Okemah, Oklahoma

Last updated
Okemah, Oklahoma
City
Okemah broadway.jpg
West Broadway, Downtown
Motto(s): 
" Home Of Woody Guthrie And The Woody Guthrie Folk Festival "
OKMap-doton-Okemah.PNG
Location of Okemah, Oklahoma
Coordinates: 35°25′52″N96°18′20″W / 35.43111°N 96.30556°W / 35.43111; -96.30556 Coordinates: 35°25′52″N96°18′20″W / 35.43111°N 96.30556°W / 35.43111; -96.30556
CountryUnited States
State Oklahoma
County Okfuskee
Area
[1]
  Total2.62 sq mi (6.78 km2)
  Land2.53 sq mi (6.55 km2)
  Water0.09 sq mi (0.24 km2)
Elevation
909 ft (277 m)
Population
 (2010)
  Total3,223
  Estimate 
(2019) [2]
3,132
  Density1,238.92/sq mi (478.38/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
  Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
74859
Area code(s) 539/918
FIPS code 40-54200 [3]
GNIS feature ID1096198 [4]
Website okemahok.org

Okemah ( /ˌˈkimə/ or /ˈʌkimə/ ) [5] is the largest city in and the county seat of Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, United States. [6] It is the birthplace of folk music legend Woody Guthrie. Thlopthlocco Tribal Town, a federally recognized Muscogee Indian tribe, is headquartered in Okemah. The population was 3,223 at the 2010 census, a 6.1 percent increase from 3,038 in 2000. In that census, about 26.6 percent of the residents identified themselves as Native American. [7]

Contents

History

Historically occupied by the Osage and Quapaw, who ceded their lands to the United States by 1825, the area was assigned to the Creek Nation and specifically the Thlopthlocco Tribal Town after Indian Removal of tribes from the Southeast United States in the 1830s.

Okemah was named after a Kickapoo Indian chief. In March 1902, Chief Okemah built a bark house in his tribe's traditional fashion. He had come to await the opening of the townsite, which took his name on April 22, 1902. In the Kickapoo language, okemah means "things up high," such as highly placed person or town or high ground.[ citation needed ]

In preparation for Oklahoma's statehood, the Dawes Commission was authorized in 1896 to work with the Five Civilized Tribes to enroll their members for allotments of tribal land to individual households. Registration of tribal members lasted from 1898 to 1906. After allotment, the government was going to declare the remaining tribal lands "surplus" and sell them to European-American settlers.

Okemah was platted by a group of Shawnee residents in March 1902 on land belonging to Mahala and Nocus Fixico, full-blood Creek. The Fixicos had no legal right at the time to sell their holding, as enrollment of tribal members on the Dawes Roll continued until 1906, and no land sales were to take place by Indians until it was completed. That did not appear to affect the promoters or the development of the town.

On April 22, 1902, the formal opening launched the town. A post office opened on May 16, [8] and the town was incorporated in 1903. In the spring of 1904, Commission restrictions on the sale of townsite lots were removed. The Department of the Interior trustees of land held by American Indians paid the Fixicos $50 an acre for their land, and gave legal deeds to the purchasers who claimed title.

In the town's first week, the following stores were established: four general merchandise, two hardware, one 5 & 10 cent store, three drugstores, four groceries, three wagon yards, four lumberyards, three cafes, one bakery, two millineries, four livery barns, three blacksmiths, two dairies, two cotton gins and two weekly newspapers. Eight doctors settled there, four lawyers, two walnut log buyers, and one Chinese laundryman. Two hotels were quickly put up, including the three-story Broadway hotel, which set the city apart as an important town in early Oklahoma.

Okfuskee County had been organized at the time of statehood in 1907. Okemah was chosen as county seat in a county election held August 27, 1908.

Firsts

Woody Guthrie's Okfuskee County, Oklahoma childhood home as it appeared in 1979 Guthrie house.jpg
Woody Guthrie's Okfuskee County, Oklahoma childhood home as it appeared in 1979
Mural by DeAnna Mauldin, depicting Woody Guthrie and Okfuskee County history, 510 W. Broadway, Okemah Okemah mural.jpg
Mural by DeAnna Mauldin, depicting Woody Guthrie and Okfuskee County history, 510 W. Broadway, Okemah

The townsite was selected by two railroad surveyors, Perry Rodkey and H.R. Dexter. Dexter is credited with choosing the town name. They picked the site believing that two railroads, the Fort Smith and Western Railroad and the Ozark and Cherokee Central Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) would intersect there. While the former did build a line through the site, the latter never did. [8]

The town's first state-chartered bank began business the day of the opening, April 22, 1902, in a tent on the northwest corner of the present Fifth and Broadway (now City Hall). C. J. Benson was president. W. H. Dill was vice president and served as cashier. It became the First National Bank [9] in 1903, but was liquidated in 1939, having failed due to the Dust Bowl and the Great Depression.

