A forgotten crossroads of the Old West: These two markers and some wagon ruts are all that’s left

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LEEDEY, OKLAHOMA -- How can you have a crossroads without a road?

The countryside north of Leedey seems kind of quiet now.

To see the heavy traffic here you have to go back in time.

Historian Art Peters says, "In those days this was the highway. This was where the traffic flowed. This was where the action was."

During the California Gold Rush from the 1850's up to the Civil War, settlers and fortune seekers came to prefer a trail that started in Fort Smith and led them straight through Oklahoma.

Historian Art Peters can still find wagon ruts from what was known as The California Trail.

"It was just as busy as the Oregon Trail and the Santa Fe Trail," says Peters.

In 1874 a former Confederate officer led a big herd of cattle from south Texas all the way to Ogallalla, Nebraska.

Capt. John T. Lytle's route through here became known as the Great Western Cattle Trail.

Lytle's great-great-grand daughter Debbie Smith lives in Bethany now.

"He was a man of vision, passion, resiliency, and determination," she says.

The biggest volumes of traffic missed each other by twenty years, but people traveling west on the California Trail and cowboys traveling north on the Great Western would have met right about where historians placed these markers recently.

John Udell Barton has been putting Great Western posts at every township in Texas and Oklahoma for years.

"6 to 8 million head of cattle and a million head of horses came up the Great Western Trail," he says.

Along to help on this warm, May afternoon were several juvenile offenders from Oklahoma including Vincent Mink.

He appreciated the fresh air more than the history.

"I usually don't get outside much," he stated.

But when you think about the young men his age who drove millions of cattle north to Kansas and Nebraska, and more of them who risked it all to get to gold in California, the need for adventure, for a new life, for fresh air, is what drove them too.

They crossed paths on the way to America.

The new historical markers now stand next to an older one along OK Highway 34 two miles north of Leedey.

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