The very attractive Ragsdale daughters. From right to left are Maggie, Lillie, Nettie, and Maude.
After a scare in Bowie, the family is almost in Oklahoma - by they first have to traverse the Red River!
Read on in this final installment of the Ragsdale's courageous journey.
Crossing the Western Cross Timbers
All of the planning, all the months of getting information, scrimping, and saving  that Cornelius and Viola had done was finally going to pay
off.  They were so close to their destination now that they could smell it!  A few more weeks of travel and they would be there.  

They turned more westerly after they left Wichita Falls.  Their route would parallel the Red River and take them through several
settlements that connected with the railroad. The railroad lines also paralleled the Red River, so that the Ragsdales would be
accompanied by numerous trains that headed their way. By staying on the south side of the river as long as possible, they would avoid
most of the Indian tribes that were just across the river in Indian Territory.  Of course,  Indian lands were being quickly divided  and sold
as "excess lands" by the United States Government's Dawes Commission and many of those Indians would lose their rights to open land
held in common.  But for now, Texas was a safer route, protected by the Texas Rangers and settled towns in the West.

The first town west of Wichita Falls was Iowa Park, formerly known as Daggett Switch.  It had been more prosperous just a few years
before,  when it was founded in 1888.  The Texas Panhandle Company had organized an immigration train all the way from Iowa to Texas,
and a tent city had grown up there overnight.  There were promises of quick wealth from cattle ranching, and the railroad lines that went
through there.  By '91, Iowa Park was incorporated and growing rapidly. Then disaster struck when most of the town  burned to the
ground.  The townspeople persisted in their dream to make it a marketing area for wheat, cotton and cattle shipped by rail to other parts of
the country. They rebuilt. Then, the panic of 1893 turned their dreams into nightmares, and the town dwindled to about 800 people by 1900.

None of this mattered much to the Ragsdales.  They were just happy that a town was less than ten miles from Wichita Falls where they
could stop for the night and rest their oxen.  The next morning, they were pleased to see a Ft Worth and Denver City Railway train leave
just ahead of them.  

Just ten miles and another day's ride beyond Iowa Park was Waggoner, later to be named Electra.   Like Iowa Park, it was a railroad town
that interested farmers in bringing their goods to market and shipment to other parts of the country.  It was about the same size as Iowa
park and provided the Ragsdales another stop for rest and supplies.

They had to ford Long Creek just west of Waggoner but the creek was shallow and sandy, making it relatively easy to cross.  But crossing
any creek was risky and tricky. It was necessary to watch for swift water that could overturn the wagon, or  hide a deep hole that would
break an axle.  Cornelius always got out and walked or waded across the creek to check for such things before crossing.

Crossing at Doan's
The next fourteen miles brought them to Oklaunion, a few miles south of Vernon. Vernon was just a mile from a narrow point in the Red
River known as Doan's Crossing.  It was there that they would cross the river.  Many cattlemen had used this crossing for more than fifty
years to
move their cattle north to the markets in Kansas, and it had been a thriving community.  The old Chisholm Trail had gone through
that area.  Quanah Parker, the famous Comanche chief had crossed there many times with his people to hunt for buffalo.  But by 1900, the
railroad had bypassed the crossing and the area was somewhat abandoned.  However, the crossing was still there and it was still used by
people who crossed by wagon or horseback.  It was the best point for Cornelius and Viola to take their wagon across.

The land around the crossing was hilly and full of large bushes and fair-sized trees.  And although the river was at a narrow point
there, the river was more than enough for Cornelius as he gazed across its banks.  It was wide and deep.  He would not be able to
walk across this river.  He would not be able to swim across this river.  How did others do it?  It looked impossible.

The family stood by the wagon and stared at the river for a long time.  No one spoke.  Finally, Buddy said, "Where's the bridge?"  No one
answered.  Cornelius motioned for everyone to get back into the wagon.  After a quiet moment by the river, he crawled up onto the wagon
seat.  "We will have to build a raft," he said gloomily.  He took up the reins and turned the wagon toward a good place to camp near the
river.  It would be a long camp out before they would be able to cross.

