Although Oklahoma was one of the last states to join the Union (46th state), it is still full of towns loaded with history. Indian Territory and Oklahoma Territory were joined together under a new constitution and admitted to the Union as the State of Oklahoma in 1907. Many towns that existed in the Territory days are still in existence today. Here are some of the oldest towns in Oklahoma that are loaded with history.
In the 1890s families settled in The Chickasaw Nation in an area then called Daggs Prairie, named for the James and John Daggs families. Jeff Reed, an original settler, submitted his daughter's name for acceptance as the post office designation there, and on July 10, 1891, the settlement became known as Ada. This town was incorporated on April 1, 1901, and the population reached 4,349 in 1910.
Ardmore, Indian Territory, began with a plowed ditch for a Main Street in the summer of 1887 in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation. It owes much of its existence to the construction of the Santa Fe Railroad through the area during that time. It grew, as most frontier towns grew, over the years into a trading outpost for the region. A large fire in 1895 destroyed much of the fledgling town, which forced residents to rebuild nearly the entire town.
Atoka was founded by the Choctaw Indians in the 1850s, and named for Captain Atoka, a leader of the Choctaw Nation and the signer of the Treaty of Dancing Rabbit Creek, which began the process of re-locating the Choctaw people from Mississippi to Oklahoma in 1830. Atoka is the site of the oldest Catholic parish in the Indian Territory, the oldest chapter of the Freemasons in Oklahoma, and the oldest chapter of the Order of the Eastern Star in Oklahoma. The city was settled by the Choctaw and named in 1867.
Choctaw physically became a community in 1890, but was not given actual status as a town until 1893 when a territorial governor was appointed for Oklahoma. It is the oldest chartered town in Oklahoma. The town incorporated in April 1904.
5. El Reno
The city begun shortly after the 1889 Land Rush and named for the nearby Fort Reno. The city was originally located about five miles north of its present location, on the banks of the North Canadian River, bearing the name Reno City, which caused its mail to get mixed up with mail for Reno, Nevada. After the second time the town flooded, it was moved to its present location and changed its name to El Reno. This word is Spanish for "the reindeer."
Enid was founded during the opening of the Cherokee Outlet in the Land Run of 1893, and is named after Enid, a character in Alfred, Lord Tennyson's Idylls of the King. During the run, due to the Rock Island's refusal to stop, people leaped from the trains to stake their claim in the government endorsed site. By the afternoon of the run, Enid's population was estimated at 12,000 people located in the Enid's 80-acre town plat.
7. Fort Gibson
After the founding of Fort Gibson in 1824, military families, Indians desiring military protection and free African-Americans settled near the fort, forming a town. After the Army abandoned Fort Gibson in 1857, the Cherokee Nation took over the military stockade and renamed the town Keetoowah. The Army reoccupied Fort Gibson during the American Civil War, and the town again prospered as refugees from fighting elsewhere fled to the relative safety of the fort.
As one of the oldest non-Indian settlements in Oklahoma, Fort Gibson had other firsts for Oklahoma, such as:
the first telephone, first drama theater, first steamboat landing, first school for the blind, first highway to Fort Smith,
the first interurban, which connected Fort Gibson to Muskogee.
Guthrie was established in 1887 as a railroad station called Deer Creek on the Southern Kansas Railway running from the Kansas-Oklahoma border to Purcell. The name was later changed to Guthrie, named for jurist John Guthrie of Topeka, Kansas. A post office was established on April 4, 1889. After the 1889 Land Run, Guthrie immediately gained 10,000 new residents who began to develop the town. It was rapidly improved and was designated as the territorial capital, and in 1907 as the first state capital of Oklahoma. In 1910 state voters chose the larger Oklahoma City as the new capital in a special election.
The Moore post office was established May 27, 1889, during the Land Run of 1889 and was named for Al Moore, an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway employee. According to the town history, he was a "conductor or a brakeman, lived in a boxcar at the camp and had difficulty receiving his mail. He painted his name – "Moore" – on a board and nailed it on the boxcar. When a postmaster was appointed, he continued to call the settlement Moore. When the town incorporated in 1893 the name was legalized.
10. Oklahoma City
On July 15, 1890, Oklahoma City was incorporated.
From April 22, 1889, to May 2, 1890, the towns and communities in the Unassigned Lands existed under provisional government because the federal government had not foreseen the need to establish laws to govern the new territory. Oklahoma City grew to become the largest city and capital of the state.
Purcell was founded as a railroad town in 1887, with the coming of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe. Amtrak still serves the town with the Heartland Flyer at the station near the old Santa Fe depot. Purcell was the only town on the border of the Unassigned Lands, and began attracting hopeful settlers even before the Land Run of 1889. Town lots went on sale April 5, 1887, and a post office was established 16 days later. Residents elected the town's first mayor, James Taylor Bradley, on August 13, 1895. The town was incorporated on October 3, 1898.
Tahlequah was established as a capital of the 19th-century Cherokee Nation in 1839, as part of the new settlement in Indian Territory after the Cherokee Native Americans were forced west from the American Southeast on the Trail of Tears. Tahlequah was a settlement as early as 1832. After the Western Cherokee agreed in 1834 to let the newer migrants settle near them, they joined their government with the Eastern Cherokee at Tahlequah in 1839. Tahlequah was named long before it was chosen as the Cherokee capital.
Vinita was established in 1871 by Elias Cornelius Boudinot. It was the first city in the state with electricity. The city was first named "Downingville," and was a primarily Native American community. It was later renamed "Vinita" after Boudinot's friend, sculptor Vinnie Ream. The city was incorporated in Indian Territory in 1898.
Founded by John Horse and Black Seminoles in the late 1880s, Wewoka is the current capital of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma. In the spring of 1849, Horse and a group of Black Seminoles founded a settlement near modern-day Wewoka. They established a community located at the falls of a small stream, lying in the fertile lands between the North and South Canadian Rivers. The steady rush of water over the falls gave rise to the name We-Wo-Ka – meaning “Barking Water” in the Mvskoke (Seminole) language. In 1907 Wewoka became part of the state of Oklahoma, which was admitted to the union.
European-American settlers established the town in 1887 after construction of the railroad to that point for shipping cattle to markets. The town was on the Great Western Cattle Trail. Woodward ranked as one of the most extensive cattle shipping points in Oklahoma Territory. Some men rode for the large cattle outfits of the 1890s and later developed rodeo as a sport. Cow ponies, tied to hitching posts, lined the sandy Main Street.
Do you live in any of these towns? What stories have you heard about their early days?