History of

Broken Arrow, Oklahoma

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Information Abstracted from:

Tulsa County Historic Sites July 1982: Prepared by the Community Planning Division Indian Nations Council of Governments for the Tulsa County Historical Society (Financed in part with Federal funds ...) Description

Long before the Creek Indians were removed by the United States Government from Georgia to the Creek Nation, Indian Territory, they had a community known as Broken Arrow. In 1826, when the Creeks came to Indian Territory, they retained the old names for their communities. The Creek Indian settlement of Broken Arrow was situated two to five miles south of the present City of Broken Arrow. There is much dispute over the name Broken Arrow. Some say it comes from the former Creek settlement in Georgia which was located near a canebrake. The Indians found it easy to break off the long smooth joints of cane and convert them into arrows. (1) Others say that it is an English translation of the Creek Indian name of a nearby stream. (2) A final theory says the name comes from a Creek ceremony held following the Civil War, in which an arrow was broken to symbolize a reunion of the two Civil War tribal factions. (3) Whatever the origin of the name, the Creeks were able to prosper in the Broken Arrow region, despite the setbacks caused by the U.S. Government, the Osage and Delaware Indians, and the Civil War. Some of the more important and prosperous Creek families included the McIntoshes, Perrymans, and Childers.

A few of the Creek Indians controlled large expanses of land which they leased to Texas ranchers. George Perryman leased land to James M. Daugherty, Jay Forsythe and E. L. Ed Halsell.

A number of small land holders also moved into the Broken Arrow community toward the end of the 19th century. In 1901, four industrious young men, W. T. Brooks, N. L. Sanders, W. N. '"Newt" Williams [William Newton Williams], and his brother M. C. "Mac" Williams [Merida Caleb Williams] came to the Creek Nation to establish a general store and cotton gin. They settled on land owned by Elam Hodge, a member of the Perryman family, and named the little settlement Elam in his honor. Elam seemed to be ideally located, the soil was fertile, there was an abundance of native timber and a store of wealth in gas and oil in the area. These four young men constructed the buildings for their store and gin under the firm name of Brooks, Sanders, and William Brothers.

In 1903, a branch line of the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway Company was built from just north of Muskogee, along the north side of the Arkansas to Osage Junction, passing through the Broken Arrow community, but missing Elam. The depot was completed in early June, 1902, but the track did not reach Broken Arrow until April 16, 1903. Train service began June 10, 1903. (4) Since the railroad did not come to Elam, the people of Elam moved to the Broken Arrow community.

When the M.K. & T. Railroad Company secured right-of-way to construct the railroad, they were also granted townsite privileges along the railway. In 1902, the company sold three townsites between Wybark and Tulsa to the Arkansas Valley Townsite Company. W. S. Fears, secretary of the townsite company, was allowed to choose one of the three locations. Fears selected a place near two high mounds southeast of Tulsa near South 71st and 161st East Avenue. He named it Broken Arrow because the site was located in the Old Broken Arrow community. (5)

The quarter section on which the principal part of the town was located had been allotted to Stephen Franklin, a Creek freedman and Billy Adkins, a Creek Indian. The townsite company paid Franklin for his 120 acres and platted the land for townsite purposes. The plat was approved October 16, 1902, one year before the Secretary of The Interior approved the incorporation of the townsite in 1903. The fertile soil, coal mines, and grazing land brought hundreds of people to Broken Arrow. In 1907, the government census listed Broken Arrow's population at 1383. (6)

The exact location of the first post office in the Broken Arrow community is not known. William P. Moore owned a store and the post office was in that store. This store was approximately five miles south of the present town of Broken Arrow. The post office in the present Broken Arrow downtown was opened in 1902 by W. T. Brooks, postmaster, and his daughter Ora, assistant postmaster. The post office was in a frame building on Main Street. (7)

Most of Broken Arrow's early pioneers came from Arkansas, Tennessee, Missouri or Kansas. among these were the Hurds, McKennas, Laws Brothers and Brooks, Sanders and Williams Brothers. Within six months after the town plat was completed, more than two blocks of business houses had been opened for business. The first businesses established were the K.C. Barber Shop and the office of the Hammond Lumber Company. These were opened October 16, l902. (8) After just six months, businesses in town included: Nichols-Raupe Hardware, Spraque and Parker Hardware, Brooks, Sanders and Williams Brothers Dry Goods and Groceries, Lancaster and McAnally Drygoods, Groceries and Hardware, Simmons Hotel, G. L. Holt Pharmacy, L. Waller Drugs, Broken Arrow Drugs, First State Bank, Trader's and Planters' Bank, Dickason-Goodman Lumber Company, Hammond Lumber Company, Hill Mercantile Company, Coweta Coal and Gin Company, Williams Brothers Gin, C. Magel, blacksmith, G. H. Trusler, blacksmith, Sol Jamsion, elevator and MKO Restaurant. Early doctors in town included S. C. Parsons, R. S. Plumlee, A. J. Pollard, and F. H. Hollingsworth. (9) Onis Franklin was Broken Arrow's earliest doctor, being among the residents of Elam. Dr. Franklin operated Broken Arrow's first hospital on the second floor of what is now Petrik Drugs. In 1940, he opened another, larger, hospital in the building now occupied by Broken Arrow Schools' Special Education Center. The Dalton Brothers' Brick Company and Smoot and Sullivan Brick Company were two other early businesses. The two companies were responsible for most of the brick and concrete work in the growing community.

