On a cold January night, a horse and buggy travelling the Oklahoma prairie was nearing the end of it's destination. Having left the town of Pawhuska in mid afternoon for the long trip to their home in Remington, the passengers were cold, tired, and anxious to end their journey. As the buggy stopped, Josephine watched as her husband Louis stepped out to open the gate at the railroad crossing, only a mile or so from their home. As Louis closed the gate, the horse team became spooked and began racing down the road towards home with Josephine struggling to hold on......
Josephine's husband, Louis Leonard Denoya, came from a prominent Osage family and was the founder of the town of Remington. The Denoya's, Louis and his father Frank, started the Denoya trading post on the new Osage Indian Reservation in 1872, shortly after the relocation from their traditional lands. Named for the Remington rifle, the town was founded in 1888 and the trading post was moved there in 1890. Before the "allotment", which divided the reservation lands equally amongst the Osage tribal members, the reservation belonged to the tribe as a whole and was administered by the tribal council. The prairie grass proved excellent forage for cattle and the land was leased for large cattle herds, which were fattened on the prairie grasses and ample water around Remington.
The old county road through Remington was once the primary route from the town of Fairfax to Burbank, passing directly through Remington. The town was bypassed by what is now state highway 18 during the oil boom of the 1920's, severely isolating what was already a town in serious decline. The old road is appropriately named Remington road, though few people remain who remember why.
Louis Denoya was one of the primary drivers for rail service being extended to the rail head at Remington. This allowed the cattle to be shipped by rail rather than being herded overland, as had been done in the past. The overland cattle trail drives were much romanticized, but were actually a very inefficient means of moving beef to market, as the cattle often lost up to 40 percent of their weight on the journey. Cattle were now herded to the tall grass prairie, fattened up, and shipped via cattle cars to eastern markets. These cattle and grazing rights made Louis a very wealthy man. Some shots of the old rail bed.
Remington was located on the Salt Creek valley approximately 10 miles north/northwest of current day Fairfax, Oklahoma. The area is still picturesque and was a good location for the town. Originally called Remington Junction, the Denoya trading post and general store was moved to the new town in 1890. A rail depot was built and as the town grew, a post office was established on January 18th, 1905, with Louis as it's first post master. Louis also built a department store and founded the Remington bank. The old records list the bank as Remington Denoya State Bank, capital $10,000, president L.L. Denoya, Vice President, A. Carlton; Cashier, Jno. Connely. I also found references to the First National Bank of Remington (O.T.), so it looks to have been converted to a national charter. I could find no record of when it closed. Of the town itself, only some rubble and a bit of paved road remain.
Louis also had a large ranch, call the Bar X. A description of the ranch from 1906, says it was built in 1902 at a cost of $59,000, roughly 1.5 million in 2011 dollars. It had 18 large rooms, elegantly furnished, including a separate billiard room, and was described as one of the finest dwellings in the western states. It included a double deck veranda around the outside, and had three pianos, including two Steinways. A Regina Music Cabinet is also mentioned and the villa was described as furnished with the finest mahogany and oak furniture. Each of his four children had their own room with their names printed on the doors and were privately tutored by a Miss Mable Herriman from Pawnee. He had also built an 18,000 bushel capacity grain elevator and grist mill at the town, as well as immense storage bins for grain. There was also mention of large orchards near the villa. At it's peak, the Bar X had almost 7,000 head of cattle. I'm fairly confident this was the location of the villa. This distance is about right and there is evidence a substantial dwelling once stood here, and it was close to the old railroad bed. Little remains other than the somewhat ornate cellar, the old well, and some sidewalk.
Interestingly enough, there used to be an old bar in my little town of Ralston that had been there since the 1920's called the Bar X, which I used to frequent in my youth. The bar had an awesome snooker table and served great red beer, but I digress......guess I now know where they got the name. I'm told the home was destroyed by fire, but I haven't been able to verify when or if that's true. I would love to find some photographs of it, but have thus far been unsuccessful.
1905 seems to have been about the peak year for Remington, as the Osage allotment took place in June of 1906, essentially ending the large scale grazing rights on the Osage reservation. Louis, who was Osage, would have received his allotment, but would had to have purchased or leased land to continue his large herds. I suspect this was the primary reason for the towns rapid decline.
Back to the original story. I found several accounts of the tragedy that befell the family in January of 1905. Here are two accounts, one basically straight forward with the facts, the second a bit "embellished". Journalist haven't changed much in the last 100 years or so.
Osage Journal, 28 Jan 1905 Death Came Suddenly. Mrs. Josephine DeNoya The Victim Of a Horrible Accident. Early Sunday morning the community was horified [sic] by the report that Josephine DeNoya, wife of L. L. DeNoya had met with a violent death at her country home near Remington Saturday evening. Mr. DeNoya and his wife had left here at 2 o'clock the afternoon before. she had been thrown from the buggy and her body dragged for more than a mile and horribly mangled. Life was extinct before friends reached her. According to the best information attainable Mr. and Mrs. DeNoya had reached the railroad crossing about one mile from home. Here Mr. DeNoya got out of the buggy to open and close the gate, when the team took fright and ran away. The wife was thrown forward against the dash board, which gave way letting her fall forward on the double trees and tongue. One foot caught in the circle where it held until the team stopped. Mr. DeNoya made all haste to overtake the team but could not do so. The accident took place some time between 7 and 8 o'clock Saturday night. The remains were brought to Pawhuska. The funeral services were held at 4 o'clock Monday afternoon. The interment took place at the city cemetery. Mrs. DeNoya was thirty years, five months and twenty-seven days old. Besides leaving her husband she leaves four children a mother, two brothers and two sisters. Mrs. DeNoya was in the best of health and spirits when in town Saturday afternoon. They were expecting to start for a trip to the Republic of Mexico, next day. All preparations had been made and they left here for their country home at Remington from where they intended to take the train.