J. E. Galloway was the first mayor; Perry Rodkey, first postman; E. D. Dexter, first hotel operator; Dill ran the first telephone company; John D. Richards had the first hardware store; McGee Brothers put in the first cotton gin; and E. E. Shook established the first lumberyard. The first church in the city was the North Methodist, at Sixth and Ash, but the first church service Baptist, presided over by the Rev. Black. The editor Charles Barnclaw published the first newspaper.

Lynching

Although a police force was organized in the town soon after its founding (a Mr. Franklin wore the first city policeman's badge), vigilantes were active during Okemah's early years. Law enforcement and justices of the peace were located some distance away. The vigilantes appeared to have had almost complete freedom of action.

In 1911, a black woman, 35-year-old Laura Nelson, and her teenage son, L. D., were lynched by a mob of white men. Accused of killing a police officer in an altercation at their home near Paden, they were kidnapped from the Okemah county jail and hanged from a suspension bridge over the North Canadian River. [10]

Geography

Oil derrick in Okemah, Oklahoma, 1922 Gusher Okemah OK 1922.jpg
Oil derrick in Okemah, Oklahoma, 1922

Okemah is located at 35°25′52″N96°18′20″W / 35.43111°N 96.30556°W / 35.43111; -96.30556 (35.430987, -96.305500). [11] According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.7 square miles (7.0 km2), of which 2.6 square miles (6.7 km2) is land and 0.1 square miles (0.26 km2) (2.63%) is water.

Demographics

Historical population
CensusPop.
1910 1,389
1920 2,16255.7%
1930 4,00285.1%
1940 3,811−4.8%
1950 3,454−9.4%
1960 2,836−17.9%
1970 2,9132.7%
1980 3,38116.1%
1990 3,085−8.8%
2000 3,038−1.5%
2010 3,2236.1%
2019 (est.)3,132 [2] −2.8%
U.S. Decennial Census [12]

As of the census [3] of 2000, there were 3,038 people, 1,242 households, and 763 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,170.5 people per square mile (451.1/km2). There were 1,506 housing units at an average density of 580.3 per square mile (223.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 69.09% White, 2.37% African American, 22.84% Native American, 0.10% Asian, 0.46% from other races, and 5.13% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.94% of the population.

There were 1,242 households, out of which 29.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 41.8% were married couples living together, 15.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 38.5% were non-families. 35.7% of all households were made up of individuals, and 18.4% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.4% under the age of 18, 8.9% from 18 to 24, 23.3% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 20.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females, there were 82.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 76.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $21,306, and the median income for a family was $26,659. Males had a median income of $21,905 versus $15,375 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,645. About 19.5% of families and 25.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 38.6% of those under age 18 and 16.6% of those age 65 or over.

Education

History

S. L. O'Bannon was the teacher in the first school, which opened in 1902 with funds gained by subscribers. Classes were held in a store building. The first school building was built in 1902. It was later replaced by the Wilson School on the same site. The first public school was opened with Dr. Z. Cheatwood as superintendent in 1904.

A store building housed one of the first public schools, and the other was held in a building where the American Legion building now stands. Noble School, completed in 1907, was named for Miss Mae Noble. Okemah High School gained accreditation in 1912. It met in the old Noble School building until the building of 1918 was erected. In the high school complex, the band shop building was erected 1941 and a vocational building in 1948.

Parks, recreation and events

Okemah Lake, north of town, is a city lake that features swimming, boating, hunting, fishing, and camping. [13]

Okemah’s Municipal Park at Ash St. and S. 2nd St., now with picnic tables and playground equipment, was originally constructed by the WPA in 1935. [14]

Pioneer Days in Okemah are the last weekend in April annually. [15]

The Woody Guthrie Folk Festival, also known as WoodyFest, occurs annually in July. [16]

Transportation

Okemah is at the intersection of Interstate 40 and State Highway 56. [17]

Okemah Airport (FAA Identifier: F81), two miles south of town, features a 3,400-foot runway. [18]

Notable people

NRHP sites

The following sites in Okemah are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

Related Research Articles

Okfuskee County, Oklahoma U.S. county in Oklahoma

Okfuskee County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, its population was 12,191. Its county seat is Okemah. The county is named for a former Muscogee town in present Cleburne County, Alabama, that in turn was named for the Okfuskee, a Muscogee tribe.

