10.15.2008,6:33 PM
Butterfield Trail: More Ghosts

More Ghosts: Historical Markers

“No matter where you go, there you are.” Or ‘were.’ One discovery on this adventure was the ‘winking’ historical markers: it was ‘here,’ then ‘there,’ and “Now where is it?”. Like the ubiquitous “Where’s Waldo?”, many historical markers are “Where is it?”.

During the planning stages of this adventure I marked the most significant historical markers on my well-worn maps. Finding some of them has been like a treasure hunt.

Colbert’s Ferry, OK. The OK Historical Society erected a plaque on a granite maker in 1936 near Colbert’s old house and the nearby road. Although we were warned that the marker might have been moved into town, we looked for it since we were on the very same road. And didn’t find it.

Riding through the town of Colbert later (after giving up finding access to the ferry landing on the OK bank), I spotted two historical markers in the center of town. After a quick assessment of traffic, I executed a quick U-turn (in the intersection, a big no-no) and coasted to a stop in front of the plaques. Sure enough, one commemorated Colbert’s Ferry. But it is not the original marker.

I kept a close eye open for a purported marker alongside the Hwy 69/75 bridge spanning the Red River. No marker. On the return trip to the other side of the river, we stopped at the Texas Visitor Center, barely a mile from the south bank. In between the gigantic star and the magnificent gigantic building (it’s Texas, remember) were several historical markers relocated from the old bridge (pre-1995). One for Colbert’s Ferry, one for the Red River Bridge War, and the others I didn’t read.


We would encounter several cases of ‘missing’ –or ‘misplaced’- historical markers along the way. A few were obviously stolen, others moved and consolidated with a group of markers. One missing marker left me disappointed; it was one I had much anticipation of finding. Some were far removed from the actual location of events. Like a one-stop-shop, read-it-all-here, but ‘you can’t get there from here.’

I would much prefer historical markers be placed on location or close-by to ensure public access. The intent is to try and ‘touch’ history by ‘being there.’ It evokes a sense of place and time, and empathy, enhancing understanding of the process of history, not just dates and names.

A suggestion to historical societies: be more creative in the text on the markers. Most of those marking the Butterfield Trail are duplicates of each other; they’re boringly redundant. There’s nothing awe-inspiring to read on them, missing an opportunity to bring life to history for people. A suggestion: Why not make them a geocaching adventure?

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posted by Macrobe
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