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
About five miles southeast of the present site of Collinsville, there once existed the small community of Eli, which consisted of a post office, two small stores and a blacksmith shop. It was called Eli because when the three rivers surrounding it flooded, the only way out was that which is attributed to Elijah, 2nd Kings, 2:11 i.e., you had to go straight up, which, to say the least, was inconvenient.(1)
Because of the difficulty of entering or leaving town, the residents of Eli moved to a location about one or two miles east of the present day location of Collinsville, just on the east side of First Creek on the R. E. Graham allotment. This settlement was named Collins, in honor of Dr. A. H. Collins, the county surveyor. At the time, Collins was postmaster of a country post office, some two or three miles north of the present site of Owasso. He was told that if he would consent to move to the new location, the "city to be" would be named after him.(2)
For almost two years, this community flourished. The town was incorporated under the laws governing Indian Territory and Charlie "Jack" Taylor was the first and only mayor. Mr. E. G. Dunaway and Mr. Clawson established the first store in town. Clawson was also the postmaster. Other early businessmen were L. E. Evans, W. B. Erwin and W. L. Wright (Collinsville News). Dr. R. M. Parker was the first physician.
In the summer of 1899, the Santa Fe Railroad was built through the present day site of Collinsville.(3) After much disagreement and discussion, the residents of Old Town and the few residents still in Eli realized that they had no choice but to move to the present location of Collinsville, at the junction of State Highway 20 and U.S. 169.
"Uncle Rod" Perry and Mr. John Detwiler built the first building in the new town. This was a general merchandise store and restaurant and was erected at the northwest corner of 9th and Main. G. Edwin Morris laid out a townsite on the Thad Morris allotment, and John French laid one out on the French allotment.
Other businessmen soon purchased lots from Brown or French, and the Hill Brothers, house movers, were busy moving houses and buildings from Old Town to Collinsville. Clawson, Erwin, Ed Bondurant, W. L. Wright, Dr. Graham, and David Goyette were among those who followed Perry and Detwiler.
In Old Town a sunday school was formed with members from all denominations. L. E. Evans, a hardware merchant, was superintendent.
The first school was a subscription school taught in the home of Mrs. William Moore. No desks, no chairs; just benches and books from the last school the students attended. Mrs. Moore conducted her school in Old Town and then in the present site of Collinsville for one or two years. Her home was on the lot presently occupied by The Collinsville News. The school was located in various places around town after that. Miss Mitchell conducted school at the corner of 10th and Broadway. Miss Tutt held classes in the upper story of the Clawson building at 11th and Broadway, later known as Eagle Hall and now occupied by a church. Miss Inez Morrow taught in a two-story building on the lot west of Thrasher Feed Company.(4) A two room school was, at one time, located at the corner of 15th and Center. In the early 1900's, a horse-drawn school bus was hired to bring the country children to town for school. (5) The first permanent school was built in 1908, but was destroyed by fire in 1912. Early day Harwood School later became known as North Ward, then finally Washington where classes are still held today.
In the early 1900's, gas was discovered near Collinsville, and the greatest gas field in the state opened up. Early wells produced from three to ten million feet per well. The first real paying oil well was drilled on the old Chaney farm southwest of Collinsville about eight miles. Considerable development of oil in the shallow sand took place around the city. The principal fields were the Evans field one mile north of town and Bacock field three miles east.
In 1908, the Coffeyville Brick and Tile Company came to Collinsville. The brick shale found here was the best to be found in the territory. At full capacity, the plant employed 40 to 50 men. This was one of the largest brick plants in the state and its output was used all over the United States. In 1913, these bricks were used to brick the main streets of Collinsville.
The real boom for Collinsville came with the smelters in 1911. The Chamber of Commerce induced the Prime Western and Bartlesville zinc smelters to locate here. These manufacturing concerns induced large numbers of people to move to Collinsville for employment and at one time the population of the city approximated 8,000 people. Eleven new subdivisions totaling some 796 lots were added to the town. The smelters were located on a hill commonly known as "Smelter Hill" that had been platted for homes as Morrow Heights Addition. Many buildings were built in the days of the "boom", including City Hall in 1913 and the Carnegie Library in 1917. During World War I, the government shut down one of the zinc plants because it was reputed to be a German institution and that knocked the bottom out of Collinsville economic conditions. [update to this: E-mail received from Virgil Cheney: "The two smelters spoken of in the article on Collinsville history were never located on a "Hill". The remnants of the smelter can still be seen next to the railroad tracks south of town and are about the same elevation as the town itself. What is known as Smelter Hill was a community of houses and of people who worked at the Smelter. I've lived on Smelter Hill for 43 yrs and my abstract covers 40 lots, there was never a smelter here."]
At a special election in Collinsville on August 24, 1918, the townspeople voted to transfer the Collinsville Industrial District to Tulsa County from Rogers County. One thousand eight hundred twenty-eight voters voted for annexation and eight voted against. The county seat of Rogers County was in Claremore and the frequent flooding of the Verdigris River made it difficult, if not impossible, to get there from Collinsville.
(Historic Tulsa; An Illustrated History of Tulsa & Tulsa County; by Beryl Ford, Charles Ford, Rodger Randle, and Bob Byrke; Commissioned by the Oklahoma Heritage Association and the Tulsa Historical Society; Historical Publishing Network; San Antonio, TX; 2006; pgs 75-76) -
When the railroad did come, it missed the original townsite by one mile. The town incorporated and moved to the railroad in the fall of 1899 onto land originally allotted to Thad Morris. Some of the building were transported on rollers across a field to Collinsville's present location.
W. L. Wright hauled printing equipment from Oologah to Collinsville and established a weekly newspaper. The first edition of the Collinsville News was published on May 11, 1899. When the family newspaper was sold in 1987, it was the oldest newspaper in Tulsa County. [this statement is incorrect. The Indian Chief was in publication in the town of Tulsa in 1882. It changed its name in 1893 to the Indian Republican and 1905 the paper became the Tulsa World.) The first business in town was a general store owned by W. B. Erwin.
In the early 1900s, gas was discovered in the Collinsville area. The Henry Oil and Gas Company drilled the first well, signaling years of prosperity for the citizens of the community. Large quantities of coal were taken from shallow pits around Collinsville in the first decades of the twentieth century. At its height, more than two hundred tons of coal were shipped from the area each day.