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Articles Of  Interest

Stand on Canadian River’s

Standing Rock again​


Sep 12, 2020 by Mike Cathey





As early as 1535, it is believed that Coronado and his Spanish explorers had found their way to the confluence of the South and North Canadian Rivers and left carvings about 30 feet above a 40-65 feet tall protruding rock formation along the river.

It is also quite certain that in 1722 when Frenchman Bernard de la Harp decided to explore north of the Red River — the "Spanish boundary” — and make commercial treaties with the Indians that he used the same rock formation as a landmark and a point of reference. But it is the 1830’s journal entries by Captain Benjamin Bonneville from the U.S. 7th Infantry sent to Fort Gibson and beyond where we find the first documentation of what he called “Mary’s Rock”, we know now as “Standing Rock.”

During Captain Bonneville's service at Fort Gibson and Fort Smith his superior talents and training were requisitioned by his superiors for important assignments. Congress provided for the abandonment of Fort Gibson and withdrawing the troops to the Arkansas line and building a new post at Fort Smith, and for constructing a road along the western line of Arkansas.

In 1830 there was pending in Congress a bill providing for the removal of the Indians from the eastern states to the west pursuant to the recommendation of President Jackson. This bill was enacted into a law on June 30, 1830.

Directly after that the War Department exerted itself in various directions to secure all possible information about the country to which it was proposed to remove the Indians with the view to a more intelligent understanding of the situation to meet the objections of the Indians to removal; and to know more definitely what sections of the west would provide homes for the Indians, the resources, soil, vegetation, water supply, topography and other elements necessary to a proper understanding of the subject.

Information was solicited from the traders and trappers in the western country and several military expeditions were sent out from Fort Gibson to secure information of this character and report to Washington.

In line with these efforts, instructions were given to Captain Bonneville in September 1830 to examine and report on the features of the country adjacent to the Canadian River from what at one time had been the western boundary line of Arkansas westward to what was known as the Cross Timbers which was assumed to be the limit of habitable land.

The report reflects the opinion generally held in those days that the country in the region examined and particularly the prairie country would not sustain human life and Bonneville even went so far as to characterize it as a barren waste. His judgment, in common with that of other authorities of his time, is interesting as fixing the conceptions and standards of those days by which white men measured the value of the new lands and countries on the frontiers.

On Nov. 3, 1830 Bonneville wrote, “Sir, in obedience to your Order under date 27 Sept. 1830 I proceeded to where the old Western boundary line of the Territory crossed the Canadian River, and meandered and surveyed it up the bed of Canadian River to the Brushy Woods usually called Cross Timbers. Due West the boundary line stands Mary's Rock, it is sixty-five feet high and 20 in diameter and nearly round. It is a great curiosity and an excellent Land Mark.”

According to stories told by the Indians, the Spaniards hid silver and gold here. The carvings were deciphered to mean disaster, which lines up with the stories told by the Indians that the Spaniards became too ill and could no longer carry the gold, so they buried it. They were planning on returning once they were healthier, but everyone either died of illness or was killed.

For many years the river and area around Standing Rock was a favorite fishing spot. Also, thousands of picnickers, sightseers and campers roamed about the region. The Standing Rock area was the scene of frenzied activity by treasure hunters for over a hundred years who dug and blasted the rocky hillsides into craters and pits which left the area with the appearance of the jagged surface of the moon. No gold or silver was ever found although many small fortunes were spent in seeking the long-lost treasure.

With the completion of Lake Eufaula in 1964 Standing Rock is now covered by the waters of Lake Eufaula. The historic landmark stood in the middle of the Canadian river about two miles below the junction of the North and South Canadians. When the lake is at its top level 585 feet the top of the huge upright rock is approximately 25 feet below the surface.

This week renowned 3-D mural street artist Tracy Lee Stum has arrived in downtown Eufaula to paint an exciting new mural to be located at 115 Selmon Road, the original site of the legendary JM’s Restaurant. There will be several points on the mural where people can seem to be part of the painting, said Karen Weldin, president of Vision Eufaula, project sponsor. "There will be a boat and it will look like they're in a boat, or it will look like they're climbing on Standing Rock or sitting in another area. It's going to be 3-D illusion," Weldin said. "It's quite the destination place."

"There's a floor section there, a patio area. That's going to be painted along with the two walls," Stum said. "Half of a box, let's say." She said she designed her painting around a Lake Eufaula theme. "We are going to pay tribute to Standing Rock, the iconic symbol that used to be there," she said. "They will be able to interact in a variety of ways with the piece, and the primary focal point will be Standing Rock.”

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