The Sharp family owns the Oklahoma ranch on which Cold Springs and Autograph Rock are located and where there are fine Trail remnants still to this day.
The Sharp's are committed to historic preservation and are commended for allowing visitors onto their property to view some of the rich heritage of the area. This family has won several awards for there effort in preservation.
Cold Springs Creek is an area of live water located in the panhandle of Oklahoma. This made it an important stopping place for anyone passing through the area, including travelers on the Cimarron Route of the Santa Fe Trail. The main wagon traffic going to and from Santa Fe followed this route after William Becknell and others discovered it was suitable for wagons in 1822 and after. Because of the location of live water at Middle Spring, Upper Springs, Cold Springs, and Cedar Springs, this route became possible, establishing an international link between the United States and Mexico. It was commonly known as the road to Santa Fe until the Mountain Route was opened in the 1840s, when this part of the Trail was called the Cimarron Route.
Cold Springs Creek is a tributary to the Cimarron River. The main asset of this drainage on the open prairie is that live surface water can be found year-round. This has always been important to human life in a semi-arid plains environment. The presence of Indians around the springs is evidenced by projectile points dating back several thousand years which have been found in the area. These springs flow from the Dakota aquifer with the protection of small sandstone bluffs. The amount and quality of the water at Cold Springs influenced the location and development of the international road through here. There is archaeological evidence that the Santa Fe Trail followed, more or less, older Indian trails from one reliable water source to another.
A German physician, Frederick A. Wislizenus, traveled the Trail in 1846, and his journal, including a map showing the location of Cold Springs, was published by the U.S. government stopped their ox-pulled covered wagon in 1848. He described Cold Springs as and camped at Cold Springs. Traveling the "best water since the Arkansas on, they settled in Lincoln County, River. Beyond Cold Springs the scenery is beautiful where mountains and prairie meet." Wislizenus apparently expressed a common opinion. The area around Cold Springs was a well known campsite where travelers could rest, care for lame animals, mend broken wagons, and prepare for further travel. Over the years it became a novelty to some of those who could write to chisel their names in the nearby sandstone bluffs.
These inscriptions came from a variety of people, including soldiers, teamsters, merchants, gold seekers, and adventures trying to regain their health in an arid land. The oldest dated name found so far is "T. Potts 1806" The most popular name is F. B. Delgado. He was one of the principal owners of a mule and ox train that freighted on the Trail, and he left his signature many times. The Oklahoma Historical Society and the Oklahoma Science and Arts Foundation, in 1960, conducted a study of the autographs on the area rocks and compiled 323 names. Allowing for the advantage of being able to explore at our leisure, we have found their investigation incomplete. The majority of the names are at two locations. Autograph Rock and Signature Rock, located on Cold Spring Creek about a mile apart. There are also numerous signatures scattered around the springs, over a two mile area, and the exact number is unknown.
Looking at the inscriptions and wagon ruts today, one can only stop and wonder what happened to all those who passed by. The existing condition of the Trail ruts varies from well defined to nonexistent. The grassed over depressions, four across, leave a lasting impression of all that took place and helps spur the imagination.
Autograph Rock is now part of the Santa Fe National Historic Trail. Although it is located on private property, visitors may view the carved names and immediate area at certain times. For permission and arrangements to visit the site, contact the Boise City Chamber of Commerce, Boise City, OK 73933.
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