Saturday, December 20, 2014

Taft Lake at dusk

Driving home from Muskogee, for the second time in the past two weeks, I drove west on HWY 16 past Taft Lake. Two weeks ago, it was just past sunset--a sun that was unseen for the duration of the drizzly dismal dank dark day. I drove around the lake because it seemed to call to me, and I was hypnotized my the mysterious aura around the shoreline, but took no pictures.

But this day, about the same time, I was prepared. The skies were gray as they have been for so long. Muskogee had drizzle, and it seemed I would have a replay. I took a few pictures, but the mystique was just not there. So I cheated a little and changed a setting on my camera to take B/W pics.

I stopped near what I call the Hangman's poll,and got out of my truck to walk for a while. I do not know the history of this lake, and spent about an hour this evening trying to find something of particular interest. Nothing. Except that in 2005, a record 35 lb 15 oz channel catfish was caught by a Muskogee man.

This ladder over a fence led to the old earthen dam for this lake, the largest of three man-made lakes in the vicinity.

When was this lake built, and why? Perhaps it was a water supply to nearby Taft, an old mostly black community, with a population of 250. Taft once had a couple of businesses in it's short downtown(?) area, but those old buildings are mere shells of what they once were. Most are burned or torn down, and the remaining are vacant. 

On the southern end of the lake, the well maintained road leads by what was once a small park area.

Old forgotten picnic tables are covered by graffiti and unruly weeds, but Winter has beat the weeds down for the tables and they'll  live another season.

Taft is home to the Jess Dunn Correctional Facility, a minimum security prison. I did not take the picture below--it came from Google.
From a PDF published at, I found this information on the prison. 

"The Jess Dunn institution was originally constructed in 1930 and used as a mental hospital for black patients only. Through the years, the institution has been used as a tuberculosis sanitarium, a juvenile girl’s facility, and a juvenile co-ed home. In April 1980, the facility was transferred from the Department of Human Services to the Oklahoma Department of Corrections (ODOC). Jess Dunn Correctional Center is a minimum security facility located in Taft, Oklahoma." 
"Jess Dunn served as warden of the Oklahoma State Penitentiary from 1938 to 1941. Dunn was killed in a shootout that resulted from an offender escape attempt on August 10, 1941. Also killed was a sheriff’s jailer (a former OSP officer) and 3 of the 4 offenders involved in the escape attempt. The remaining offender was later executed for Jess Dunn’s murder."

I have since found out that there are two geocaches at Taft Lake--both practically where I was standing taking pictures. There are also no less than 18 geocaches along a 10 mile stretch of old Taft Road. Another blogpost....

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