The West was won not only by brave cattle drivers and fearless pioneers. It was
also won (or lost - depending on how you view it) by the simple act of commerce.
Before the railroads cut swaths through the landscape to bring goods to
settlers, steamboats on the Red River supplied everything from coffee to
ammunition. And one of the oldest of steamboats - a 140 foot long side wheeler -
is now a notable wreck in the Red River.

Located in the middle of the stream a few miles down from Ft. Towson, the wreck
was first discovered by local landowners in 1991, after flooding exposed it. But it
was only in 1999 when someone decided to notify the Oklahoma Historical
Society. The OHS realized right away what a significant find this was. Not only is
the wreck the first recorded Oklahoma shipwreck, it is also the earliest known
wreck in western rivers. Soon, OHS, along with the Texas A&M Nautical
Archeology Department, conducted an extensive survey on the site. According
to Fort Towson records, the ship, built in the 1830s,  probably sunk in the 1840s.
The researchers have learned that the ship was named Heroine, and its mission
was to bring supplies to Fort Towson. It had also stopped at nearby Jonesboro,
TX befoe it hit a tree stump obscured in the river and sank. No one died in the
wreck, and much of the cargo was removed before the ship hit the sandy bottom.

The Red River Wreck is a well-known archeological site and is protected as
such. Since all land surrounding the wreck is private, you can't readily access it
unless by boat - and then, as we all know, the river is still treacherous.
Therefore, it's best just to live vicariously through the photographs of others,
found on these websites:
Recreated Shipwreck Model
Oklahoma Historical Society Information on the Wreck
Red River Project
Now why's this river called Red?
Wreck on the Red
The ship was bringing supplies to Doaksville and Fort
Towson. Today, Doaksville and the fort are archeological
sites themselves.
Remains of the paddle wheel, courtesy of the nautical archeology department of
Texas A&M. Visit a thorough treatment of their explorations
here.
The Heroine docked at Jonesboro, TX, before embarking
on its  doomed journey to Fort Towson. Jonesboro does
not exist anymore, having been swept away in a flood in
the 1840s. Above is the grave to Jane Chandler Gill, one
of the only remnants of the once bustling river city.
Found this possible outline of a boat wreck between
Hugo, Oklahoma and Paris, Texas on the Red River
Questions or comments? E-mail me:
robin@redriverhistorian.com