First came the railroad, and then the land run. The town of Purcell was founded by the railroad and the town of Lexington was founded during the land run. Purcell, in Indian Territory, was dry. Lexington, in Oklahoma Territory, was wet. That created a quandary for saloon owners in Lexington since Purcell was a lot bigger and was where the north-south train station was built. At one point in time, there were some twenty-three distilleries in Lexington. All that whiskey and all those customers were a riverbed apart.
Some enterprising saloon owners in Lexington decided the mile walk between the train station in Purcell and their establishments in Lexington was a bit too much - especially the return trip.
The boundary between the two territories was the middle of the water in the South Canadian River. The saloon owners knew that they could build right up to the edge of the water and still be in Oklahoma Territory.
Thus was born the Sand Bar Saloon and Sand Bar Town. D.W. Sweden saw the opportunity, found a gambler and a madam, and was soon in business with the Heaven's Gate Saloon. The outlaws, lawmen and oddball characters that frequented his saloon were a match for D.W.'s moonshine made with his own special recipe. Civilization would never be quite the same in the wild and woolly late 1880s and early 1890s in the Twin Territories.
A fourth-generation Oklahoman, Scott Weeden's great-grandfather moved into Indian Territory in 1886 with his family. His grandfather recalled riding up what would become Depot Hill in 1886 a year before the first north-south railroad was built through Indian Territory and the town of Purcell was founded. Purcell later became the county seat of McClain County after statehood in 1907. He remembers watching many Indian Territory Rodeos on the Fourth of July from the top of Red Hill, which prominently overlooks the South Canadian River towards Lexington. Scott is a journalist, poet and novelist with an abiding interest in Western history.