Logan County, Oklahoma U.S. county in Oklahoma

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Hughes County, Oklahoma U.S. county in Oklahoma

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Coyle, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

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Meridian, Logan County, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

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Madill, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Madill is a city in and the county seat of Marshall County, Oklahoma, United States. It was named in honor of George Alexander Madill, an attorney for the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway. The population at the 2010 census was 3,770, an increase of 10.8 percent from 3,410 at the 2000 census. It is best known as the site of the annual National Sand Bass Festival. It is part of the Texoma region.

Boley, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

Boley is a town in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 1,184 at the 2010 census, a gain of 5.2 percent from the figure of 1,126 recorded in 2000. Boley was established in 1903 as a predominantly Black pioneer town with persons having Native American ancestry among its citizens. Boley is currently home to barbeque equipment maker, Smokaroma, Inc, and the John Lilley Correctional Center.

Castle, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

Castle is a town in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, United States. A post office was established February 25, 1903, and the town was named for the first postmaster, Manford B. Castle. The population was 106 at the 2010 census.

Weleetka, Oklahoma Town in Oklahoma, United States

Weleetka is a town in Okfuskee County, Oklahoma, United States. It is approximately 10 miles (16 km) southeast of Okemah, the county seat. The name is a Creek word meaning "running water." The population was 998 at the 2010 census, a decline of 1.6 percent from the figure of 1,014 in 2000.

Blanchard, Oklahoma City in Oklahoma, United States

Blanchard is a city in McClain and Grady counties in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. The population was 7,670 at the 2010 census, up from 2,816 at the 2000 census. Blanchard is part of a rapidly growing area of northern McClain and Grady counties known as the "Tri-City Area" with Newcastle and Tuttle.

Woody Guthrie Folk Festival Annual folk festival in Oklahoma, USA

The Woody Guthrie Folk Festival is held annually in mid-July to commemorate the life and music of Woody Guthrie. The festival is held on the weekend closest to July 14 - the date of Guthrie's birth - in Guthrie's hometown of Okemah, Oklahoma. Daytime main stage performances are held indoors at the Brick Street Cafe and the Crystal Theatre. Evening main stage performances are held outdoors at the Pastures of Plenty. The festival is planned and implemented annually by the Woody Guthrie Coalition, a non-profit corporation, whose goal is simply to ensure Guthrie's musical legacy. The event is made possible in part from a grant from the Oklahoma Arts Council. Mary Jo Guthrie Edgmon, Woody Guthrie's younger sister, is the festival's perennial guest of honor.

Thlopthlocco Tribal Town

Thlopthlocco Tribal Town is both a federally recognized Native American tribe and a traditional township of Muscogee Creek Indians, based in Oklahoma. The tribe's native language is Mvskoke, also called Creek.

Lynching of Laura and L. D. Nelson African-American mother and son who were lynched in the U.S.

Laura and L. D. Nelson were an African-American mother and son who were lynched on May 25, 1911, near Okemah, Okfuskee County, Oklahoma. They had been seized from their cells in the Okemah county jail the night before by a group of up to 40 white men, reportedly including Charley Guthrie, father of the folk singer Woody Guthrie. The Associated Press reported that Laura was raped. She and L. D. were then hanged from a bridge over the North Canadian River. According to one source, Laura had a baby with her who survived the attack.

References

  1. "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
  2. 1 2 "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
  3. 1 2 "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau . Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  4. "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31.
  5. Rick Aschmann (2 May 2018). "North American English Dialects, Based on Pronunciation Patterns". Aschmann.net. Retrieved 25 November 2019.
  6. "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Archived from the original on May 31, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-07.
  7. CensusViewer:Okemah, Oklahoma Population
  8. 1 2 Price, Carolyn S. Burnett. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Okemah." Retrieved February 9, 2013.
  9. The Bankers Magazine - Volume 76 - Page 647 - Google Books Result 1908 - Banks and banking Okemah—First National Bank: R. W. Armstrong, Asst. Cashicr.
  10. Davidson, James West (2007). "They say": Ida B. Wells and the Reconstruction of Race. New York: Oxford University Press. pp.  5–8.
  11. "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23.
  12. "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  13. "Okemah Lake". City of Okemah. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  14. "Municipal Park-Okemah OK". The Living New Deal. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  15. "Pioneer Days". City of Okemah. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  16. "History of the Festival". Woody Guthrie Folk Festival. Retrieved July 3, 2020.
  17. "Okemah, Oklahoma". Google Maps. Retrieved July 4, 2020.
  18. "Airport". City of Okemah. Retrieved July 3, 2020.