Delaware County, Oklahoma ~ Towns


Grove has a canning factory, two elevators, a flour mill, about twelve stores, several shops and quite a number of good homes. It is located on a ridge containing a natural grove of trees, from which the town derives its name, and is noted for its healthful surroundings. Early in January, 1922, a disastrous fire occurred at Grove in which five store buildings and their contents were destroyed, entailing a loss of $40,000. Already work has begun in rebuilding the burnt district and the old buildings will soon be replaced by new and more substantial structures.

Upon the admission of Oklahoma into statehood, Grove was designated as the county seat of Delaware County. As it was the largest town and the only railroad town in the county, its selection was a most appropriate one, but it was unfortunate for the town that it was located so near the northern boundary of the county. The residents of the lower part of the county soon began to complain of having to travel so far to attend court and transact other county business.


A campaign was soon started in favor of locating the County seat in the exact geographical center of the county. The argument that such location would be fair to all residents of the county seemed plausible and the county commissioners were finally induced to call an election to be held on December 8, 1908, for the purpose of permitting the voters of the county to decide whether or not they favored the proposed change.

The geographical center of the county was found to be in the woods, with no habitation of any kind within a mile, but some town lot promoters got busy, cleared the timber from a virgin ten acre tract, platted it into town lots and gave it the name of “Jay” in honor of Jay Washbourne, a Cherokee, whose land allotment included the proposed new ten-acre town site.

The election was bitterly contested and to the utter surprise and dismay of the citizens of Grove and the farmers of the CowSkin prairie, they were outvoted by the Indians living in the woods of the southern part of the county, a majority of the votes being cast in favor of the change.

The residents of the northern part of the county naturally thought that it would be an outrage to locate the county seat down in the woods where there were no houses, no railroad, no conveniences, and in order to forestall the threatened outrage they appealed to the courts to prevent the proposed change. After the contest was fought through the courts for nearly three years the State Supreme Court rendered its decision in favor of Jay. In the meantime a few store buildings, residences and a frame courthouse were built at Jay and in December, 1911, the governor of the state issued a proclamation declaring Jay to be the lawful county seat. But their trouble did not end here. One W. J. Creekmore platted a forty acre tract into town lots adjoining the original ten acre townsite, erected a commodious -frame building on it and tendered it to the commissioners for use as a courthouse. The offer was accepted by the commissioners, but the newcomers who had settled on the original ten acre site were opposed to Creekmore’s offer and declared that they would not permit the courthouse to be moved.

Creekmore then appealed to the courts to aid him in securing the removal of the courthouse to his tract but it seems that the decision of the courts was not directly in favor of either side, but rather referred the contest back to the people of the county. In the meantime the residents of the original ten-acre site dug a trench around their courthouse and guarded it with shot guns declaring that they would not consent to its removal. Finally the governor issued a second proclamation declaring the first ten acre site to be the legal county seat, but by this time the contest between the two factions had become so bitter that civil war was threatened and the state militia was called upon to quiet the trouble. The adjutant general of the state visited the scene of trouble and after investigating the situation notified the people that the courthouse should remain where it was first located. The people acquiesced in this decision and the bitter feelings which had been engendered by the contest gradually subsided. In May, 1913, however, this first courthouse was destroyed by fire and funds were immediately raised by subscription with which to erect a one-story stone courthouse.

Jay Washbourne, on whose allotment the Town of Jay is located, has aided in getting the new town started. H. L. Marshall was the first attorney to locate.

Dr. A. G. Marchman was Jay’s first physician; I. W. Ingram, the first abstractor and W. H. Doherty, the first banker. Hon. J. Grover Scales, a representative Cherokee, is the efficient county judge. Tom Price, W. M. Sanders and Dick Duffleld were the first merchants.

The Methodists, Christians and Baptists got busy soon after the new town site was platted and those denominations have established churches there and have organized good Sunday schools. When Jay was platted there was no schoolhouse in that vicinity except a dilapidated log house which had served the Cherokees for many years as a neighborhood school, but it has been abandoned and a good public school, including a high school, has taken its place.

Several stores and shops have been added, and in addition thereto, Jay now has a weekly newspaper called. the Delaware County Chieftain, two hotels, two restaurants, a spoke and handle factory and a number of residences.

The National Hardware Company of Kansas City, Mo., is planning to make use of the fine virgin timber of the southern part of Delaware County prospecting for oil, gas and lead in various parts of the county has already begun ; the county has recently voted $50,000 to be expended in constructing good roads throughout the county, and the time is not far distant when Jay will come out of the woods and Delaware County will be brought into closer communication with the rest of the state.


The Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf railroad extends across the northwest corner of Delaware County and the little town of Bernice has grown up over there. It has several general stores and has built up a good public school in which five teachers are regularly employed. Bernice has a population of 250 and as it is surrounded by a good farming country it is destined to become quite an important little city.

Preliminary steps have quite recently been taken toward establishing a county fair for Delaware County, the citizens taking the lead in this enterprise. Dr. A. J. Butts, W. D. Gibson and E. B. Wolfe have been chosen as the first directors of the fair association and William Kelso, a bank cashier, as secretary and treasurer. All of these men are residents of the Town of Grove, and they are planning to interest the boys and girls of the county by organizing poultry and farm clubs in the various school districts of the county

Source: Benedict, John D. Muskogee and northeastern Oklahoma, including the counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig, and Ottawa. 3 v. illus., ports., facsims. 28 cm. Chicago, S.J. Clarke Pub. Co., 1922.

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