Touring Texoma: Vernon's Red River Valley Museum

Last summer, True West magazine listed the Red River Valley Museum as one of the top 10 western museums of 2012 in the country, and here's some of what you'll find inside.

Ponchie Deen/Museum Volunteer:  "That's Electra Waggoner Biggs there.  She's a sculptress." 

A Texoma icon and link to the days of big oil and sprawling ranches, Electra Waggoner Biggs was the granddaughter of W.T. Waggoner, whose father, Dan, moved the Waggoner Ranch where it is today, way back in the late 1870'S.

The town of Electra was actually named after W.T.'s daughter, Electra, and her niece, Electra Waggoner Biggs was named after her.

"Bob Hope, Harry Truman..."  

Waggoner Biggs would go on to become a nationally known sculptress whose most famous work is the Will Rogers Memorial in Fort Worth.

She had so many more, though, that can be found right here at the Red River Valley Museum.

"This black sculpture back here, I understand this is one of her most famous things, that people just like that."

In 1959, Waggoner Biggs was even immortalized when the president of Buick Motors named one of their models after her.

She'll forever be tied to this area she loved so much, as will others also displayed in this beautiful mural.

You'll understand why after any tour, and you'll also see for yourself just how far back history in the Wilbarger County area really goes.

Staley Heatly/President, Red River Valley Museum Board: "They are dated to be between 250- and 290- million years old."

"This was given to the museum back in 1963, really the start of the Red River Valley Museum."

"We also have in here, we have a fresh water shark tooth.  This was found in the Pease River."

"These are from Wilbarger County.  Look over here, you can see a mammoth jawbone with teeth still attached.  We have mastodon tusks."

"There are fossils here on display, and native artifacts found in the Pease River and Red River areas as well."

"The Clovis culture is considered to be the first culture to arrive in North America, crossing the Bering Straight, coming down and populating the entire Americas, and so Clovis points are believed to be about 10,000 B.C." 

The Red River Valley Museum covers everything from pre- dinosaurs and the first civilization in what would become Wilbarger County, to Vernon native, Roy Orbison's life, and beyond.

That includes Doan's Crossing, north of Vernon at the Red River.

More than 130- years ago, Jonathan Doan was convinced by Native Americans to move from his trading post near Fort Sill, down to Texas, because they weren't allowed to buy shot and powder on the reservation.

Then, soon after he arrived, his nephew, Corwin Doan, Corwin's wife and their daughter, 2- year old Bertha arrived as well from Ohio.

Bertha was the area's first white child.

This is KFDX footage from 1966 that shows her enjoying the Centennial Celebration of the cattle drive era's beginning, from right here at Doan's Crossing, where her father's friend, Quanah Parker would trade, and where 6- million head of cattle passed through on the Great Western Trail, headed to rails in Kansas. 

Sherry Yoakum/Director, Red River Valley Museum:  "They came in from the East.  Now, if you can imagine, every little child in there was told, you can bring one thing.  The youngest girl brought that ball over there with the little cat."

"I always ask children, what would you bring if you could bring one thing?"

Tony Yoakum/Museum Volunteer:  "Wide eyed amazement.  Wow!" 

Tony Yoakum's talking about the reaction he sees from kids touring what's probably the museum's best known attraction, the Bill Bond collection of big game animals gathered from around the world over 5- decades.

"This specific rhino and another was killing some villagers, wiping out some crops, and causing a lot of havoc.  They asked his hunting camp if they could do something about it."

"Mr. Bond had a misfire and was trying to reload, and in the panic of this, he was shooting a double rifle.  In the panic, he was trying to load this bullet in there backwards.  "And, he's a major game hunter."  "Right, but this thing was about 20- feet away."  "When he kills him, he falls 15- feet from his feet on a charge." 

From the Alaskan Brown Bear in 1952, to this Louisiana alligator in '77, to the Alaskan Polar Bear in '64, Bill Bond wanted people to be able to see for themselves the amazing wild kingdom, and preserve it for future generations to come.

"He took such a variety of animals, and it was on purpose.  He wasn't just out shooting something to be shooting something.  He wanted to preserve this for the world to see." 

"He killed 141 major game animals.  Every game animal in here is a male.  Every one is full grown, even though some of the little deer look like they're babies.  They're not.  They're full grown."

So, from a collection of animals you won't see anywhere, but maybe on television or in a book, to fossils of pre- dinosaurs that inhabited the Pease River area 250 million years ago, to artifacts of natives more than 10- thousand years ago, and Native American Indians 200- years ago, here in the same basic area Cynthia Ann Parker was re- captured on the Pease River in what's now Foard County, Wilbarger County's history is a fascinating one, and it's on display in the Red River Valley Museum.

Tony Yoakum says Lee Harvey Oswald lived north of Vernon for a while as a child.

He says when Barack O'Bama's mother was a child, she also lived in Vernon, and that Jack Teagarden was also from Vernon.  He was the famous jazz trombonist who appeared in movies, and even in cartoons.

A Jack Teagarden museum's expected to open in Vernon this summer.

More Stories

Don't Miss

Latest News

  • Texoma's Home Page

  • KFDX 3 Weather

  • KFDX 3 Sports


  • KFDX 3 Weather

  • KFDX 3 News

  • TexomasHomepage Mobile App