Nowata County, Oklahoma History

Nowata has seven churches, representing an investment of $130,000, which are served by able ministers. The churches exercise a wider and deeper uplifting influence than the average church of the modern day. They represent a membership of over fifteen hundred, an average Sunday morning attendance of over twelve hundred and a Sunday school attendance of over one thousand.

Nowata has a live Rotary Club, devoting most of its energies toward Boys’ Work, a hustling Lions’ Club, whose activities are along the lines of civic improvements, a large Community Club composed of citizens not only of the City of Nowata, but of all Nowata County. The Women’s Clubs, both literary and musical, are not only alert and progressive in their respective efforts of self culture, but are of practical service to the community and are affiliated with both state and national federations.

The city has three strong banks with resources amounting to $2,500,000 and deposits amounting to $1,720,000. It also has a strong Building & Loan Assn. with resources of over three hundred thousand dollars and no delinquent interest. In addition to the above, Nowata has three high-class hotels, equal to any to be found in any city of 25,000; three machine shops, four lumberyards, two grain elevators, ten garages, five oil stations, three of which operate modern drive-in filling stations, three seed houses, a modern 36-ton capacity artificial ice plant, with 500 ton storage capacity, which shipped over one thousand five hundred tons of ice last year ; a fine radium bath house with eighty-five rooms and expert attendants. It boasts of having one of the best daily newspapers of the state, giving both Associated and United Press telegraph news service and two weekly newspapers. Nowata is the headquarters of the Henderson Gasoline Co., manufacturers of casing-head gas, from the largest single plant under one roof in the world and the second one built in the Mid-Continent oil field. It is also surrounded by the greatest shallow oil field in the Mid-Continent section, the same being served by four pipe-line companies. The retail stores are equal in appearance and service rendered, to any, and serve a population of over fourteen thousand people within a radius of eleven miles.

    Nowata’s industrial advantages are unexcelled. With oil and coal all around it, these advantages should be more rapidly developed than they now are.

    Much of the foregoing information was furnished by Mr. C. E. Manning, the efficient manager of the City of Nowata, who also adds that as early as 1889, ten years before taxes could be levied for public purposes, Nowata provided free schools for the boys and girls of the community.

The following interesting sketch of the City of Nowata was written by Mrs. E. G. Witter of that city and read at a meeting of the La-Kee-Kon Club, one of the most active of the Women’s clubs of Nowata.

“If a complete history of Nowata were being written a most interesting account would be possible indeed, we might glean from its prairies and weave into its early history beautiful Indian Legends with facts of its sturdy western life. But owing to the brief time allotted to the writing of this article, I will take up only the important steps in its growth and progress to date.

“We first learned that the Iron Mountain Railway established stations through the Indian Territory at an interval of every six miles; completing the road to Nowata in the early fall of 1889. When the station was established, the name Noweata, a Delaware word meaning ‘come here’ or ‘Welcome’ was suggested and adopted. The railroad men mispronounced this name, calling it Nowata and officials from Washington wrote the name Nowata on the official documents. So the town gradually became Nowata, instead of Noweata, as it was originally named.

“The Civic club, an organization of Nowata ladies, tried at one time to have the name corrected but there was so much red tape about the process that it was finally dropped.

“After the depot was built, Mr. J. E. Campbell erected a store building, which was the first structure completed in town following the erection of the depot.

“Mr. W. V. Carey put up the next building, which was Nowata’s first hotel. This joined Mr. Campbell’s store and the two buildings occupied the ground where the Carey Hotel now stands. Later a fire which originated in the hotel destroyed both buildings. Part of the goods were saved from Mr. Campbell’s store and these he placed in a shed on the corner where the Frickreid Supply Store now stands. Later Mr. Campbell put up a frame store building on the corner where Campbell and Cobb’s store is located. This store was later destroyed by fire after which Mr. Campbell immediately erected the building now occupied by Campbell and Cobb, which was completed in 1894 and which was Nowata’s second brick building.

“Before that time Mr. Henry Armstrong of Coody’s Bluff had put up a brick building which is still standing and is now occupied by the Farmers’ Supply Company. These brick structures were followed by the present post office building.

