"specializing in the beautifully abandoned, neglected, and forgotten parts of Oklahoma."
Photography by Jesse Edgar
Crushed by Time: Gotebo, Oklahoma
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13 hours is how long it took me to drive from Oklahoma City to Mangum, Oklahoma and back. Mangum is only 150 miles from Oklahoma City. So why did it take me so long?
Because Oklahoma kept diverting my interest from gaining ground to photographing the intensity that is these horrifically dilapidated towns that we unfortunately have in our State. The ones that look like mother nature sent hell’s fury in the form of a F5 tornado or wrecking ball sized hail to wipe it off the map. The type of places that make you scratch your head and question physics.
The ones like Gotebo, Oklahoma.
The town of Gotebo is your typical Oklahoma small town with a typical history. Cattle Ranchers and farmers, Cotton and wheat, and a low population raised by a rail road being built near the town. Population rises, the town bustles, rail road decommissioned, and population declines. It’s the same unfortunate story for a lot of small towns in Oklahoma. Gotebo, formally known as Harrison in 1901 and changed in 1904, had a population of 740 in 1910 and today it sits at 226 and declines every single year.
As I drove through Gotebo I noticed that highway 9 branched off. So, I decided to take the road less traveled and it took me through the center of town. At first, Gotebo seemed uninteresting. A little depressing and not much worth documenting. Then highway 9 turned into main street and I found myself driving through the most depressingly desolate town I’ve ever seen.
I parked my car and stepped out onto the hot concrete. The heat was visibly layered over the top of the road as if it was taunting me. I started walking down the street and couldn’t help but marvel at destruction of the buildings. What happened here? It looks like a bomb went off right in the middle of town causing the buildings to crumble. It was hard to believe that Mother Nature and Father Time could create such a force.
I continued down the road. Poking my head into each individual building on the Main Street strip. Snapping my pictures and trying to make sense of the sights. Along this strip was an old department store that had suffered a fire, what looked to be an old ice cream shop or deli with only one wall standing, and possibly a 2 story bar that was now only a 1 story bar due to the two things that all of these buildings had in common. A collapsed roof and crumbling brick walls.
I wrapped up my photo session and looked at the time. I’d spent over an hour in the town of Gotebo alone. I still had about 17 more towns to drive through.
Gotebo left me with a ton of questions and a lingering feeling of melancholy. Maybe it was the crumbling historical buildings and sense of time passed. Maybe it was the summer heat starting to wear me down. Or maybe it was the fact that I was there for over an hour walking along side the road and not one single car drove down the main street of Gotebo, Oklahoma. It truly was a ghost town.
The Oklahoma Abandoned Project