The Captains Castle in Cameron, Oklahoma
There is a place in Southeast Oklahoma that conjures tales of medieval knights, wholesome princesses, and glorious adventures. It is a place rich with history, and is a place nearly forgotten in the echoes of time.
Situated on the Southwest slope of Cameron Mountain, near Poteau, Oklahoma, Captains Castle sits like a misplaced Arthurian legend. Also known as Reynolds Castle, the massive stone structure is truly a unique architectural wonder.
The castle was built by Captain J. E. Reynolds for his wife Felicity in 1890. Constructed of native stone quarried from a nearby hillside, the Captains Castle was modeled after the medieval castles of ancient Europe. According to deeds left behind by Felicity, the castle originally sat on 240 acres. The walls are two feet thick, and both the inner and outer layers of rock are insulated with gravel and sand. Despite the cold stone walls, the castle remained comfortably warm. The Captain had installed several coal-burning fireplaces throughout the dwelling. From the stone turrets accentuating the roof-line to the two octagon-shaped towers, this citadel home could easily hold off a horde of ruthless barbarians.
While the Captains Castle is indeed, particularly fascinating, the real story lies behind the man who created it.
Castles in America come in many different types, and I've included them all. Inns set inside Castles abound America. Where better to lay your head after a day of battling dragons (or just your boss)? And why settle for just a day at the park, when you can visit a park that has a Castle? Amusement parks as well have chosen the medieval theme. Add eateries, casinos, shoppes, etc. This book contains vast amount of medieval finds along with many photos.
In 1861, Oklahoma (Indian Territory) was the recent home of the transported Five Civilized Tribes (Cherokee, Creek, Choctaw, Chickasaw, Seminole). When the Civil War broke outboth Union and Confederate state forces moved in and began fighting, both in the Indian Territory and across the borders of neighbouring states (mainly Kansas, but also Texas and Arkansas). Indians were recruited by both sides, and took the opportunity to pursue traditional hostilities which were supported by a variety of regular troops, guerrilla bands and outlaws. this book examines the warring sides in this fascinating and complex conflict.
The Captain who Couldn't let go
James Reynolds was born on July 17, 1837. Not much is known about his early history, but it can be said that he was a passionate and domineering young man. Reynolds was considered as "The Original Male Chauvinist", as he had little respect for women and even less respect for women's work.
That all changed with the onset of Civil War.
Reynolds was around 25 when he joined the Civil War. Having been raised in a southern family, he quickly joined sides with the Confederates. He rose through the ranks of Company K, 30th Mississippi Infantry ("Dixie Boys" of Carroll County). Eventually, through hard work and dedication, he became its captain shortly before the war ended.
During the war, he was wounded multiple times at the Battle of New Hope during the bloody Atlanta Campaign. Once so seriously that he would have died had it not been for the two daughters of his commanding officer. After the battle, they tenderly nursed him back to health.
His experiences in the Civil War left him a changed man. Chivalry replaced chauvinism. He now showed women the utmost courtesy, a trait that would remain with him for the rest of his life. His reverence for the two sisters that saved his life was profound. Towards the end of his life, he commissioned a large marble statue to be made commemorating the incident and had it placed above his future burial plot.
When the War ended, Captain Reynolds did not surrender, but instead drifted off to Mexico. During his short time there, he was highly influenced by the high grandeur of the wealthy and elite. When he finally left Mexico a few years later, he left determined to build himself a castle like the ones he had seen in Mexico.
He settled in Indian Territory with his new wife Felicity, establishing his family just outside of Fort Smith where the community of Arkhoma exists today. Reynolds prospered in the Indian Territory and became a successful merchant and rancher. He was heavily involved in the development of coalmines in the region.
The Reynolds family, which grew to include a number of children, lived in their Arkhoma home for more than twenty years until the Frisco Railroad was built southwest from Fort Smith to Paris, Texas, in 1886. Two years later a post office was established in the new railroad town of Cameron. In 1890, Felicity secured title to a parcel of land there. Construction of Captains Castle began when Reynolds was 53 years old. Within a few short years, a great medieval castle rose from the side of Cameron Mountain.
Legend has it that there was another castle built nearby. There was an intense feud between the two families, resulting in the complete destruction of one of the castles. Reynolds Castle survives to this day, while only broken ruins of the other still exists.
Despite the many years that had passed since the Civil War ended, Captain Reynolds remained a true confederate. He dedicated one room to preserving mementos of the Civil War, including many flag-draped portraits of Southern generals. No matter how hard he tried, he could not leave the southern ideals behind.
In the later months of 1904, Reynolds joined with an Indian-led attempt to secure separate statehood for Indian Territory. Reynolds became a delegate to the Sequoyah Convention that convened on August 21, 1905. He was 68 years old, but still displayed that youthful passion of his younger years. After many days of intense debate, the proposal was ultimately shot down. The state that would have been named Sequoyah was quietly integrated into the state of Oklahoma.
The Captain and Mrs. Reynolds lived in the castle at Cameron until around 1911. He was around 74 years old when he became heavily involved in the development of the modern community of Arkhoma. They built a new home there at about that time, and that’s where he lived out the rest of his life.
Late in life he wrote that he was "still an unreconstructed Confederate," explaining to a niece that he "surrendered (his) individuality" when southern soldiers stacked their arms and surrendered. In an interesting footnote to his life, the captain contacted another former Confederate officer, Virginia's "Gray Ghost" John Mosby, at the outbreak of World War I and offered to join him in forming a unit of former Confederates to fight in Europe. He was 77 when the first world war broke out in 1914.
He died on June
16, 1920. He was 82 years old.
Reynolds and his wife Felicity, a descendant of the famed Choctaw leader Greenwood LeFlore, died in 1920. He passed away on June 16, just a month away from his 83rd birthday. She died a short time later. They are both buried in Fort Smith's historic Oak Cemetery. Their graves are marked by the statue of two young women helping a wounded Confederate officer from a battlefield. It was Reynolds' final tribute to the memory of the two young Georgia girls who helped him at New Hope Church more than fifty years before.
Although the Captain's Castle is a private residence, it can be seen from Castle Street in Cameron. One of the few castles ever built in the South, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.
Most of the historical information the couple has collected about their one-of-a-kind home was derived from a 1954 article in an Oklahoma Historical Society publication.
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