A History of Mounds
by - Tom Mooney
Note from the Author: The information included here was assembled from County records, a letter from Fred Patrick, examination of documents, and personal interviews with many early-day residents who were still alive when I first wrote a paper on the subject in February, 1963.
Mounds is typical of many frontier towns which dotted Indian Territory. Originally, it was located approximately five miles northeast of the present townsite. Although named Posey, in honor of a Creek Indian leader and poet, most knew it as Twin Mounds. This name was derived from two prominent mound features on either side of the hamlet. A post office was established there March 18, 1895.
A petition, circulated April 11, 1898, gives us some insight as to the character of
Twin Mounds. It asserts "....There is now three general merchandise stores, one grocery store, one drug store, one furniture store, one hotel, one hardware and implement store, one grocery and restaurant, one barber shop, one blacksmith shop, one carpenter shop, one photograph gallery, one livery stable and a post office where eight hundred people get mail." Approximately three-fourths of those signing identified themselves as farmers or ranchers.
The town might have remained there except for the expansion of the St. Louis and
San Francisco (Frisco) Railway in 1899. The Frisco extended its lines from Sapulpa to Texas. The proposed route bypassed Twin Mounds, leaving it isolated. Realizing that economic survival depended on access tot he railroad, the town literally moved. It relocated at a site approximately two miles north of the present townsite, later called Middle Mounds.Community leaders once again found themselves frustrated in their attempts to secure a depot. Railroad regulations prohibited any depot being built within five miles of an existing depot and Kiefer was approximately three miles to the north. Once again, the town moved, this time to the present location, and established a depot. A structure which had been moved from Twin Mounds to Middle Mounds was used as a switch house. Later, that structure sat for many years at the southwest corner of Commercial and Fourteenth street as a cafe. Although now moved to a private residence, it is probably the oldest building in town.
Moved To Present Location
The townsite was obtained by negotiating with the Department of the Interior and
Corbett Maxwell. Finally, an arrangement was reached whereby Maxwell would be given another tract in exchange for a portion of his allotment. Mounds was incorporated with 160 acres. On September 9, 1901, an application was sent to Vinita, I.T. It was supported by a petition from townspeople and a charter was granted October 19, 1901.
Thomas Ryan, acting Secretary of the Interior, approved a survey made by W.E. Winn and approved the application. The first town board meeting was held November 1, 1901, with Will S. Hines serving as Mayor. With its location on the railroad, the town prospered. The principal industries were farming and ranching. Cattle were brought to Mounds for shipment to feedlots in northern states. Business was so good it was not uncommon to see vast herds being driven to a nearby hilltop to await an opportunity to be loaded on trains.
Among the first businesses to come to Mounds was the H.C. Hall Company from
Red Fork. Others included Morris and Company, forerunners of McNabb and Borchers; Johnston Mercantile Co., owned by the father of the late Frank and Art Johnston; and the Brixey Mercantile. There were two cotton gins, one owned by William Gilcrease, whose son, Thomas Gilcrease, later gave the Gilcrease Museum of Western Arts to the city of Tulsa. A large hay market was located here. There were three lumber yards, four livery stables, three slaughter houses, three blacksmith shops, three drug stores, two hotels (although one burned). One resident said the first drug store was opened by Dr. Flood, but many could not remember any prior to Parrish Drug.
The telephone exchange was first located in the masonry building which still stands on the east side of Commercial & Thirteenth and now houses a retail store. It was later moved a block away to a brick building at 13th & Dorman and operated by Charles M. Schlicter. Later owners were Frank Johnston, Ed Schachle, K.S. Horn, and Trans-Continental Telephone, a subsidiary of Continental, the present system.
Post Office personnel
One of the first postmasters was William Casteel. Others have included Jeane Sisson,
J.A. "Doc" Waggoner, and S.D. Cowell. One factor which influenced the second class rating which the post office enjoyed for many years was the OK Poultry Journal. It was said to be the largest poultry publication in the southwest. Publisher was Clarence Dalton, who had come to Mounds during early days and established a newspaper, edited by
With the increased volume of business came a need for banks. In 1901, the Bank of Mounds was opened in a stone structure located at the southwest corner of 13th & Commercial. B.B. Burnett served as president of the bank which operated without a state or national charger until statehood. In August 1970, this building was sold to the Town of Mounds and became the present-day City Hall.The following year, 1902, saw the beginning of the First National Bank of Mounds. Chartered by the National Banking System, the bank stood diagonally across the street from the Bank of Mounds. Willard Johnson was its first president. It was constructed of brick and was the only building in Mounds, except the Bank of Mounds, to be constructed of materials other than lumber at that time.