“Nowata’s first real impetus was caused by the establishment of the United States Court, being located here in 1904. When it became apparent that Congress would establish courts at several towns in the Indian Territory, Mr. E. B. Lawson was induced to go to Washington-in the interest of this matter and his success caused great rejoicing in the small but ambitious village.

“The First National Bank at that time was preparing to build on its present site, but instead of erecting a two story building as had been planned, a third story was added for the accommodation of the Federal Court. This building was destroyed by fire in 1909 and at that time the third story was used by Nowata County for court purposes. Nearly all the county records up until that date were destroyed, a serious loss and inconvenience felt by the county to the present date. After the First National Bank Building was destroyed, court was held in a small building on West Davis Street until the present courthouse was completed in 1912.

“After the Iron Mountain Railway had located a station here, several buildings had been erected and streets and alleys had been established by common consent of the people before the town site had been surveyed.

    “In 1892 the Cherokee Nation laid off the town site of Nowata one mile square ; subsequently this area was reduced to 320 acres by the Federal Government in 1904. After the town was incorporated in 1892 the Cherokee Nation auctioned off the lots, which they did each following year. At the first sale of these lots there was no disposition of individuals to bid on lots which had already been built on. Of course the parties building had had no title to their lots and serious trouble and loss might have been caused had others tried to buy these lots at the auction. However, public sentiment would have allowed no such thing to happen. Indeed, a man would have been mobbed had he undertaken it.

“With these exceptions there was sharp bidding for desirable lots, omitting, however, lots purchased for church purposes. Mr. L. T. Kinkead bid for the Baptist lots where the new Baptist Church’ now stands. This church was completed in 1918, taking the place of the old frame church that was built in 1896 and which was Nowata’s first church. This church was used by all denominations for a while. Mr. J. E. Campbell bid for the lots for the Presbyterian Church, not far from the site of the Baptist Church. These lots were afterwards sold for a considerable sum and the proceeds used to buy the present Presbyterian site including the Manse, which was erected in 1908.

“The Methodist site was bought and donated to the Methodist people by Mr. George Martin and his brother. The first Methodist Church was built in 1901, in which the federated Methodists and Presbyterians held services. The present Methodist Church was built in 1910. The Catholic Church was built in 1909, followed by the Christian Church in 1911 and the Episcopal Church in June, 1912.

“The church lots and probably most of the lots sold at the first lot auction were purchased for the nominal sum of perhaps $2.00 or $3.00, but when the town area was reduced by the Federal Government in 1904, the people who had purchased lots prior to this time had to pay for them again. However, the prices were low and four years’ time were given in which to pay for them.

“After Nowata was laid off and incorporated, a municipal government was organized under the laws of the Cherokee Nation, using the tribal laws. Later, there was provision for a Federal organization using the Arkansas Law.

“Mr. L. T. Kinkead was elected first mayor of the town and served in this capacity for about three years, not quite finishing his third term when Doctor Sudderth was appointed to fill his place under the Cherokee regime. Doctor Sudderth was succeeded by Fred Metzner who served as last mayor under the Cherokee incorporation. After his term expired there was just the one government. The town was incorporated under the Federal Government in 1898, at which time Mr. Ben Scoville was elected mayor.

“The two municipal governments existed in Nowata for a while with many conflicts arising and one ending in serious results.  The government under the Cherokee regime was to some extent dominated by a lawless desperate class.

“Johnson Fulsom, or Johnson Push as he was called, was a Choctaw Indian who had been raised in the Cherokee Nation and who at one time had been city marshal, until he became so reckless and lawless that he was discharged in his drunken debauch. He would ride through the streets and over sidewalks into the stores on his horse, flourishing and shooting off his revolver, resisting arrest.

“In order to put an end to such a lawless state of affairs, the municipal government under the Federal authorities secured the services of a fearless man as their marshal from the outside, namely, Mr. Goodell. The rowdies of the town determined to get rid of Mr. Goodell and get him out of town but he resisted their opposition and stood his ground until conditions became unbearable. The time came when one of the two government factions would dominate. In the mixup Mr. Goodell killed Mr. Fulsom and his brother. The town was divided, some siding with and some against Mr. Goodell, who was afterwards convicted in the Federal Court at Wagoner and sentenced to the penitentiary for twenty years.

