Checotah, a flourishing city of 3,000
people, is located on the M. K. & T. Railroad, in the northern part of
McIntosh County. It is the first town of importance south of Muskogee
and was founded in 1872, soon after the new railroad reached that
vicinity. It was named in honor of Samuel Checote, who was serving as
chief of the Creek Nation at that time. The name was suggested by the
railroad authorities who located the station there, because of the
prominence which Chief Checote had just gained in suppressing an
insurrection of dissatisfied full-bloods under the leadership of a
simple-minded old Indian by the name of Sands.
Checotah is situated near the center of one of the best
agricultural sections of the state and for many years before it was
organized some of the largest and best cattle ranches were found in that
locality. The once famous ranch of Turner & Middleton, where thousands
of cattle and hundreds of horses were cared for, was located ten miles
toward the northwest. The Gentry Ranch and the Spaulding ranch also
furnished hundreds of beef cattle to the northern markets each year.
In those days, antedating the arrival of the railroads,
the cowpunchers drove the fat cattle across the country to St. Louis or
Kansas City, sometimes loading them on cars at some point in Kansas.
Cattle-raising, in those pioneer days of immense pastures, was very
profitable business, as the mild winters made it possible to keep
livestock on the grass, without extra feed, throughout almost the entire
year. The first white farmers who settled here came from the cotton
producing states and it was but natural that they devote their time and
energy to the production of that profitable crop, especially when they
found the soil and climate so well adapted to it. But as other farmers
came in, they found conditions equally adapted to raising wheat, barley,
oats, alfalfa, etc., so that there is much more diversification of crops
than in former times..
Several points of historic interest are found in this
part of the state. Near here the Creeks and Osage fought a severe battle
in the olden days in which the Osage were defeated with a loss of fifty
On Elk Creek, southeast of Checotah, one of the
decisive Indian Territory battles of the Civil war was fought between
regiments commanded by General Blount of the Northern army and Col.
Douglas Cooper of the Confederates.
Colonel Cooper retreated with a loss of 200 men, while about one hundred
of the Northern soldiers were killed or wounded.
As Checotah began to assume the appearance
of a real town it turned its attention to the building of churches and
schools. The Methodist Episcopal Church, South, was the first to
organize a church. In 1889 Rev. James A. Trickey started the first
church of that denomination in a little schoolhouse. After remaining two
years, he was succeeded by Rev. W. M. Baldwin, who had the misfortune of
seeing the little church house, which he had just completed, carried
away by a wind storm. This misfortune did not seem to dishearten the
parishioners, however, for they soon got busy and erected a better and
more commodious building.
The Christian denomination was the next to organize a church.
Rev. J. W. Towry came to Checotah in 1896 and at the close of a series
of meetings, gathered a little flock of converts together and
established the Christian Church. The little congregation grew and
prospered and within three years had erected and paid for a substantial
The Baptist denomination soon afterward determined to
organize a church. Rev. D. S. Cromer, a Baptist minister visited
Checotah in 1898 and found five members of his denomination in the
village. The use of the Christian Church was kindly tendered to him
temporarily. Two years later Rev. Charles S. Leonard was called as
pastor of this church, and with a membership of twenty-five, encouraged
by his energy and earnestness, another very creditable church building
was soon erected.
Later on the Presbyterians, Episcopalians and other
denominations organized churches, and it may be well said that the
religious welfare of the inhabitants of Checotah and vicinity has not
Checotah, like every other Indian Territory
town which was established prior to 1898, was hindered and delayed in
the matter of organizing a good school system, but a school was started
as soon as the town began to grow and for several years was maintained
by subscription or voluntary taxation. Soon after Congress passed the
law permitting towns to tax themselves for public purposes, a school
district was organized, good teachers secured, modern buildings erected,
and today Checotah has a first class school system, with an accredited
As soon as Checotah began to contemplate the building
of a real town, a wide awake commercial club was organized for the
purpose of promoting the town's interests, with J. B. Morrow as
president, K. W. Whitmore as secretary and R. B. Hutchinson as
Among the pioneers of Checotah, the name, of Mr. R. Y.
Audd is worthy of mention. He came to this neighborhood from Kentucky
about forty years ago, and taught school for a while at the old Asbury
Mission School. He married a niece of the noted Cherokee chief, John
Ross, and became so fascinated with the agricultural possibilities of
this section of the country that he began to develop a farm near
Checotah. He moved into Checotah soon after the town started, but
continued his farming operations. He became interested in fruit culture
and was soon the proprietor of the largest peach orchard in this part of
the country. He built several houses in Checotah and in other ways
demonstrated his interest in the growth of the town.
Mr. H. D. Knisely was the first druggist to locate in Checotah. From a
small beginning his business gradually increased, until he became
recognized as one of the leading druggists of the Indian Territory.
The First National Bank of Checotah was its
first substantial financial institution. It was organized in 1898, Mr.
J. S. Todd being its first president and R. D. Martin, cashier. This
bank has paid its stockholders good dividends from the date of its
organization, and its officers have been closely identified with the
growth of the city.
William E. Gentry has, perhaps, done as much for Checotah as
any other man. He is a Creek by birth and had possession of a fine body
of land in this vicinity prior to the individual allotment of lauds. His
cattle ranch, for many years, was one of the prominent institutions of
the neighborhood. He interested himself in various ways in the
development of the town and from its beginning, has been recognized as
one of Checotah's most useful citizens.
H. G. Turner was chosen as Checotah's first
mayor after the town was incorporated, and he and his councilmen gave
the town their services without pay.
Mr. J. B. Morrow, Spaulding Mercantile Co., and
Lafayette Brothers were among the early settlers who helped to make
Checotah a real live city.
The Grand Lodge of Odd Fellows selected Checotah some
years ago as the location of its State Orphan Home, and just outside the
northern limits of the city, a large brick building was erected. The
grounds around the building have been beautified, making it a very
comfortable and attractive home for their orphan boys and girls.