Although Mounds was growing rapidly, it was still a frontier town. There were no street lights or water system. Watering spots for livestock were located west of Commercial Avenue on Twelfth, Thirteenth and Fourteenth streets. The water was supplied by wells. In addition to the three community wells, most homes had their own well or cistern for household use. George "Red" Mooney, a stone mason, built many of these wells and laid many sidewalks on the east side of town.
The first waterworks system was located southwest of town, but later became inadequate to meet the demand. A dam was then built across Duck Creek at Horseshoe Bend and used for several years. When water came from Duck Creek, it passed through a stand tower located in the cemetery. This system proved unsatisfactory because of mud and was abandoned when Lake Boren was formed. Headwaters of Duck Creek were dammed by workers of the Works Progress Administration (W.P.A.) during the New Deal era of
Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration.
There were no church buildings in early Mounds. Congregations were small and buildings were either planned or under construction. Sunday services were held in the schoolhouse, located east of Commercial between Tenth & Eleventh streets. The Christian Church, completed in 1903, was the first church building. Soon thereafter, the Presbyterians built a new brick structure located on Commercial Avenue near Eleventh street.
Love of Arts Demonstrated
The early settlers were people of culture and demonstrated their love of the arts by bringing Chautauqua shows to town for entertainment, and by hiring music, art and expression teachers for their children. Mrs. Sybil Maxwell, long associated with the schools, was responsible for teaching the piano to many. She had come with her father when he owned a mill and elevator. Pearl (Weller) Strong was an accomplished artist and developed the talents of many. Her sister, Marie Weller, gave expression lessons.
With reference to schools, in 1963, the late Fred Patrick wrote: "There was a splendid school system of the grades instituted immediately, splendid teachers were selected and by 1903 (first Fall semester), a one year high school was started. Of course, it seemed that more attention was paid to the public school system than any other endeavor to the extent that we had a full accredited high school. The first graduating class was in May 1907, with 16 graduates and of which I had the honor and privilege of being the Valedictorian. This was the largest high school in the Creek Nation, except Muskogee, at that time. In other words, that year Sapulpa had four graduates and Tulsa had two." The 1907 Mounds graduating class had 16 members.In 1910, the Oklahoma legislature passed legislation authorizing a county school system. Since Mounds had spent considerably more time and money on education, it was a natural selection for the county school. Voters of the county confirmed Mounds as the site for the county high school which was governed by a school board comprised of members from all over the county. In 1914, the county school system was changed to allow each community to provide for its own school.
With eight daily passenger trains passing through town, it appeared the town was growing as rapidly as could be expected. However, on December 1, 1905, an event occurred on the farm of Ida E. Glenn which would alter the history of the state. Oil was discovered.
A huge influx of people of all social strata came to make their fortunes, some by legal means...others not so legitimately. A number of landowners in the oil fields were residents of the Mounds area. Among the more prominent ones were John Rhodes, Buck Self,
Joe Berryhill, Hazel Wills, John Boling, Matt Rucker, and Jess and Sam Vowell.
The continuing growth of the oil field in the area kept the town growing and prosperous. The tract which Corbett Maxwell had been traded was east of town and became one of the richest plots in the area. Also, many oil wells were drilled within the city limits. Many of the better houses were built at that time as homes for oil tycoons. Mounds resident
Senes W. Anthony was reputed to have been one of the wealthiest men in the state.
Oil changed many facets of community life. It brought money and that meant different living standards. One sign of this change was the appearance of the first car in town, owned by Mr. Swan, who was part owner of the Smith & Swan Gas Company.
That company provided the first natural gas for the community.
Oil wells were located in practically all areas of town and the surrounding countryside.
It seemed there would be no end to the flow. One of the largest wells was drilled on the Minnie Tiger farm southeast of town. The Vowell and Postoak fields were also high producers. Oil field workers and others related to the oil industry came from many states. "Pop" Jones built a hotel to replace the one owned earlier by Mrs. Dixon. Familiar names were Copenhaver, Chambers, Walker, Holland, Burgess, Stephens, Law, Hutton, Rogers, Smoot, Cowan, Raymond, Taylor and Herod...among many, many more. Substantial houses were built for bankers, doctors and oil producers such as Barney Flynn, John Rhodes, Joe Berryhill and others. Many still stand today as a testimony of their confidence in Mounds.