“Not a great while after his conviction he was granted a pardon by President Roosevelt. This affair put an end to the lawlessness in Nowata at that time.
“The Nowata people petitioned for a post office and the United States Post Office Department ordered Mr. Fred Metzner to move his office from California Creek to Nowata, which he did in April, 1890. Nowata’s first schoolhouse was built where the Christian Church. now stands. Mr. Keith of Coffeyville was the first teacher in the subscription school and Miss Grace Phillips was the first teacher for the Cherokees.

“Later the building now occupied by the Roberts Furniture Store was rented and used for school purposes. Both the subscription and Cherokee children attended. In 1903 an addition was made to the old building and Mr. J. A. Burns became superintendent. The present grade building was erected in 1909 and the high school building in 1918.

“When the constitutional convention met in 1907 Nowata was selected as the temporary county seat of Nowata County for a given length of time. In 1908 when the county seat went to a vote, Nowata won after a hot fight with Delaware.

“Nowata adopted the Commission form of government in 1913, which is the present form- of city government. The commissioners at this time areR. C. Cauthorne, mayor and commissioner of public welfare; A. P. Houglan, city clerk and commissioner of finance; Frank McCartney, commissioner of public property.

 “Prior to the adoption of the Commission form of government the city was governed by the aldermanic form, each ward being represented by an alderman. The Commission form of government has been replaced by the managerial form at a recent- election when a new charter was adopted. The commissioners have been elected but the manager has not yet, been selected.

“The City of Nowata owes her sudden and continued growth largely to the development of the oil fields in the territory adjacent.

The Alluwe field in November, 1904, was the first field opened, followed by the Coody’s Bluff field about a year later, and then the Childers and Hogshooter’s fields about 1906. All of these proving to be rich fields.

“A test well was put down in Nowata in 1906 but instead of oil, radium water was found. The opening of these oil fields caused people from all over the United States to locate in Nowata, as it was the center for this field.

“Before the end of this brief history of Nowata we must mention some of the clubs and organizations that have worked and are working for the betterment of our city. In 1906 the Civic club, which I have mentioned before, organized to assist in the civic welfare of the city, which they did in many ways. One of the lasting improvements to their honor was the building of the City Park.

“Our La-Kee-Kon Club, which organized in 1903 with Mrs. Eugene B. Lawson as its first president, has well lived up to its motto `Mutual Improvement.’ Its influence has not only been felt in Nowata but it has the honor of having chosen from its membership to the State Federation of Women’s Clubs its most worthy president, Mrs. E. B. Lawson.

“An organization of which few cities the size of Nowata can boast is our Rotary Club, organized in June, 1919. This club has its ambitions and from them we expect great results. The Chamber of Commerce, which is known and represented in practically every home in Nowata, has already made its influence felt. They have made the paving of about fifty blocks in the residence districts practically certain, which is one big step forward and which is the beginning of many things for Nowata. When all the men of Nowata, who want to see her grow, get together and put their shoulders to the wheel she cannot stand still but is bound to move toward a higher goal.

“The Music Club, organized in 1905 with Mrs. J. Wood Glass as its first president, has been instrumental in bringing to Nowata many treats in the way of music, art, lectures, etc., and is encouraging the development and love for things artistic in Nowata.”

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.

1 thought on “Nowata County, Oklahoma History”

  1. Hi. I am a 20-year student of the joint Army-Navy “Special Engineer Task Force” in the early minutes of the Omaha Beach landings. I have a photo linking one of its members killed on June 6, 1944 to his youth in Nowata (whether the city or the county is unclear at present). I would like to email it to someone to help figure out when and by whom the photo was published, whose football team is being showcased, etc. Anyone is welcome any time to reach me by email ( with questions about the photo or the SETF. Many of its men were from across Oklahoma, Texas, and Louisiana. Thank you kindly.

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