to die before being assigned to a prime or backup spaceflight crew. -- "Edward Givens," Wikipedia
Quanah Parker Inn
Over the years, the Four Winds Motel was sold and became the Quanah Parker Inn, the name it currently goes by, still in operation. Edith and I stayed at the Quanah Parker Inn a few years back when we came through and spent a night, looking around Quanah on a trip through to visit family in Oklahoma. I thought at the time that the Quanah Parker was the old Four Winds.
When I was a kid we lived not far east of the Four Winds motel, on the corner of 11th and Combs. Ours was the place with all the trees in the house lot and the empty lot behind, where we had a truck garden. We planted all those trees except the cedars around the house and the windrow of trees on the west along Combs Street. There were poplar trees there when I was a kid. But it looks like a different type of tree now.
Caddy-cornered from our house, across from the lumber company, were the Fitzpatricks. They lived there and operated a gasoline service station and convenience store beside the house. In those days we called these places "filling stations." Maybe that was the hold-over frontier word. The Fitzpatrick's son David was a couple of years older than me. (No, it must have been more than 2 years.) I would sometimes go across the highway and visit with them. (Or maybe I was just bothering them!) I remember helping pump gas at times when David was on duty A United Supermarket is now located where the Kirkpatrick home and station used to be.
Laundry and Lumber
In this business I learned the mechanics of washing and drying machines. I helped my dad repair and totally overhaul these machines. After some time, Dad added a coin-operated dry-cleaners. The Quanah Florist is now located in the old laundry building. Pat's Video is now located in the old dry cleaning building.
Besides the laundry business, we also had a hugely productive truck garden. In the summer, we operated a truck stop vegetable stall in front of our house, selling the produce. On the quarter block (1/2 acre) plot, we raised all the vegetables we could eat, can, sell and give away. We also took phone orders and delivered to homes.
We also had a fruit and nut orchard in the yard and garden, the full acre of our plot. We learned a lot about organic gardening, nutrition, and working with the pattern of nature. We continued to operate the "farm" and the laundry business for a couple more years before we moved to an Arkansas farm.
The basic cattle investment became a major operation for us when we moved to Arkansas in 1963. My dad and I were partners in the cattle business, till I gradually sold off my share to pay for college expenses in the latter 60s.
Name of Honor
I commented that the town of Quanah was named after the Comanche chief Quanah Parker. Quanah Parker's mother was a white woman, from whom he took the name Parker. I have read several books about the chief. In January 2014, for the first time I was able to add Quanah Parker and some members of his family to my family genealogy. I had finally found a connection that I was never aware of before through cousins. I found two of Quanah's sons married members of the Fisher-Asewaynah family.
A Fisher girl married my first cousin Harvey Christian in Oklahoma. I remembered Bernice Christian, and knew she was an Indian, but did not remember which nation. I had recently run down the family connections. One of her ancestors, the father of the two girls who married Quanah's sons, had also been captured by the Comanches. He was a child of a German family who had settled in Texas, named Fischer. Some of them are found in the Comanche rolls with the Fischer name, others with Asewaynah. Rudolph Fischer remained with the tribe and lived as a Comanche.
Patti Murphy Obannon commented:
My grandfather John W. Ford worked for my uncle, Marvin Wells. "Daddy John" came to Quanah in 1897 and met Quanah Parker about then. My grandfather Ford talked about sitting and visiting with Quanah Parker.
In 2009, I read a book about Quanah Parker that had a lot of info about his life, and cited letters from his friend Burk Burnett, and others, in his later business and personal associations. (Burkburnett, Texas, near Wichita Falls, is named after Burnett.)
This book is The Last Comanche Chief: The Life and Times of Quanah Parker (Edison, NJ: Castle Books, 2007), by Bill Neeley. Neeley says on p 228 that the town was named in honor of Quanah, Parker, in 1884. In May of 1890, Quanah himself made a statement about this which was quoted in the Quanah Tribune-Chief Newspaper of 23 May 1890 (It would likely have actually been the Quanah Chief, owned by his fellow shareholder, Harry Koch, who founded the Tribune-Chief in 1897.)
Harry established the Quanah Chief newspaper soon after settling in Quanah in 1890, then bought the Quanah Tribune in 1897, merging the two into the famous Quanah Tribune-Chief newspaper, which is still being published. Through his journalism platform, Harry promoted the town and the railway. When we lived there, if I remember right, the owners I knew were Harry's son Fred C Koch and his wife. Fred founded Koch Industries, the second-largest privately held company in the United States.
Neeley says a bit later on: "Quanah frequently visited the town named for him. At times he dressed in his traditional Indian costume, and just as often, he wore a business suit with a stylish hat and diamond breastpin" (p 229).
Quanah maintained contacts with his Parker relatives in Texas, and this has continued to this day, with an annual Parker reunion in Quanah, to which Indian and white Parkers come. There is a monument on the court house square commemorating this. I gather from the story and background Neeley provides that the town was named for Quanah because he was actually held in high esteem, even loved by the people of that area.
2011 Quanah Reunion Photos
Quanah — The Last Comanche Chief
Quanah — The Last Comanche Chief - by OBJ on Amazon
Quanah Parker on the Jenkins Genealogy
The Last Chief of the Comanches - OBJ on Amazon
*** OBJ Summary Introduction More OBJ Info ***
OBJ's Short Biographical Resume Dr. Obiwan's Computing History
So Many Opportunities in One Lifetime So Many Languages, So Little Time
OBJ Educational Background Living and Working in Kenya
OBJ Residences and Occupations "Where Am I From?"
For more on Quanah, Texas, on the Internet:
Acme, Texas History - Texas State Historical Association
Acme Bestwall Gypsum Company
Astronaut Edward Givens, from Quanah – Wikipedia
Dutch's Cafe, now Briscoe's Family Restaurant, Quanah, Texas
KOLJ – Listen Online
Quanah, Acme and Pacific Railway - Facebook
QA&P – The Handbook of Texas
Quanah High School Alumni Association
Quanah - Facebook
Quanah First Baptist Church
Quanah First Baptist Church - Facebook
Quanah High School
Quanah – Wikipedia
Quanah, Texas – Texas Escapes
Three Rivers Foundation
Three Rivers Foundation Building Restoration
Traces of the Quanah, Acme & Pacific
US Highway 287
US 287 - map from Ft Worth to Amarillo 6-7 hour drive
For more on Quanah Parker on the Internet:
Cynthia Ann Parker, A Circle of Love – Crosby County Pioneer Memorial Museum
Native American Tribes, Photo Gallery - History Channel
Quanah Parker — Comanche Lodge
Quanah Parker — Jenkins Genealogy
Quanah Parker — TexasEscapes
Trail of Tears
First posted on Ideas and Interests 13-14 November 2007
Revised September 2008, September 2009 and September 2011
Rewritten 26 December 2013
Revised 3 March 2014
Last edited 15 April 2014
Orville Boyd Jenkins, EdD, PhD
Copyright © 2007, 2009, 2014 Orville Boyd Jenkins
Permission granted for free download and transmission for personal or educational use. Please give credit and link back. Other rights reserved.