If oil bred prosperity, it also bred violence and disorder. In 1915, the First National Bank was robbed. Thieves blew the vault open with nitroglycerine, a product common to oil fields. The force was so great that it was heard all over town. The vault door was destroyed and extensive damage to the interior of the bank resulted. The robbers made a successful get away by breaking into the section tool house on the railroad and stealing a hand car. They rode the car to a point about three miles south of town where it was abandoned. Another robbery of the bank occurred when two men imbibed too freely. One of them was killed in the street and his partner was captured a few miles outside of town. The Bank of Mounds also had its problems with thieves. One night $3600 was taken. Another more daring robber struck during business hours and escaped with $5600. Before fleeing town he locked the teller in the vault.
First Town Marshal
Not all unlawful acts were violent....some were even humorous. Halloween has always brought out the pranksters and one year witnessed a buggy placed on top of the building next to the Bank of Mounds. Another time, students tied a belled cow to their teacher's desk. Perhaps the most ingenious burglary occurred at the railroad depot. Learning that a shipment of whiskey in wooden kegs had been delivered, two men slipped under the floor of the depot armed with brace and bit. A few well-placed holes made the night a profitable one for the pair. To combat these problems, a marshal was hired and a jail built. The first
jail was on 12th Street on the alley west of Commercial. The first marshal was
George Fitch. Later men who assumed the duties were J.D. Campbell, William Herod, A.B. Harwell and R. Frank Crowder.
Mounds never achieved the spectacular growth experienced by other boom towns. Kiefer, for example, rose to 20,000 residents. Mounds did reach approximately 2,000 at its zenith about 1924. Five years later, disaster struck as the collapse of the stock market signaled the beginning of the Great Depression. That, coupled with the depletion of the oil pools crushed the local economy. Businesses moved or failed, which in turn left much of the population with no choice but to moved on in search of jobs. The town was on a downward trend with its industries and businesses struggling to survive.
Post World War II Era
Following World War II, Mounds witnessed many changes. Youth and older citizens alike, moved away and school enrollment suffered. One of the smallest graduating classes had only five members. Smaller classes had graduated in the early '20s.
Determined to maintain a good community were a few energetic merchants and young men returning from services. L.O. McNabb, T.E. Gilbert, Jess Cruikshank, Jack Jones, Gordon Morriss, Frank Johnston, H.C. Crews, Bill and Chester Cumbey, Wayne Smoot,
O.G. and G.C. Rollings, Glen Raby, Howard Pearse and Matt Rucker, to name a few.
E.J. Bates was superintendent of schools and later was town treasurer.
Fire Department Established
By selling chances at $1 each on a new automobile, the town financed the purchase of the first motorized firetruck. It was a pickup with equipment added by volunteer firemen.
A second firetruck was added when it became available through Army surplus for use of Civil Defense Units. The local Unit was headed by Bill Ross. That truck, know as
"Big Joe" is still used for grass fires, and has saved thousands of acres of cropland and hundreds of thousand of dollars worth of real estate.
By now, seven churches were located within the town limits: First Baptist, Christian, Methodist, Pentecostal Holiness, Assembly of God, Free Will Baptist, and United Pentecostal. Through the years, these churches have continued to serve the community.
Shortly after World War II ended, one business man decided he might aid the local economy by building a pickle processing plant. A number of local persons were hired for the venture, but the venture moved elsewhere when it was learned the water failed to meet minimum health standards. A serious threat to the water supply came in 1956. Lake Boren, built in the '30's, went dry. Emergency water lines were laid to Polecat Creek and water was hauled from various locations. Pumps were manned by volunteers, largely under direction of the town council The experience provided the incentive to build Lake Jackson in 1967. At present, the town has a more than adequate water supply.
New School Built
In 1957, with Superintendent Fred Caudle providing leadership, a new school was built to replace the aging structure built 35 years earlier. Cost was $64,000, but it was soon inadequate and has received many additions. Enrollment has climbed consistently and steadily. Graduating classes rival those of the early 1930s.
Of special interest to many is the cemetery association which has annually sponsored a Memorial Day dinner for many years to provide funds for a perpetual care program. This has been spearheaded by Mrs. Adda Harker. Serving with here on the board are members L.H. Crowder, Lucy Morriss, Josephine Pyle and L.O. McNabb, Jr.
A note from the Webmaster: The foregoing account of historic data of Mounds was published in a booklet by the Mounds Jamboree Committee in 1978. Obviously, many of the people mentioned in this article have passed away. Likewise, many changes and improvements have been made within the town of Mounds and surrounding area.If you would like to learn more about the history of Mounds, or receive information about current-day Mounds, please contact us via e-mail through this website.