Panhandle Pilgrimage: Illustrated Tales Tracing History in the Texas Panhandle Page: 64
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Near Head of Red River (Marcy's book)
Head of Prairie-Dog-Town Fork, Main Branch of Red River
MAP OF WHIPPLE'SROUTE
(Panhandle-Plains Historical Review '71)
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in 1852 resulted in the discovery of one of the most
unusual and grandiose geological phenomena in the
great Southwest: the Palo Duro Canyon.
Marcy, earthbound and dependent on four-legged
animals for transportation, spent a grueling summer
exploring the unknown territory of the Red River,
which could be charted today in a matter of hours from
Resting at midday beside a scrub cedar, where the
temperature hovered at 110 in the scant shade, he
probably conjectured about how simple his task would
be if he could soar like the golden eagle which glided
effortlessly above the canyons.
"Hey, Goldie," he might have called out. "Fly north
and see how far away the Canadian River is. Then
wheel back by this afternoon and glide down the
Prairie Dog Fork until its canyon ends on the Plains.
Let me know how it all looks from up there."
Marcy's men, no doubt, thought he was being humor-
ous or delirious if, longing for a bird's eye view of the
territory, he actually called out to an eagle. How
amazed they would have been to know that in little
more than half a century men could be airborne and
see the whole perplexing terrain at a glance. And that
huge machines would someday gouge roads into the
fortressed giant canyon nearby to allow thousands of
people in soft-cushioned, air-cooled, motor-driven
carriages to ride down into the Palo I)uro for an eve-
End of Trailblazer Era
Among the last of the trailblazers across the Pan-
handle was Lt. A. W. Whipple, Corps of Topograph-
ical Engineers, United States Army. In 1853 he was
authorized to organize an expedition from Fort Smith,
Arkansas, westward to determine "the most practi-
cable route for a railroad from the Mississippi River
to the Pacific Ocean." Jules Marcou, eminent Swiss
geologist, accompanied the expedition.
Whipple's charted journey across the Panhandle
of Texas, along the valley of the Canadian River,
would probably have been the route of the first trans-
continental railroad had the Civil War not intervened.
Because of the war, the railroad project had to be
postponed. When the war was over, the North pre-
vailed in Congress, with a majority of members favor-
ing a route that would serve the northern states. As
a consequence, the Union Pacific met the Central
Pacific at Promontory, Utah, in 1869 to form the
first transcontinental railroad. It was almost two
decades later that railroads came to the Panhandle.
Lt. Whipple carried with him Lt. Simpson's report
of the 1849 Marcy expedition. Identification of Whip-
ple's route with respect to modern landmarks across
the Panhandle of Texas is the subject of Panhandle-
Plains Historical Review, Vol. XLIV, 1971, by
Ernest R. Archambeau.
Although trailblazers gradually made inroads into
the "impenetrable" Panhandle Plains, nomadic In-
dians actually dominated the area until the mid-1870s.
The next chapter deals with a renowned Indian story
centering on Cynthia Ann and Quanah Parker.
Here’s what’s next.
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Robertson, Pauline Durrett & Robertson, R. L. Panhandle Pilgrimage: Illustrated Tales Tracing History in the Texas Panhandle, book, 1978; Amarillo, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth225495/m1/82/?q=neighbors%20and%20marcy: accessed January 18, 2019), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Canyon Area Library.