ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Horse Thief Spring Historic Site, Oklahoma
ExploreSouthernHistory.com - Horse Thief Spring Historic Site, Oklahoma
Outlaws Exhibit
An display at Horse Thief
Spring tells the story of the
Old West outlaws that once
roamed the area.
Horse Thief Spring
Legend holds that outlaws
once frequented this small
spring during the days of the
"Hanging Judge."
The Ouachita Mountains
The mountains around Horse
Thief Spring once served as
hideouts for outlaw bands.
Ouachita National Forest - Horse Thief Spring Historic Site
Horse Thief Spring
Now surrounded by a stone enclosure, Horse Thief
Spring is located in the Ouachita National Forest
along the Oklahoma section of the Talimena Drive.
Outlaws in Eastern Oklahoma
During the years following the Civil War, the
Indian Nations of present-day Oklahoma
were overrun by vicious and sometimes
murderous outlaw gangs.

Many of these individuals believed they were
beyond the reach of the law here. Others had
learned the mountains while riding with
guerilla bands during the Civil War. They
terrorized the peaceful inhabitants of the
region and lived by stealing and robbing.

This was the real "Wild West" and events in
the area provided the basis for such books
and movies as
True Grit, Rooster Cogburn
Hang 'Em High.

U.S. District Judge Isaac C. Parker of Fort
Smith, assisted by deputy U.S. marshals and
Native American Lighthorse Police finally
brought law and order to the frontier, but not
without great cost. Although Parker would
hang more men than any federal judge in
U.S. history, he also lost dozens of deputy
marshals of all races in the line of duty.

As the long arm of the law began to reach
into the region, however, the outlaws pushed
deeper into the mountains in search of
hideouts and places of security. Numerous
legends of their presence linger on in the
Ouachita Mountains of eastern Oklahoma.

One such legend surrounds Horse Thief
Spring. Located just off the Oklahoma
section of the Talimena Scenic Drive in the
Ouachita National Forest, the spring was
supposedly used as a water source by
outlaws who preyed on travelers using the
Fort Smith to Fort Towson Road.

Often little more than a trickle of water
coming from the mountainside, Horse Thief
Spring is now surrounded by stone
enclosure constructed during the Great
A nearby exhibit provides additional
information for visitors on the outlaws that
once frequented the area and the efforts by
Judge Parker and others to bring them to

The entire Ouachita region is rich in the
history of this era, with tales of outlaws
including the Daltons, Jesse James, Belle
Starr and others.

Horse Thief Spring is also the site of picnic
area and is located along a beautiful section
of the
Talimena Scenic Drive.
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Copyright 2011 by Dale Cox
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