That night after dinner, Cornelius told Viola, "I'm going to have to fashion a  raft to carry the wagon across, and that will take a  while.  I'll
have to find trees big enough to float the wagon, cut them,  and tie them to the wagon.  That's going to take some time, so we might as well
plan for making camp a good while.

"I figure I will swim the oxen and cows across, but the wagon will have to be floated across.  We can put the little ones and you in the
wagon and I will use the oxen to pull the wagon across once it has a floating device on it."  Viola looked worried.  "Won't that be
dangerous?  Couldn't the wagon turn over?"  Cornelius studied the ground for awhile.  "Yes, it could.  But I will do my best to make sure it
doesn't."  They were silent for a long while after that, thinking about the task ahead.

Viola broke the silence and she called him her name of endearment, "Well, Neil.  I know you will do it right and do it good.  I'll keep camp
going and give you plenty of time to cut the wood."  She stroked his hand and he kissed her lightly on the cheek and smiled.  They gazed
at the evening stars before turning in for the night.

The next day, they began exploring the area.  Cornelius surveyed the trees along the river bank and marked two of the largest he could
find for cutting and removal.  He also surveyed the riverbank, looking at the shoreline and trying to test for depth in the river.  He could
see the well-worn trail where people had entered the river and he tried to see across to the exit area a little downstream, but it was too
far across to see very well.  He checked for quicksand areas and strong currents.  The river was very sandy and seemed to be rather
shallow up to the central part of the bed.  He found places where he could walk closer to the deep part of the river and tested its depth
with a rock tied to a small rope.  It was definitely too deep to ford anywhere along the river.  It was not a swift river and that would help in
crossing.

The wagon itself was made of wood and would float to some extent but it would need to be buoyed to keep it high in the water. It appeared
to be about thirty yards that the wagon would have to be floated.   If he lashed a rather large log to each wheel, it might be enough to keep
the wagon high enough out of the water. The wheels wouldn't be able to turn but the wet sand would be slick enough for the oxen to pull
it into the water. Once they pulled the wagon to more shallow water, he could cut loose the logs from the wheels and the oxen could
continue to pull the wagon completely out of the water.    He would use the oxen on the opposite bank to pull the wagon across by rope
once he got them over there.  He would simply swim them across first.

Cornelius spent several days studying the entire project and then he began cutting the two trees in earnest. That took some time because
they were fair sized trees and all he had was an axe and a tree saw.  Viola helped man one end of the tree saw when he got to that point
but she wasn't very strong and had to rest frequently.  Besides, she was pretty sure she was pregnant again.  Once they were cut and
felled, h e used the oxen to pull the logs to a spot on the bank, near the water where he could begin to attach them to the wheels of the
wagon.   

It was early June then, and getting rather hot.  One encouraging sign was that the river was dropping its water level which would make it
easier to cross. He hitched the oxen to the wagon and moved it next to the two logs as close to the river bed as he dared.  

He spotted a large tree across the river that he thought he could tie one end of a rope to the tree and then secure the other end to the
wagon while he prepared the oxen for pulling the wagon.  It would take a lot of rope but he would be able to keep the wagon from floating
downstream if anything went wrong

Viola and the children kept the camp in good shape.  They milked the cows for fresh milk and grazed them.  They hunted for berries and
kept the camp clean.  They helped their father any way they could but they were all so small that they didn't have much strength for heavy
duties.

As the day approached for the launching, excitement grew in the camp.  The wagon was ready with a log lashed to each wheel.  He had the
oxen pull it as close to the deep water as he dared, then unhitched them.  He rounded up the cows and the oxen with his quirt and shooed
them into the water, where they began to swim across.  He grabbed hold of one of the oxen's tail and hung on as the ox pulled him
across.  In his spare hand, Cornelius held the ends of two ropes.  Buddy and Viola reeled the ropes out across the water as Cornelius was
pulled across.

