Towns of Ottawa County, Oklahoma

The principal mining towns and camps in the mining district are : Commerce, Cardin (Tar River) Picher, St. Louis, Douthat, Quapaw, Lincolnville and Peoria. Of these Picher has made the most remarkable growth. It is located in the heart of the mining district about seven miles north of Miami. Picher is now but five years old, yet the official United States census report of 1920 gave it 9,676 inhabitants. Within its first two years it grew to be a town of 5000 people without any form of municipal government, except that by common consent its commercial club exercised a sort of quasi authority over its public affairs. In 1918 the town was incorporated and has since maintained a complete city organization. At the time of its incorporation, the miners in that vicinity were receiving wages amounting approximately to $15,000 per. day. Picher has built up a good public school system, several churches, has prosperous lodges of Masons, Odd Fellows, Knights of Pythias and other fraternal orders. It has been hampered in its growth by not being able to secure title to many of the town lots, the land being still owned by Indians, who, instead of selling off their land in town lots, adopted the plan of leasing the lots at a fixed annual rental, allowing the lessees to erect their own buildings. Numerous substantial brick store buildings have been erected on these leased lots, the lessees hoping that at some future time, they may be able to secure title to the lots which they have improved.

The mining towns of Commerce and Cardin (now called Tar River), located between Miami and Picher, have each grown to be respectable little cities of nearly three thousand inhabitants, have established good public schools and maintain orderly city governments.

Outside of the mining district, the principal towns of Ottawa County are Afton, Fairland and Wyandotte.


The Town of Afton is located in the southwestern part of Ottawa County on the Frisco Railroad. It is one of the older towns of this section of the state and is surrounded by a good farming community. Like many other Indian Territory towns, it has suffered from several destructive fires. In October, 1895, a portion of the town was burned but its most disastrous fire occurred during the latter part of September, 1897. This fire originated in a barn in the rear of the Afton Hotel, the property of Grant Victor. The hotel was destroyed and a strong wind from the south carried the flames northward, destroying the stores of R. A. Abney, J. R. Dawson & Bro., the printing shop of the Afton Advance, their weekly newspaper, also the stores of James Lowe, J. W. Lewis, W. H. Watkins, G. W. Edens, H. S. Hill, J. L. Blevins, F. M. Crowell, the post office, kept by J. P. Thompson, together with a number of other small stores and shops. The citizens of the town, although they had suffered heavy financial losses, did not waste much time in grieving over their misfortune, but immediately got busy, cleared away the rubbish and ruins, and in place of cheap frame structures, proceeded to rebuild the town with more substantial buildings. Afton is now a pretty little prairie city of 1800 inhabitants, supplied with good homes, substantial business houses, good churches and a good public school system.

Fairland, also, is one of the older towns of Northeastern Oklahoma, located in the southern part of Ottawa County, at the junction of the Frisco and the Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf railroads. Fairland is in the center of a fine agricultural section of the state and is a prosperous town of about one thousand people.

Wyandotte is another of the older towns of this section of the state. It is located on the Frisco Railroad, toward the eastern side of Ottawa County. For many years it was the principal trading point for the Indians who lived in that vicinity. It is also the railroad station for the Quapaw Indian Boarding School, which, for many years, has been located about three miles north. It is a quiet little village of 300 inhabitants.

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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