Okmulgee County, Oklahoma
City and Town Histories


Beggs occupies 4.3 square miles in northwestern Okmulgee County. The town is situated along Alternate U.S. Highway 75/State Highway 16, thirteen miles northwest of Okmulgee and thirty-one miles south of Tulsa. As work on the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway (Frisco) moved south from Sapulpa in the Creek Nation, Indian Territory, in 1899, Frisco vice president C. H. Beggs, who was in charge of construction, chose a site to build a depot and a stock pen. Although the first business to serve the settlement was a saloon, retail merchants began to build clientele from the stock-raising area, and a growing population followed. Beggs officially became a town on September 15, 1900, when its post office opened. Long before rumors of petroleum started to circulate, hog, cattle, and horse ranches were located near Beggs. In 1918 production began from an oil discovery one-half mile west of town. Lease buying and drilling turned Beggs into a boomtown, and prosperity was the order of the day. To maintain an economy after the boom, which lasted until 1926, revenue came from corn, cotton, pecans, and stock raising. The economy at the end of the twentieth century was more varied. Beggs had fifty-two commercial enterprises in 2000, including twelve construction firms and ten retail and four wholesale trade establishments. In 1896, when the Dawes Commission's authority over the Five Civilized Tribes increased, a traveling federal court was subsequently organized and held preliminary hearings. The first was conducted in 1903 at Beggs and heard grievances in connection with such matters as livestock theft. In 1910, before the oil boom, Beggs's population was 855. Between 1918 and 1926, when oil production peaked, Beggs had a floating population of approximately five thousand inhabitants. The town's official high population was 2,327 in 1920.



Dewar
is situated three miles northeast of Henryetta and twelve miles south of Okmulgee on U.S. Highway 266. Dewar originated as a train depot and became a settlement founded by railroad workers in 1909. Once the townsite was established, a post office opened there on April 27, 1909. Dewar was named after William Peter Dewar of Muskogee, an official of the Missouri, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway (MO&G) and a member of the board of directors of the Missouri, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway Company of Texas. The MO&G went into receivership in 1913 and was reorganized as the Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway (KO&G) in 1919. From the mid-1910s into the early 1930s Dewar was a thriving community whose growth was fueled by the railroad, coal, and petroleum industries. A cotton gin opened there in 1915, and the Okmulgee Northern Railway (ON) was built through town in 1916. Also in 1916, natural gas-fired zinc smelters were built nearby. In 1920 Dewar experienced the historical peak of its population, 1,558. In 1930 the town had two schools, four churches, the KO&G, two bus lines, and 994 residents. City administrators then included Mayor S. A. Varner; police chief, B. F. Morgan; city clerk, Miss J. E. Powers; and postmaster, E. B. Larimore. Early newspapers were the Dewar Telegram and the Dewar News. By the late 1930s and early 1940s, as Oklahoma's coal industry declined, Dewar's local coal mines were closed and crude production was limited to oil leases.


Grayson,
formerly known as Wildcat, is situated in southeastern Okmulgee County. Until 1918, when the Okmulgee and McIntosh county boundaries were changed, the town lay within McIntosh County. Named for Creek Chief George W. Grayson, the community lies at the intersection of U.S. Highway 266 and State Highway 5 and approximately eleven miles southeast of the county seat of Okmulgee and eight miles northeast of Henryetta. A Grayson post office was established on February 10, 1902, and was discontinued on April 30, 1929. At 1907 statehood the town had 375 residents. By 1909 the small rural community boasted five general stores, two blacksmiths, two drug stores, a physician, and a cotton gin. It was served by the Pioneer Telephone Company, and the town of Hoffman, located 1.5 miles away, was the nearest banking and shipping point. In 1910 Grayson had a population of 411, which declined to 298 by 1920 and to 134 by 1930.


Henryetta
is situated two miles north of the Interstate 40 and U.S. Highway 62/75 junction, fifty-one miles south of Tulsa and fourteen miles south of Okmulgee, the county seat. Hugh Henry, Henryetta's founder and first resident, arrived in the area in 1885 and discovered coal. The land on which Henry pitched his tent belonged to the Creek Nation, one of the Five Civilized Tribes. Being part Creek, he established ranching operations, using the coal to fire the forge of his smithy. The existence of coal deposits eventually brought the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, the Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad, and the Okmulgee Northern Railway to open several active mines. A settlement called Furrs grew up adjacent to the mining operations. A post office opened there on August 28, 1900, under the official name of Henryetta, named for resident Henry G. Beard and his wife, Etta. In 1901 a city government was formed, and Olin Meacham served as the town's first mayor. Coal, oil, natural gas, and agricultural products provided Henryetta's economic base. By 1909 a total of fourteen coal mines produced sixty-five thousand tons each month, with a reported seventy-thousand-dollar payroll flowing back into the town's economy. In 1931 Henryetta claimed twenty-three industrial plants that included twelve coal mines, a broom factory, brick factories, and a bottling plant. During the late 1940s and early 1950s the Pittsburgh Plate Glass facility, the largest of its kind west of the Mississippi River, employed nine hundred people. At the same time, the Eagle-Picher Company utilized more than seven hundred workers to produce three-fourths of the free world's supply of the rare metal germanium. Several newspapers have reported to the town, the longest lived being the Henryetta News from 1925 thru 1937 and the Henryetta Free-Lance from 1919 through the twentieth century.