Kaw City Star, 1905 Mrs. Louis De Noya, wife of Louis De Noya, one of the wealthiest cattle men in the Osage country, was killed in a runaway at Remington. Mr. And Mrs. De Noya had been to Pawhuska and were in about a mile of home, where they had to pass through a gate. Mr. De Noya was shutting the gate when the team became frightened and ran toward the house. On the way they crossed a ditch and Mrs. De Noya was thrown out over the dash board. Her foor caught in the circle of the buggy tongue and she was dragged about half a mile over the frozen ground. She was horribly mangled and her clothes were literally torn from her body. Mr. De Noya hurried to her release. She recognized him, but was unable to speak, only to say, “Oh! Pappa,” and died in a few minutes. The funeral was preached and interment was made at Pawhuska. Mr. and Mrs. De Noya have a host of friends in this country. There home is at Remington and it is one of the finest in Oklahoma.-
As horrific as the incident was, it was far from the end for Louis and his family. It appears Louis was considered somewhat of a womanizer, and he had been married multiple times before. First, in 1880 to Susan Ervin, followed by Mary Rivard in 1883 and Josephine Revard, his third wife, in 1890. Though Josephine was described as a beautiful and "handsome" woman, many people suspected him of an affair. Suspicion was almost immediately raised that the tragedy was not an accident, but murder. Louis, born on April 21st of 1861, was 13 years her senior, which was not uncommon for the era. This suspicion and public condemnation resulted in an official investigation.
Ponca City News, March 9th, 1905 Body of Mrs. DeNoya Exhumed. -- The remains of Mrs. Josephine DeNoya were exhumed Wednesday morning under the direction of County Attorney Conley and Dr. E. H. Bagby, coroner, and thoroughly examined with a view of thoroughly setting at rest any theories as to the exact injuries leading to her death. The body was in an excellent condition and it is understood that the autopsy revealed no new features. The examination was public and made in the presence of a number of our citizens. Dr. G. H. Phill,s (sic) of Pawnee was also present at the request of the officers conducting the examination, and took a detailed description of all marks of violence to be found about the person of the deceased. The body was then re-interred and the officers left. It was their intention when they left here to summon a jury over at Ralston and examine some witnesses relative to the circumstances following the lady's death. As yet nothing has been heard from Ralston about the matter.
Ha! My little town again! (Not so little back then). I found the final piece of the story in a book titled "Tragedies of the Osage Hills" by Authur Lamb, where it said that Louis was actually arrested and jailed for several days during the hearing, but due to lack of any evidence to the contrary, was acquited of any wrong doing and released. As people do, they divided into two camps, those who thought that a man was forced to endure additional suffering after the loss of his wife, and those who thought he got away with murder.
Regardless, it appears things began to go downhill from here for both Louis and Remington, and by March of 1912 the post office had closed. By the time the oil boom started near Burbank in 1920, Remington was little more than a railway siding. Though there was some drilling in the area around Remington, the major strikes were north and east. By the early 1930s, it wasn't even listed on the maps anymore. Louis never saw the final days of Remington, as he had passed away on November 26th, 1916.
The story continues a bit after his death. With the oil boom and his allotment, Louis Denoya's estate was entitled to oil royalties. I came across a legal document filed in 1922 with the U.S. Department of the Interior stemming from a suit filed by his son, B.A. Denoya in 1918, seeking control of his fathers estate. I'm not sure if Louis actually remarried or not, but he had a son named Robert Louis LeSarge to whom he left everything in his will to be administered by a trustee. Robert was listed as residing in California, and Louis may have travelled there, which would explain why I could find no record of his death or burial locally. Indications are that he'd become enstranged from his family, as they were not mentioned in his will. B.A. claimed that Robert was not entitled to the estate as he was not an original Osage allottee. The Department of the Interior ruled that Robert Louis LeSarge was in fact a member of the Osage tribe by birth, even though not an original allottee, and the will stood.
The trains continued their journeys for another 60 years or so, rushing past the forgotten remains and memories of Remington. When I originally found the place, I thought it was going to be just another old rock pile, but it's amazing what some old bits of stone and concrete can tell you, if you just listen.
Josephine is buried in the Pawhuska cemetery, which dates back to the early Osage reservation days of the 1870s. Memorial Day is coming up, so I think I'll make the trip and place some flowers.
Re: Tragedy at Remington <Reply # 7 on 5/9/2012 3:58 PM >
You once again have brought life to a long gone place. You really could write a book. Thanks for your great pictures and the history to go with it. The probability of someone watching you is directly proportional to the stupidity of your actions.
Maggots, Michael. You're eating maggots. How do they taste?
Re: Tragedy at Remington <Reply # 11 on 5/10/2012 3:49 PM >
Most excellent. The pictures alone are fantastic, but the creatively written story and careful research really makes this a brilliant post. I have roots in Oklahoma and its land and history have always intrigued me. Very much looking forward to your next post.
Re: Tragedy at Remington <Reply # 12 on 5/11/2012 2:32 AM >
Thanks for the comments! I first explored Remington almost a year ago and shelved it. Bits and pieces kept surfacing over time until I think I finally found all I was going to find. The Denoya family still exists in the area. I've often wondered if they have some old family photographs of the villa and town.
I have seriously been considering compiling some of this stuff into something printable. I haven't quite figured out yet how I want to narrow it down yet, though I'm leaning towards the ghost towns for Osage county. Regardless, I still have many places to visit and research to do. I need to win the lotto, LOL.