You might think your town is old, but it probably isn’t the oldest in the country.
That is unless you live in St. Augustine, FL. Which looks pretty good for being 454 years old.
That’s older than America for those playing at home.
So that got us thinking, what is the oldest city in Oklahoma? And how old is that when you put it into perspective of St. Augustine or American Independence in 1776?
Because even if your Oklahoma city or town is old, it isn’t really all that old in the grand scheme of things. For example, the Pyramids in Egypt were built around 2600 BC, a cool 4100 years before St. Augustine.
And now that we have you thinking about how the time line of your existence is really kind of unimpressive on the timeline of history, let’s drop right into the analysis.
These are the 10 oldest cities and towns in the Sooner State according to their ‘date of foundation’:
- Stillwater (Photos)
- Oklahoma City (Photos)
- Muskogee (Photos)
- Pryor Creek (Photos)
- Durant (Photos)
- Owasso (Photos)
- Pauls Valley (Photos)
- Bixby (Photos)
- Holdenville (Photos)
- Coweta (Photos)
For being 134 years old, Stillwater doesn’t look a day over 40. And the newest city in Oklahoma? That would be Lawton — a brand spanking 17 years old.
How We Determined When A City Was Founded In Oklahoma… Or Is It Settled?
Surprisingly, there’s not a definitive data set that contains the dates of incorporation or settlement for cities in America. Put differently, there’s no official data set from the Census that contains when every place in America was founded.
So what did we do instead?
Use the internet’s version of official government data — Wikipedia of course!
For the majority of cities in Oklahoma, Wikipedia offers data on some kind of ‘date of foundation’ in the infobox. Unfortunately, because it’s Wikipedia and not a sprawling government bureaucracy, that can take the form of any of the following nomenclature (plus others):
And then even more stuff — for example Atlanta has a ‘Terminus’ date, whatever that is.
If no ‘date of foundation’ was found in the infobox, we looked to the general text in the History section of the city for ‘Founded in XXXX’.
All in all, we were able to collect data on 68 out of 76 in Oklahoma with over 5,000 people. That’s good for a 89.5% completion rate.
We then ranked them from oldest to newest with Stillwater turning out to be the matriarch of Oklahoma at the ripe old age of 134.
Here’s a look at the top ten and a snippet of their history from Wikipedia.
The north-central region of Oklahoma became part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803. In 1832, author and traveler Washington Irving provided the first recorded description of the area around Stillwater in his book A Tour on the Prairies. He wrote of “a glorious prairie spreading out beneath the golden beams of an autumnal sun. The deep and frequent traces of buffalo, showed it to be a one of their favorite grazing grounds.”
2. Oklahoma City
Oklahoma City was settled on April 22, 1889, when the area known as the ‘Unassigned Lands’ was opened for settlement in an event known as ‘The Land Run’. Some 10,000 homesteaders settled the area that would become the capital of Oklahoma. The town grew quickly; the population doubled between 1890 and 1900. Early leaders of the development of the city included Anton Classen, John Shartel, Henry Overholser and James W. Maney.
By the time Oklahoma was admitted to the Union in 1907, Oklahoma City had surpassed Guthrie, the territorial capital, as the new state’s population center and commercial hub. Soon after, the capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City. Oklahoma City was a major stop on Route 66 during the early part of the 20th century; it was prominently mentioned in Bobby Troup’s 1946 jazz classic, ‘(Get Your Kicks on) Route 66’ made famous by artist Nat King Cole.
French fur traders were believed to have established a temporary village near the future Muskogee in 1806, but the first permanent European-American settlement was established in 1817 on the south bank of the Verdigris River, north of present-day Muskogee.
4. Pryor Creek
In the early 1800s, treaties with the Cherokee, Osage, and Choctaw gave the tribes allotments in Indian Territory in the region that would become Oklahoma. Captain Nathaniel Hale Pryor, who was married to an Osage woman and served as an agent to the Osage people, was among those settling northeastern Oklahoma. He established a trading post on Grand River, shortly before the Union Mission was established 5 miles southeast of present-day Chouteau in 1820.
The Durant area was once claimed by both Spain and France before officially becoming part of the United States after the Louisiana Purchase and Adams–Onís Treaty. During the 1820s and 1830s the area was designated as part of the Choctaw Nation in the southern Indian Territory. During the Indian removals the Choctaws followed the Choctaw Trail of Tears from their ancestral homeland in Mississippi and Alabama into this area. The Choctaw Nation originally extended from the Mexican border in the west (now part of the Texas panhandle) to the Arkansas Territory in the east, from the Red River in the south to the South Canadian River in the north.
Owasso began as a settlement in 1881, located in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation in Indian Territory, near what is now 66th Street North and North 129th East Avenue. It was called Elm Creek, and was named for Elm Creek, a tributary of Bird Creek. The first settler was H.T. (Tole) Richardson. In June 1893, plans began for a rail line to be extended south from Bartlesville to the cattle ranches in the vicinity of Bird Creek. At that time, already several residences, a blacksmith shop, and a general store were in the Elm Creek settlement. Preston Ballard, owner of the general store, established a post office in the general store on February 10, 1898, and was appointed the first postmaster. The Joseph T. Barnes family moved to the settlement in 1897. Joseph and Luther Barnes bought the blacksmith shop in 1898. The first gas station was open in 1902 by Donovan Ranta.
7. Pauls Valley
The area that eventually became the city of Pauls Valley was one of the earliest European-American settlements in what was then known as Indian Territory. Smith Paul, born in 1809 in New Bern, North Carolina, discovered the fertile bottom land which is now Pauls Valley while a member of a wagon train traveling to California. Paul described the land as ‘a section where the bottom land was rich and blue stem grass grew so high that a man on horseback was almost hidden in its foliage.’
Holdenville traces its origin to a Creek settlement called echo, which means deer in English. George B. Fentress operated a general store there. A post office called ‘Fentress’ opened there on May 24, 1895. During the same year, the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (CO&G), later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway, built a line from McAlester to Oklahoma City. On November 15, 1895, the Fentress post office was renamed Holdenville, in honor of J. F. Holden, an employee of the CO&G. The town of Holdenville was incorporated by order of the U.S. District Court at Muskogee. D. J. Red was elected mayor at the first municipal election, held December 27, 1898. The first city council meeting was held January 4, 1899.
Before statehood, when the Five Tribes or Five Civilized Tribes were moved to Oklahoma from the Eastern United States, the area that is now Coweta became part of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Coweta was named after a Lower Creek town on the Chattahoochee River in southwestern Georgia and was first settled by Muscogees about 1840. In 1843 Robert Loughridge arrived in the area and established a mission, named ‘Koweta’. Loughridge left Koweta in 1850 to supervise the newly completed Tullahassee Manual Labor School. Koweta closed in 1861.
Oh How Time Flies For The Oldest Towns And Cities In Oklahoma
So there you have it, a look at some of the oldest places to live in Oklahoma. If we missed your city’s ‘date of foundation’, let us know in the comments. Or feel free to take a look at the table of the oldest places in Oklahoma.
And now, let’s raise our glasses, to the next 100 years of existence for these cities and towns in the Sooner State.
And for those wondering, here are the newest additions to Oklahoma:
- Lawton (Founded in 2001)
- Newcastle (Founded in 2001)
- Del City (Founded in 2001)
Detailed List Of The Oldest Cities In Oklahoma