Morris
is located eight miles east of Okmulgee, at the junction of U.S. Highway 62 and State Highway 52. The town grew around a cattle stop on the Ozark and Cherokee Central Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) which ran between Muskogee and Okmulgee. George W. Clark was Morris's first business operator and postmaster. The post office was established on January 4, 1904. In spring 1904 T. F. Randolf of Okmulgee bought eighty acres from a Creek, Phillip Scott, and mapped out the town of Morris. The two main streets were Ozark (named after the railroad) and Hughes (for Charles E. Hughes). The origin of the name Morris is uncertain. By the end of 1904 Morris had a bank, a mercantile store, a cotton gin, two lumberyards, three churches, and four hundred residents. The Morris News, established in 1910, has remained in operation. Morris's largest growth came during the oil-boom days, being in the Morris Pool. Much coal lay close to the surface around Morris and was mined. Ranching and farming have remained important aspects of the town's economy. The population began to decline during and after World War II and was 1,294 in 2000. The highest number of residents was 1,926 in 1920 and its lowest was 982 in 1960. Among the most interesting historical events in Morris's history are bank robberies that occurred in Morris. The most talked about were those by Charles Arthur "Pretty Boy" Floyd. Floyd was popular in the Morris area and was befriended by several families. Many local residents surrendered their properties to banks during the Great Depression, and Floyd was regarded as a modern-day Robin Hood. The most significant happening ever to occur in Morris was the tornado of April 26, 1984. That storm destroyed the entire business section as well as about one half of the housing. Nine people were killed, and many more injured. Only in the last decade of the twentieth century did the town begin to rebuild.
Okmulgee, the county seat of Okmulgee County, is located fourteen miles north of Interstate 40 on U.S. Highway 62/75. The town was founded after the Civil War in 1868 when the Creek Nation began restoring order to their devastated homeland and came together in a general council to establish a capitol building. A post office opened there on April 29, 1869, under the spelling Okmulkee until November 15, 1883, when it became Okmulgee. The name is a Creek word, oki mulgi, meaning "boiling waters," and is taken from a town in their native region, in present Russell County, Alabama. Capt. Frederick B. Severs was appointed by Pres. Ulysses S. Grant to serve as Okmulgee's first postmaster. The two-story, log council house of the Creek Nation was constructed near the edge of a stand of timber and quickly became the center of town. In 1878 fire destroyed the council house, and a stone structure was built in its place. The Creek Council House received designation as a National Historic Landmark in 1961 and was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1966. After restoration was completed in 1993, the capitol served as a museum with displays and exhibits reflecting the history of the Okmulgee area and the Creek Nation. Okmulgee remains the home of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation Tribal Complex. Following the completion of the St. Louis, Oklahoma and Southern Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) in 1900, Okmulgee entered into a new and progressive era of expansion. An influx of investors and homeseekers prompted the platting of housing additions, and extensive water, natural gas, telephone, and electrical systems were installed. At 1907 statehood the town had 2,322 residents and was designated as the governmental seat of Okmulgee County. Construction on the present county courthouse began in 1916. The local economy was based on the production of coal in nearby mines as well as on agriculture. Cash crops included cotton, corn, feed grains, and forage, and truck farming, dairying, and poultry raising were important as well. Railroads furnished market access for these products, and cotton gins and grain elevators provided services. By 1910 the population had reached 4,176 and supported five banks. The town became a manufacturing center in the 1910s, and by 1918 facilities included three foundry and machine shops, three glass factories, and a bottle factory. Citizens could choose among daily and weekly newspapers including today's Okmulgee Daily Times, which was first printed in 1911 and continued to be published at the turn of the twenty-first century. Other long-lived publications were the Okmulgee Daily Democrat from 1913 through 1932 and the Okmulgee County News from 1949 through 1984. Following the discovery of the nearby Morris and Lucky oil pools in 1907, the town expanded into a twenty-block square around the council house. Five local refineries were operational by the early 1920s. Street cars provided transportation to and from businesses and government offices, ballrooms, oil company offices, and homes of the finest architecture. During the 1930s Great Depression oil production decreased, and Okmulgee fell into the "boom to bust" category like numerous other Oklahoma towns.


Winchester
is located just east of U.S. Highway 75 and the junction of County Roads E0840/N3935, approximately twelve miles north of Okmulgee and four miles northeast of Beggs. Winchester began as a satellite town, envisioned by a development group working in cooperation with the B-Line Corporation. Tired and frustrated by "big city living" in Tulsa, members of the group, led by William D. Crews, started development on twenty-five hundred acres of pasture land that Crews had acquired in 1959. Described as a "bedroom" community with the character of a small town, Winchester received its final order of incorporation on February 18, 1974. In March 1989 Winchester had no store, no gas station, and no post office, but the town was selected as the national site for a $150 million war museum complex. The museum was the project of the Delaware based nonprofit organization, Institute for the Study of American Wars (ISAW). In February 1989 the ISAW announced the proposed museum. In March of that year the Institute selected Winchester as the museum's site and projected that five hundred new jobs would be brought to the area. More than seven million annual visitors were expected to visit, and millions of dollars awaited the local economy. By April 1989 the ISAW withdrew the Winchester proposal. Although disappointed by the news, Winchester and its citizens resumed their identity as a residential community. Winchester's population increased steadily from 150 in 1980, to 301 in 1990, and to 424 in 2000. At the turn of the twenty-first century residents received telephone, mail, school, and fire-fighting services from the town of Beggs. Winchester remained a rural community into the twenty-first century with no retail businesses or municipal services. The town hall, however, served as a forum for public meetings and sponsored an annual wiener roast and hayride.



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