When I was a kid in the late 1990s, my friends and I would go hiking around in the fields and trees by the railroad tracks in what is now Oakwood Nature Park near Country Club North. Our friend group nicknamed this area Strawberry Fields after the Beatles song. Having left Enid for the bay area 15 years ago, I’m personally very glad to hear our old childhood haunt is being turned into a hiking trail and preserved as park.
I did some digging as an adult, and I think the larger Enid community needs to remember this history. This railroad line that is soon to be transformed into the Northern Exposure Trail within the Enid Trails system was originally constructed for the Denver, Enid and Gulf, running to Kiowa, Kansas.
Back then, there was a huge sign there that said BLANTON. For years, I had wondered about that sign. It disappeared when the rail line was demolished in the late 1990s. Later on as I studied Oklahoma history, I saw Blanton Junction on old railroad maps from the turn of the century. I asked around, and no one seemed to be able to tell me anything. The Garfield County Historical Society’s history books merely listed Blanton as “not a post office.”
The junction was named after William Blair Blanton, who went by W.B. Blanton, and served as the assistant to the vice president and general manager in 1905.
William Blair Blanton was the son of William David Blanton and Rebecca Frances Lee of Farmville, Virginia. He worked for numerous railroad lines all across the country in Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Oregon, Kentucky, Ohio, Alabama, Kansas, California and Enid, Oklahoma. I traced his travels through railroad journals and the U.S. Census.
He found his way out to California, working Sierra Railway in Jamestown, California, which now houses the Railtown 1897 State Historic Park. Railcars from this railroad have been used in numerous movies — to name just one with Oklahoma connections, “Bound for Glory,” the biopic about Woody Guthrie. He finally settled down in the San Francisco Bay area, working for Northwestern Pacific.
Blanton was even witness for a lawsuit on behalf of the railroad when there was an explosion up in the mountains that killed some passengers who had snuck onto the freight train after being too impatient to wait for a passenger train (see ALFRED E. ROBERTS, Respondent, v. SIERRA RAILWAY COMPANY OF CALIFORNIA, 1910). The sign for his namesake junction was erected for just $7 in 1912, according to Santa Fe railroad records.
William Blair Blanton was born in 1854 and died April 28, 1917 in Alameda, California. Jesse Blanton and Sarah E. Blanton of Roanoke, Virginia were listed as his siblings in his will. His wife was named Margaret Eugenia.
This is just another way that Enid ties into the railroad history of America.
Strawberry Fields forever!
Lang, a former Enid resident, is now poet laureate of Vallejo, California.