Early residences were established in an area bounded by Elm on the west, 5th on the east, Elgin on the north and Galveston on the south. Commercial development was also located in this area, along Comercial and Main.

On May 4, 1903, Broken Arrow incorporated as a town under the jurisdiction of the Federal Court for the Indian Territory. On July 10, 1903, the following officials were elected: J. B. Parkinson, mayor; Luther Gideon, clerk; W. T. Brooks, Charles Nichols, R. S. Plumlee, R. A. Waller and M. L. Fife, aldermen.

Tom Higgins was the first marshall and F. S. Hurd was treasurer. The first franchise granted in the new town was the telephone franchise granted to George Cress and Company. (10)

Although Broken Arrow had a public phone system as early as March 2, 1904, they were without many other improvements for several years. The City Council did not grant a gas franchise until September, 1906, when the Marshall Oil and Gas Company was authorized to lay the pipes and furnish the town with natural gas. Until 1909, the city water supply came from a well located at the intersection of Main and Commercial Streets. The water was so salty it was almost impossible to use. In 1910, a city water system which pumped water from a spring about seven miles south of Broken Arrow was established. In 1906, the Broken Arrow Electric Light Company was granted a twenty year franchise to furnish the city with electricity. (11) In 1917, the plant was purchased by Public Service Company.

Within two months after the town was surveyed, a Sunday school was organized in the home of Mrs. William Sprague. The first church service was in the home of F. A. Whitmer on Christmas day, 1902. A Union Sunday school was soon organized and met Sunday afternoons in the Orcutt building. The majority of people who attended the Union Church services were Methodists. Therefore, the Arkansas Valley Townsite Company donated a lot to the Methodists for erection of a church. The Methodists constructed their frame church on Main Street in 1903. Other early church buildings were the Missionary Baptist, 1904; the Christian, 1905; and the Presbyterian Church, 1905.

Work to raise money for a school began in the spring of 1903. The school board was elected in 1903. The first free public school was opened on October 5, 1903, taught by P. C. Skaggs, Mrs. J. H. Wertz and Miss Patterson. This first school was held in the Methodist Church building. In January, 1904, the school was forced to close due to lack of funds, but Mrs. Wertz and Miss Patterson continued their classes on a subscription basis. In 1904, a two percent sales tax was voted to raise money to erect a school building. The new two-story brick school building was completed in the fall of 1904. This building burned down and was replaced in 1925 by the existing building, now Central Middle School. (12)

In 1909, the Haskell State School of Agriculture was located in Broken Arrow. The town donated 80 acres to accommodate the college. The site was approved, but the building was not completed until 1910. The first year classes met in the Old Opera House, above what is now Ross Drug. Haskell State College was officially closed in 1917 due to lack of funds and the land, buildings and equipment were given to the Broken Arrow School District, giving the town a badly needed high school building. Haskell College is currently listed on the National Register of Historic Places. (13)

At this writing, Broken Arrow is the only community in Tulsa County, excluding Tulsa, that has a structure listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Endnotes - Broken Arrow
1. George Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (University of Oklahoma Press, 1974)
2. Charles Newton Gould, Oklahoma Place Names (University of Oklahoma Press, 1937)
3. Shirk.
4. H. Cecil Rhoades, Establishment and Development of Broken Arrow (Moongate Enterprises, 1976), p. 23
5. ibid., p. 25.
6. U.S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census, Census of Population: 1920 (Washington, 1921), Vol. 1, p. 579.
7. Rhoades, p. 36.
8. ibid., p. 29.
9. Broken Arrow Ledger, Indian Territory, April 23, 1903
10. C.B. Douglas, History of Tulsa, Oklahoma (vol.1. Chicago: The S.J. Clark Publishing Company, 1921), p. 683.
11. Rhodes, pp. 44-47.
12 ibid., pp. 57-60
13. ibid. pp. 62-65

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