Medicine Park, Oklahoma

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Medicine Park is a town in Comanche County, Oklahoma, United States, situated in the Wichita Mountains near the entrance to the 60,000-acre (240 km2) Wichita Mountain Wildlife Refuge. Medicine Park has a long history as a vintage cobblestone resort town. Medicine Park is also located near the city of Lawton and Fort Sill. It is part of the Lawton Metropolitan Statistical Area. Many of the original structures are constructed out of naturally formed cobblestones—these red granite cobblestones are unique to the Wichita Mountains. The population was 373 at the 2000 census.

Contents

History

The community has a rich and colorful history. Originally founded on the 4th of July 1908 by Elmer Thomas, a young lawyer who had just become the first Senator of Oklahoma, Medicine Park was Oklahoma’s first planned tourism resort.

In the spring of 1906, just five years after the establishment of the Wichita Mountains National Forest, Elmer Thomas envisioned the need not only for a recreational area but also the need for a permanent water source for the budding and newly founded City of Lawton. Over a period of a few years, he and a partner, Hal Lloyd from Altus, quietly purchased approximately 900 acres (3.6 km2) of what is now the cobblestone community of Medicine Park.

When the resort first opened, it consisted merely of a large surplus Army tent with a wooden floor where hot meals were served. Two dams were constructed on Medicine Creek to form Bath Lake Swimming Hole and a limited number of campsites were built. Over a period of approximately 4 years, numerous improvements were added, and the area began to take on the look and feel of a bona fide resort.

About this same time period, numerous such resorts were opening near the entries of other newly founded National Parks and National Forests all across the country. The American public held a remarkable fascination with nature. The coming of the automobile gave unprecedented access to our country’s natural wonders. Resorts began springing up nationwide to provide these new found "tourists" with food, lodging and entertainment.

Tourists flocked to the area from around the state and North Texas to enjoy the mountains, wildlife, swimming, good food and lodging. Soon, there were two inns—the Outside Inn and the Apache Inn (which was formerly the Press Association Clubhouse) -- Baird’s Health Sanitarium (which featured clay tennis courts and a spa) -- a Dance Hall, The Medicine Park Lodge (atop Mount Dunbar), a Canteen, Petting Zoo, Bath House, General Store, School, Bait Shop, Hydro Electric Power Plant and the infamous Dam Café. Bob Wills and The Texas Playboys (the kings of western swing) became regulars at the Dance Hall from 1929 through the late 1930s. Numerous other famous bands of the day made their way through Medicine Park in route to big city venues in Oklahoma City, Dallas and Fort Worth.

The entire Bath Lake Park was landscaped with beautiful gardens, large trees, foot bridges and grassy areas for visitors to lounge around, sunbathe and enjoy the natural beauty. The area flourished during the late teens to the 1940s as the “Jewel of the Southwest.”

The nearby Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge and Lake Lawtonka attracted thousands of people each weekend and throughout the seasons. Medicine Park became the “playground” for the State’s rich, famous and notorious. Folks would come to town for the weekend and leave their “work-a-day” world, troubles and reputations behind them. Outlaws and horse thieves mixed with noted politicians and businessmen, soldiers and officers from Fort Sill, families and socialites in this new cobblestone community. The pages of the Town’s colorful history are filled with the likes of Will Rogers, Wiley Post, Frank Phillips, Bob Wills, Al Capone, Bonnie and Clyde, Pretty Boy Floyd, Lil Hardin, Colonel Jack Abernathy, Les Brown, Roy Rogers, Dale Evans and countless others. [3]

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