Wagoner, the county seat of the county bearing the same name, is located fifteen miles north of Muskogee, at the junction of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas (Katy line), with the branch of the Missouri Pacific, known as the Iron Mountain Railroad, but originally called the Kansas & Arkansas Valley Road. This latter road crossed the Katy line in 1887, and the town of Wagoner was placed on the map at this railroad crossing. Captain Shannon furnished the lumber and W. H. McAnally built the first house which was occupied by McAnally as an eating house and patronized principally by the railroad men. It was located about a block south of the lot upon which the Axtell Hotel was afterward built. The second house was built just east of the present site of the old Phoenix Hotel by a man by the name of Albright. He died soon thereafter, and hit widow sold the house to Captain Shannon.
The third building was erected by Miller & Co. on the present site of the First National Bank, who went up there from Muskogee in 1888 and established the first general store in Wagoner. About this time the settlers began to think that a post office would be a nice thing for Wagoner to have, and after considerable hustling, Mr. McAnally secured the requisite number of signatures to a petition, which was forwarded to Capt. G. W. Grayson, delegate for the Creek Nation at Washington, and in due course of time a post office was granted, William Teague receiving the honor of being Wagoner’s first postmaster.
In August, 1888, Captain Shannon built the first hotel, called the Bernard, and a store building adjoining the hotel. During the following year, this store was sold to the Davis & Jones Mercantile Co. who filled it with a good stock of general merchandise. This company soon sold out to Terry Parkinson, who still resides in Wagoner, and his partner, Mr. McQuarie.
Terry Parkinson landed in Wagoner in 1890, and, although then only about twenty-five years of age, he, assisted by his father, quickly built up a good business which was continued for many years. Before going to Wagoner he had gained some experience in selling goods to Indians by being associated with his father in Red Fork and Okmulgee. The Parkinsons had also been extensively interested in the. cattle business in the northern part of Indian Territory in the days when the broad prairies afforded unlimited range for cattle.
About 1889, the “Wagoner Switch,” located on the Katy railroad about a mile south, was moved up to the new townsite. This switch had been built by the railroad fifteen years before the town of Wagoner began its existence, and it was used principally for loading walnut logs which were gathered from the valley of the Verdigris River and shipped to northern furniture factories. In 1889 Mrs. Percival built and furnished the first hotel, called the Valley Hotel. It is claimed that hers was the first wedding in Wagoner, when she was married to Mr. W. H. Harris.
Joseph Casaver, who is still an active business man in Wagoner, is one of its pioneer citizens. He arrived there soon after the junction of the two railroads was completed and served both companies as telegraph manager. A few years later he established a drug store which he continued to manage for several years, at the same time being interested in the ice business. He was elected mayor of the city a few years after it was incorporated. He was also interested in the livery business in those days antedating the arrival of the automobile, when the pony teams were very much in demand.
The Cumberland Presbyterians were the first religious organization to locate in Wagoner, although the other leading denominations soon followed, the Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians, Episcopalians, Christians and Catholics being now well represented.
Wagoner was one of the first towns in Indian Territory to establish public schools. In 1898, before any funds could, be raised by taxation, the citizens contributed liberally toward the construction of a private school building which was called Central College. This school afforded educational facilities for the pupils of that vicinity until the law provided for the formation of school districts and taxation for the maintenance of schools. Soon after the school district was organized, the Board of Education bought the Central College building and it has since been converted into a public high school. The public school system has kept pace with the growth of the city, and at this time, twenty-eight teachers are regularly employed in the city school system, which includes all the grades from the primary, up to and including, a good high school course.
Wagoner now has, in addition to the M., K. & T. and the Iron Mountain railroads, the Kansas, Oklahoma & Gulf line, built several years ago to connect Wagoner and Muskogee on the south with Miami and its rich lead and zinc mines on the north. These three railroads give Wagoner excellent railroad advantages, connecting the city with the leading towns in almost every direction. It is one of the stations of the famous Jefferson Highway which extends from Canada to Texas and one of the East and West highways will probably pass this way. A lively interest is being aroused upon the subject of permanent road building and most of the townships have already voted bonds for this purpose.
The city has built and owns a good system of electric lights and a system of water works of which the citizens are proud. The streets are unusually wide and the principal ones are paved. The homes, business houses and shops are all heated with natural gas which is found in abundance in the nearby fields. The gradual development of the oil industry of the county is encouraged and assisted by the business men and in return, the oil business adds materially to the business of the city. Oil is obtained at a much shallower depth in this vicinity than in most other fields, and while the output of the wells is not as great as in some other localities, the comparatively small cost of drilling a well renders the business both attractive and profitable.
Some years ago it was discovered that certain portions of the water found in Wagoner possessed valuable medicinal qualities, a sanitarium was built and many cures, especially of rheumatic and skin diseases, have been effected. The city has two banks, a national and a state bank, which have taken care of the financial needs of the city and community for many years past.
The First National Bank has on deposit, at this time, about six hundred thousand dollars, while the First State Bank’s deposits are about three hundred and fifty thousand dollars. The city also has three flour mills and elevators, a large brick manufacturing plant, three cotton gins, one cotton oil mill, two good newspapers, a number of good general stores, shops and small factories, and the usual number of secret societies, social and literary clubs.
Wagoner County Free Fair
The enterprising spirit of the business men of Wagoner is shown by the fact that for the past six years they have successfully maintained a free county fair which has steadily grown better during each successive year. It is held during one week of September, each year, and aside from the customary horse racing and side shows, it is fast becoming an educational institution, especially for the farmers. Special effort is also made to encourage the boys’ and girls’ clubs throughout the county under the direction of an efficient county agent and home demonstration agent, valuable prizes being offered for the best pigs, poultry, corn, vegetables, cooking and sewing exhibited by the young people.
From year to year it is also noticeable that the farmers are taking more interest in producing high grade hogs, cattle and horses, and a better quality of corn, cotton, wheat and potatoes.