The Civil War’s Battle of Honey Springs, also known as Elk Creek, took place in northeast Oklahoma 148 years ago. In two years on the anniversary date, July 17, local and state officials expect to open a $1.9 million, 5,000 square foot visitors center at the rural battlefield. The projected number of annual visitors--150,000--should be a great boon to the nearest town of Rentiesville with a population of just over 100 residents.
More than $1 million is coming from the U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development in the form of grants and loans and the rest will be raised by the non-profit Oklahoma Historical Society as well as county and local organizations.
“The partnership recognizes that rural areas should increasingly capitalize on the tourism industry,” said Ryan McMullen, the Agriculture department’s state director, according to a AP story. “The development of this attraction will create jobs, as well as educate visitors on one of Oklahoma’s most historic sites.”
In 1863, the battle site was in what was then called Indian Territory and the combatants included soldiers from several of the five civilized nations that were resettled there by the U.S. government in the 1830s as well as white, black and Hispanic troops. The Union victory gave the U.S. control of the Indian Territory north of the Arkansas River.
The historical society began buying land on the battlefield in the 1960s and was able to add a bridge, roads and interpretative trails by the 1990s. The addition of a visitors center will complete the organization’s master plan.