History of Vinita, Oklahoma

Vinita, the county seat of Craig County, is located southeast of the center of the county at the intersection of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway with the Frisco.

Mr. D. M. Marrs, an old citizen, and for many years editor of the Vinita Leader gives the following sketch of the origin and growth of the city.

“A generation ago, or to be more explicit, in the fall of 1869, there might have been seen struggling through the rank underbrush, or toiling through the tall prairie grass, a party of men locating a route for a railroad along the line now traversed by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, south of the Kansas line, and headed southward toward Texas and the Gulf. It was a fine autumn day in the early part of October. The green and gold and purple of the leaves of the timber that scantily skirted the streams made a pretty picture in-the soft, hazy sunshine. The party scrambled up the south bank of Cabin Creek and -strolled leisurely out onto the more elevated prairie and struck camp, or rather came up with the wagon outfit which had preceded them, though by a circular route, and had gone into camp earlier in the afternoon. The gang of men were under instructions to locate a station thirty-miles or thereabout from the state line ; and their record of chain lengths told them that they had about reached the place. The circumambient line of timber on the north and east, following the undulation of the stream, and stretching away to the southward, the long line of Indian summer clouds that melted away before the evening sunset, the magnificent adjacent country, all tended to fix the conviction upon those interested that a finer location could not be found for a station and by-and-by a thriving town.

“Such were some of the preliminaries to the birth of Vinita, but the fates deemed it not wise to locate the town on the spot first decided on by the advance agents of a great railroad. The survey of the Atlantic and Pacific by mutual agreement crossed the “Katy” at this point and everything ran along smoothly till the former roadbed was built to within a mile and a half east of this present townsite. Then a very remarkable thing happened and the townsite was removed between two suns, very much to the disgust, and even armed resistance, of the “Katy.”

“The elder E. C. Boudinot, Dr. Poison, Johnson Thompson and Col. J. M. Bell arranged with the Atlantic and Pacific people to turn their line abandoning the old survey and cross the “Katy” where the crossing now is. In the meantime Boudinot and his friends fenced something like two miles square with posts and lumber and undertook to own' the entire townsite and more. The Atlantic and Pacific came with camps and baggage in the night time with the huge iron railroad crossing loaded on a wagon and proceeded to place it across the track of the other line. TheKaty’ people, aroused and indignant, came with an armed force and tore up the crossing and stood guard day and night, slowly dragging trains back and forth to prevent the other road from making headway. The courts were finally appealed to and an injunction granted, and the road pushed westward to the crossing of Big Cabin.

“Boudinot’s scheme to hold the townsite did not succeed. His fencing was torn down and destroyed, and the Cherokee authorities, through the town commissioners, surveyed and platted the present town site and named it Downingville, but Boudinot had the satisfaction of giving it a name which superseded Downingville, and from the start was the popular one, and had the advantage of the sanction of both railroads. Boudinot named the town Vinita, in honor of Vinnie Ream the sculptress, whom he had known and loved in Washington City, while an exile from his home and people on account of, his premature notions as to allotment of Cherokee lands.

“The town was platted and the first lots sold in February, 1872. Martin Thompson was the first to bid on and purchase a lot in the town. At first, after the coming of the Frisco, the town was built principally of tents and board shanties, occupied for the most part by whisky peddlers and toughs. Brawls and fights were frequent and now and then a man would be killed.

“There were no section lines in the Cherokee country in those days and the town was surveyed parallel with the Katy railroad which runs through the town at an angle of 43 degrees east. That accounts for the streets not running square with the points of the compass.

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