MuskogeePhoenix.com, Muskogee, OK

Local News

January 17, 2009

Standing Rock surrounded by myths and legends

One of the most curious and notable landmarks in the Three Forks region was the Standing Rock located in the center of the Canadian River near Eufaula. This enormous sandstone rock rose out of the center of the riverbed which is the boundary between the Cherokee and Choctaw Nations.

For centuries, the rock was used as a way marker for Native Americans, explorers, immigrants and surveyors in Indian Territory. The Standing Rock became one of the cornerstone markers of the surveyed boundary line of the Cherokee Nation.

How this huge boulder came to stand in the middle of the river is a matter of conjecture, for its existence predates any written history. It was noted in the journals of early explorers who plied the waters of the Canadian River. The most plausible explanation is that at one time it was actually a part of the bank of the river. A flood may have changed the river’s channel and the rushing waters carved away the softer soil of the bank, leaving the rock standing in the middle of the river’s new channel.

Whatever its history, the Standing Rock developed an aura of mystery. Legends grew up around it, and each story grew larger with the telling over the years.

The rock was at least 20 feet tall and its sides were worn smooth by the centuries of water passing over it. The smooth walls of the Standing Rock would have been impossible to climb, and the water eddied and swirled around the base of the rock making it difficult to reach by boat. Yet old-timers said that a direction marker shaped like a hatchet had been carved at the top of the rock with its handle pointing toward the rugged hills of the Cherokee Nation’s Canadian District.

According to a story printed in an 1899 edition of Twin Territories magazine, the mystery of the carved hatchet had to do with buried treasure. The story goes that a rancher had driven a herd of cattle to market in Kansas. On his return trip home, well-paid in silver coin for his cattle, he feared he was about to be robbed.

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