September 19, 2006 at 3:21 PM CDT - Updated July 26 at 5:05 PM
Hundreds of millions of years ago, in a time known as the Mississippian and Pennsylvanian periods, the history of Texoma began. During this time, warm shallow seas covered much of the north American continent. Life was diverse and prolific fossil ancestors of clams, snails, corals, squid, octopi and sharks can all be found in the rocks of Texoma. The rapid development of amphibian life gave this period in history the title, "The Age of Amphibians." In those seas, the massive accumulation of microscopic organisms was to prove fateful for the area: it was that group of creatures that would provide the source of the oil so important to our history.
Near the end of the Pennsylvanian period, the seas began to retreat. Forests grew abundantly at the time, creating coal deposits that would serve as fuel for Texomans during the early part of the 1900's. The Permian period existed for the next 41 million years. To the southwest, the seas withdrew and dried out, leaving desert behind. The climate of the area became hot and dry. In the later years of the epoch, lizards became a dominant life form, growing several feet in length. About 144 million years ago, the Cretaceous period began ,bringing with it the animals and plants we normally associate with prehistoric times. Dinosaurs roamed the lands and swam in the warm seas. The Ice Age, beginning about 1.8 million years ago, brought the first humans to this area, drawn by the abundance of such animals as mammoths, bison, camels and saber-toothed cats. These people eventually evolved into what we know today as the American Indians.
Area Tribes and Early Europeans One can hardly think of the Old West without remembering the Indian tribes of those days: the Comanche, Kiowa, Cheyenne and fearsome Apache. These tribes passed through the Texomas area, but none elected to settle here, moving on to other pastures. A less notorious people made what is now Texoma its permanent home: the tribe of the Wichitas.
The Wichita Tribe is the oldest group of American Indians in the Texoma area. It is believed that they migrated to the Red River from Northern Oklahoma and Kansas. While Spanish explorers encountered the tribe during expeditions as early as 1541, they failed to ally themselves with the people. The French were not so cautious. The French trading posts established good relations with the tribe during the 1700's as the Wichitas served as middlemen in trade with the Comanche. The name "Wichita," is derived from a Choctawword, "wia chitoh," meaning "big arbor." This referred to the grass-thatched arbors of the villages. The Wichitas called themselves "Kitikitish," meaning "First People," as well as "Kidikittashe" (Raccoon Eyes"), referring to the Wichitan practice of face painting. The Wichitas were not a nomadic tribe, preferring to live in villages of straw huts. The huts themselves were conical, measuring up to 30 feet in diameter and as much as twenty-five feet in height. The arbors were made of thatched grass and erected between the huts, serving as shelters for food preparation, pottery making, cloth weaving and lounging.
Agriculture was the primary source of sustenance for the tribe. Corn, beans, squash, melons, pumpkins, gourds and tobacco were all grown in the gardens of the villages, tended by the women of the tribe. The men hunted for the animals which supplied meat and hides, such as the antelope, deer, elk and the much - desired buffalo. Several of these villages were located on both sides of the Red River, near present-day Spanish Fort (itself a misnomer, as the fort was a French and Wichita Indian encampment). A third village was located in the Wichita Mountains of Oklahoma, and yet another was established near the convergence of Holliday Creek and the Big Wichita River. This village was located a short distance downstream from a small waterfall thought to be the origin of the name Wichita Falls.