Once across, Cornelius tied one rope to the large tree at the water's edge, then hobbled the cows and oxen. The second rope he tied to a
smaller tree nearby.  Viola had tied the other end of the rope to the wagon tongue.  Cornelius tested it for security from the other bank.   It
seemed strong and held.  It was then that he attached the rope to the oxen's harness, unhobbled them, and waved to Viola and the
children to get into the wagon.

Viola had been instructed to stay inside the wagon with the children and to stay calm.  The children and Viola were tied together so that if
the wagon tipped, Cornelius would pull them to safety with the second rope.  They got into the wagon and Viola waved back to Cornelius
that all was ready.

Cornelius turned the oxen and whistled them forward.  The slack in the rope tightened and the wagon on the other side slowly moved into
the water.  For a moment, it looked like the wagon might tip as its front wheels dipped into the water.  But then, the logs that were lashed
to the wheels caught the water and the wagon bobbed.  Cornelius carefully, moved the oxen forward until the wagon was fully in the
water. He moved the oxen on forward, and the wagon floated across to the shallow side.  Then, it was on the sandy part and being pulled
to the bank.

Cornelius quickly secured the rope to the large tree, hobbled the oxen and waded out into the water to the wagon. He untied the ropes on
each side with some effort since water was still flowing around the wagon, but he finally got the rope off and pushed the logs out into the
stream bed where they slowly floated away.  Then he returned to the oxen, unhobbled them and finished pulling the wagon out of the
stream bed onto dry land.

On the other side, they all squealed with delight and hopped out of the wagon.  Cornelius hugged Viola and she laughed with him.  Lillie
tumbled onto the ground and giggled with delight.  "I guess I can untie the children now," Viola said.

Cornelius pulled his little family together into a circle and said a prayer of thanks for their safety.  He looked at Viola and said happily, "We
are in Oklahoma territory!  Let's go find our new home!"

OOOOOOOklahoma Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plains!
Two more days of travel along the Red River shoreline on the Oklahoma side and they were in Greer County.  Cornelius filed his claim and
received the deed to 160 acres of land near a town that would be named Hollis.  At first they lived in a dugout since there was so little
wood in the area, and they needed something to live in.  Eventually, they built a two-room house and they lived in that for awhile.  Finally,
they added onto the front and back of the house to its final size.  

The Ragsdales donated land for the first school, church and cemetery in the area.  The children all went to school there through the
eighth grade.  Three more children were born:  Floyd in 1901, Ivy in 1905, and Grace in 1908.  In 1916, Chester "Buddy" Ragsdale was called
to serve in The Great War.  He served as bugler and drove an army ambulance.  He died in Germany in 1918 of an infected carbuncle on
his neck.  His mother died of influenza  that same year. Later, Buddy's body was returned to the Bitter Creek Cemetery where he was
buried by his mother. Much later, his father and two of Maude's infant children were buried there.  The Ragsdale children all grew up,
married and had large families.  The pictures below are of the family around 1910 in the original farm house, and again in 1940 with the
extended family.  Cornelius died in May of 1940.

The Ragsdale family was courageous in many ways.  They set out on their journey not knowing what lay ahead but they were determined to
find new land for a farm of their very own.  They were deeply religious Baptists and taught their family to be kind and loving to all people.  
They loved God, their family and their land.  They were true Americans in every sense of the word.        
What happens to Maude as the years progress? Find out in two other beguiling essays by
Martha Giles,
Maude's Youth and Maude's Wedding!
Happy hour in Dodsonville, a settlement by the Red River!
This adobe store at Doan's Crossing saw much activity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Maude's Journey, Part IV
by Martha Giles
Maude's Journey
Part I          Part II        Part III        Part IV      Youth       Wedding
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com