Thursday, December 18, 2008

Lehigh, Oklahoma, A Ghost Town with Potential


Here’s something for the artifact hunters and the cache hunters too. This area has the potential of producing all kinds of finds if you can get past the trash that will most likely be around the area.

Lehigh, Oklahoma was established in 1880 as a coal camp and grew into a town from there. They conducted both strip mining and shaft mining in the area, producing a whopping 1200 tons of coal per day. In its hay day Lehigh had a population of about 2000 people and the coal mine had a payroll of more than $100,000 per month. There were several businesses in the town including an ice plant, three large hotels, cotton gins, a flourmill and a three story Opera House (built by the Masons for you KGC guys out there). Because of the Opera House and the quality of the programs there, Lehigh, OK was known as the “cultural center of Indian Territory".
The masons reserved the third floor of this building for themselves and held their meetings there.

The town folk consisted of a mixing pot of cultures including Italians, American Indians, Chinese, frogs and Germans, just to mention a few. If you find any carvings in the area they could be from any one of these groups and would be a very good learning experience on interpreting symbols.

The town was divided somewhat by income. The more prosperous lived in West Lehigh in an area known as “Quality Hill”. The area along the railroad tracks was known as “Wildcat Row”, especially on the two days a month the miners were paid.

Besides mining, Lehigh, OK acted as a marketing center for farm goods from the area such as wheat and cotton. In one year alone five thousand bales of cotton and fifty thousand bushels of wheat went threw the town.

Lehigh, OK was designated as the County Seat of Coal County but the seat was later moved to Coalgate, OK.

There are very few buildings still standing in the town now, the opera house, along with some other buildings burned downed and the railroad abandoned the line through the town in 1956. There are a few brick buildings still standing and even a few residents left in the town, most of which live in the few houses still standing on Wildcat Row near the old railroad tracks. All of the houses on “Quality Hill” are gone. I would think that area of housing would be a great place to run a detector and if you are into bottle hunting, the privies from those homes would probably be a bonanza of artifacts and bottles.

Because there was more than $100,000 a month being paid out to the miners I would bet there are some small, and maybe some not so small caches of money around the town, especially on Quality Hill. A few gold coins can go a long ways at today’s prices.

Lehigh, OK is located in Coal County, Oklahoma in Sections 13 and 14, approximately five miles south of Coalgate, OK.

Good Luck!

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