Four Ghost Towns Under Lake Texoma

Lake Texoma is only a couple feet below normal water levels after the hot, dry summer of 2012. But in 2011 the water levels were much lower, and some American history became exposed after many, many years. Under normal conditions there are 550 miles of shoreline on Lake Texoma, with the Red River arm (45 miles long) in Texas and the Washita arm (30 miles long) in Oklahoma, all of which covers 93,080 acres impounded by Denison Dam.

In 1944 when Lake Texoma began filling up, it changed the landscape considerably, both in Oklahoma and in Texas. It forced relocation of railroads, highways, utilities, and cemeteries. A few towns, however, gave up their identities forever as lake waters submerged their boundaries and wiped them off the map. Preston, Texas, also known as Preston Bend was a prominent town located on the Red River in North Texas, ideally located and used as the Red River crossing of the Butterfield Stage Lines and the Shawnee cattle trail.

The little town prospered in the 1800s due to its strategic location for military and trade roads. Like so many other towns around the country, Preston suffered economically when the Missouri, Kansas & Texas railroad passed by to the east of town, cutting off business from travelers and cattle drives. The former town site is near Pottsboro. Hagerman, Texas was located on a spur off FM 1417 about eight miles NW of Sherman. Originally called Steedman after S. D. Steedman, a respected county judge, it swelled in population from the 1870s, and then it changed names when the railroad came through in 1909.

James Hagerman was a railroad attorney at that time. Hagerman’s population was reported as 150 in the 1930s and 1940s until it became submerged in 1944, but Hagerman still showed up on a 1970 county highway map. Cedar Mills, Texas was located twenty-four miles NW of Sherman, and it, too, saw settlers arrive in the 1870s. Grain and lumber mills were built in the thick groves of cedar trees along the Red River, inspiring the name of the town and attracting commerce from farmers and lumbermen.

A hotel and racetrack were built to accommodate all the local visitors when, by 1884 the population grew to 500. Sadly, the railroad bypassed the thriving town of Cedar Mills as well, and there were only 50 residents reported in the 1930s, a few years before the whole place was flooded by Lake Texoma. Drought brought many grave stones out of the water and into the open in the summer of 2011 when lakes all over the state of Texas had water levels drop to unprecedented lows.

Woodville, Okalahoma was named after Judge L. Lipscomb Wood, a prominent Chickasaw citizen at the time and a fitting tribute to what some have called the first town in Indian Territory. It was reported to have had 360 residents in 1944 when it sank into an underwater ghost town.

Last summer a former Woodville resident is reported as sharing,

“Bonnie and Clyde used to come to old Woodville to the chicken fights and they camped right over here in this area what’s known as Washita Point. One time for about three weeks they stayed in that area but then they cleared on out without causing any kind of a problem here.”