Miami, Ottawa County, Oklahoma

Miami, the county seat and principal business center of Ottawa County, is located in the southern part of the county, near the Neosho River. It is a clean, pretty city of about seven thousand population, having all the modern conveniences, including paved streets, cement sidewalks electric lights natural gas, an abundant, supply of good water, first class hotels, handsome brick business blocks and a live Chamber of Commerce composed of 400 active business men.

Miami was one of the first towns in Indian Territory in which complete titles to lots could be secured. On the third day of March, 1891, a company of men, headed by W. E. Lykius, then mayor of the Town of Columbus, Kans., and designated as the Miami Townsite Co., purchased 557.75 acres of land in the northwest corner of the Ottawa Indian reservation, for $10 an acre, and proceeded to plat it into town lots, streets and alleys. It is claimed that Thomas Richardsville, an influential Indian who was, at that time, Chief of the Miami tribe, was, instrumental in securing the passage of the special act of Congress which was necessary in’ order to enable the town site company to secure complete title to the land. The sale of town lots began on May 27, 1891, and Dr. W. L. McWilliams made the first purchase, it being claimed that his deed conveyed the first perfect title granted to a white man anywhere in Indian Territory.

When this town site was purchased the liquor dealers took the position that by the transfer of this tract of land to. white men, the town had ceased to be a part of an Indian reservation, and therefore, the Federal statute prohibiting the sale of intoxicating liquors on an Indian reservation could not be enforced in Miami. As a result, the saloon business flourished amazingly, the village assuming the appearance and character of a typical wild west town. Within a few short years, however, a Federal Court was located in Miami and the saloons were put out of business. To the credit of the founders of the town it should be noted that they favored the abolition of the liquor traffic.

John S. Cheyne of Melrose, Kans., established the first general store in Miami under the title of the Bigham Mercantile Co. It was located where the Baptist Hospital was afterward built, but was soon moved to the east side of Main Street.

Dr. W. L. McWilliams, who is now a prominent Miami banker, was the first practicing physician and established, the first drug store in the town.

Miami was incorporated in 1895 and Col. Hardy H. Butler was elected mayor at the first election, held on November 4, 1895, at which election 126 votes were cast. Prior to this election there had been no form of town government and no law authorizing the levy of taxes for any purpose.

From this time forward, however, the town began to assume the appearance of a well organized municipality and permanent homes and public improvements became the order of the day. Colonel Butler, the first mayor, became interested in establishing a good school system and served the town as a member of the board of education for many years. Under his direction the town was incorporated as a school district, but as there was no provision of law authorizing the issue of bonds for building schoolhouses, the board of education issued school warrants of the denomination of $100 each and sold them to the residents, using the proceeds to build their first schoolhouse. While these preparations for a public school system were being perfected, Mrs. J. L. Talbott was conducting a little school at her home.

The first post office was established in Miami in 1.893 and as there was no railroad in sight at that time, .the mail was carried across the country to and from Baxter Springs, Kan.

Miami is, surrounded by a good agricultural, country and for a number of years it grew rather slowly, but kept apace with the development of the surrounding towns. Like all other young Indian Territory towns, its development was somewhat retarded, by its inability to raise sufficient funds by taxation to supply all of the needed public improvements.

For nearly twenty years the inhabitants seemed contented with trying to make Miami the center of the agricultural trade of the northeastern part of Indian Territory, apparently unaware of the fact that they were just on the border of one of the greatest and richest deposits of lead and zinc in the United States. To be sure, samples of ore had been found in wells and creek bottoms, and for many years the Indians had molded leaden bullets from such samples, but the wildest imagination could not foresee the wonderful developments that were to become a reality in the near future.

The Miami of Today

As already indicated, Miami was poorly prepared for the sudden influx of population which immediately followed the announcement of the, discovery of vast deposits of lead and zinc, but with characteristic Western enterprise its citizens got busy and they now boast of having an up-to-date city with all the modern conveniences. They now have, three railroads including an interurban line which connects Miami with the towns and mining camps which have sprung up in the district.

Miami has built twenty miles of paving; a seven story modern hotel at a cost of $200,000, with a number of smaller hotels ; solid brick business blocks from two to five stories in height ; a city water and sewer system costing about four hundred thousand dollars ; a first class public school system including a good high school and three or four ward schools; a State School of Mines valued at $300,000, for which the citizens donated a valuable site; a Carnegie Library; two daily and weekly newspapers’; a good commercial college; eight churches, well maintained; a modern fire department ; a successful County Fair Association ; a Country Club and Club House; the leading secret and fraternal orders and last but not least, a distinctive, intelligent American citizenship.

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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