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The Archivist: Whiskey Road earned its colorful name as stagecoach stop

Mary Phillips: Bootleggers brought illegal whiskey into Indian Territory via Whiskey Road in Sequoyah County
Oklahoman Published: September 30, 2013

In 1968, the descendants of R.B. Carlile, an early-day Sequoyah County merchant and cattle rancher, were preparing to move the old family home, parts of which dated to 1878, to a new location.

The land, comprising the old Carlile ranch site, had been bought by the Kerr-McGee Corp. for a new uranium hexafluoride conversion plant near Gore.

The home's original location, near the fork of the Arkansas and Illinois rivers, was a stagecoach stop on the road from Texas to Fort Smith, Ark., which was called “Whiskey Road.”

Oklahoma historian Grant Foreman gave this explanation for the colorful name in his series of articles titled “Early Trails in Oklahoma” that were published in The Oklahoman and the “Chronicles of Oklahoma” in 1925:

“Another famous trail but of evil renown, was what was called the Whisky (sic) road extending from Van Buren and Fort Smith up the north side of the Arkansas River to Webbers Falls. The soldiers at the army posts were constantly engaged in efforts to prevent the introduction of whiskey into Indian Territory.

“Steamboats brought it up Arkansas River but as discovery of these shipments was comparatively easy, resort was had to flat boats, keel boats and canoes that slipped up stream in more secrecy. But the wagon-road following closely the bend of the river was employed with the greatest success and in the thirties and forties whiskey was brought up by the wagonloads in quantities to the mouth of the Canadian, from where it was forwarded up that stream and the Arkansas; the success of this enterprise was so well established that the road employed came to be known as the Whisky road.”

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