Jenks, 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

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Jenks is located southwest of Tulsa and is one of the newer communities in the county. Like most other communities in the area, Jenks was located at an auspicious point on a major transportation route, the Missouri-Pacific Railroad, near the Arkansas River which was navigable by shallow draft steamboats when the river level was high. The location of Jenks was further enhanced by the proximity of the Albert Pike Highway. Of all these transportation facilities, the new town was most influenced by the Missouri-Pacific railroad; Jenks took its name from a railroad official. (1)

The Midland Valley Townsite Company platted the original townsite in 1905 but the townsite was sold to the Illinois Townsite Company soon thereafter. Due to frequent flooding, the Townsite Company found it difficult to sell lots and held several promotional events to improve sales. It is rumored the ownership of Jenks property changed hands like poker chips in card games. (2)

Agriculture, oil and the railroad were the primary economic forces in the town's early development. Cotton was the major crop, and a cotton gin opened in 1909. A feedmill and a grain elevator were also built in 1909.

The discovery of oil near Glenpool in 1905 gave Jenks a boost. In 1906, the Midland Valley Railroad built a spur connecting Jenks and Glenpool and when the oil field was in full production, Jenks experienced a sharp increase in population. Oil tank farms were constructed around the town to store oil from the fields. (13

Most of the early businesses, including the Jenks Bank, opened in 1906 during this boom. The first general store was established by Nate M. Phillips. The Carter Lumber Company, Jenks Cafe and Rooming House and the Post Office were among the first businesses established. The first postmaster was E. L. Rogers (4) and William George was one of the first mayors. At that time a three member town council elected the mayor from their members. (5) The early businesses located along Main Street near the train depot. Early residences were built in an area just east of the railroad between "B", Beaver and 9th Streets. The first doctors were doctors B. W. McLean, Jenks (the town is not named for him), Stewart and Harris. (6)

Oil was discovered near Jenks in 1912, and, thereafter, petroleum extraction and distribution became the primary industries in town. As the oil fields played out, farming regained its former importance. In the 1920s, a group of Bulgarian farmers immigrated to the Jenks area and further strengthened the farming and dairying activities. (7)

The first public school also opened in 1908. The oil tank farms increased the area property valuation and contributed considerable revenue to the Jenks school district making it one of the wealthiest in the state. The first public school consisted of three buildings. By 1921, the campus consisted of five brick buildings, a ten acre athletic field and a native stone stadium, with a seating capacity of l,000. In 1913, the first graduating class numbered four boys. (9) Miss Rousch was one of the early school teachers. (10)

Jenks Endnotes:
1. C.B. Douglas, History of Tulsa, vol. 1 (Chicago; S.J. Clarke Publishing Company 1921 pp. 692-693
2. Lit Roper, "Jenks Founded Amid Baseball Fight", Tulsa Tribune, August 3, 1957.
3. Jenks Comprehensive Plan.
4. Douglas pp. 692-693.
5. Linda George, interview July, 1982.
6. Debra Grubbs, interview July, 1982.
7. Louis Freeman, "History of Jenks" (Mimeographed).
8. Jenks Comprehensive Plan.
9. Livingston and Barker, "Jenks"
10. Linda George

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