Tulsa's History


The earliest settlers of the area date back to the Ozark Bluff Dwellers. They lived in the northeast part of Oklahoma, otherwise know as Green Country.

The Native American population came to the area in 1836 by way of the infamous Trail of Tears. Their journey ended beneath the branches of the Council Oak Tree, located on the east side of the Arkansas River. It was here that many decided to make their home. They called their settlement Tallahassee. Today this spot is 18th and Cheyenne near downtown Tulsa.

The Lochapokas, a band of Creek Indians, carried burning embers from their council fire in Alabama. Every evening while they traveled, they re-lit the camp fires with the embers in remembrance of the home they left behind.

The "Five Civilized Tribes," Cherokees, Choctaws, Chickasaws, Creeks and Seminoles, all came to the area. They brought with them their ideas of trading and commerce, ideas that would influence and shape the Tulsa area as well as the state of Oklahoma.

For the next decades, the area remained untamed wilderness with only a few settlers and mostly Native Americans. In 1846, Lewis Perryman built a log cabin trading post near what is now 33rd Street and South Rockford Avenue. Perryman, who was part Creek, established a business foothold in the rugged frontier until the Civil War. The war forced many residents to flee the area.

Fortunately, the reconstruction period after the war contributed to the growth of the area. In 1879 the first Post Office opened, followed by the arrival of the railroad. By this time the area became known as Tulsey Town as it grew to be a trading post and cattle town.

It wasn't until the establishment of the Post Office in March 1879 that the name Tulsa was adopted as the growing city's name.

In 1882, Tulsa's population was about 200. But, by the time the city was incorporated on January 18, 1898, the population had sprouted to 1,100.

Another growth jump was attributed to an oil well called Sue Bland No.1 that struck oil at Red Fork, across the river from Tulsa. This giant reserve of oil and natural gas would come to be known as the Glenn Pool Strike. (The first commercial strike in Oklahoma was the Nelly Johnstone No. 1, Bartlesville.)

Shortly after this discovery, the Commercial Club was formed to promote and advertise Tulsa.

In 1905, Tulsa began to build houses, businesses and water systems to prepare for the arrival of the people who would harvest the reward of the discovery of oil. During this time period, Tulsa became known as the Oil Capital of the World.

Further growth spurred the need for an airport. A group of local business men signed a note, using their own money, to purchase the required land for an airport.

Not all was prosperous in the early days of Tulsa. During the 1920s, it had become evident that the Arkansas River was no longer a suitable water supply. Citizens of Tulsa supported a multimillion dollar bond to bring water from the Spavinaw Hills. This was considered to be one of the largest public works projects in the country during this era.

It was not until after World War II that an increase in offshore drilling operations affected the petroleum industry. Fortunately, the aircraft and aerospace industry was beginning to blossom. American Airlines built a major maintenance center and SABRE reservation system relocated from New York to Tulsa. To date, there are more than 300 aviation-related companies in Tulsa.

Another means of transportation did not come to Tulsa until 1970, when the Tulsa Port of Catoosa opened. This linked Tulsa with the rest of the world via river navigation to the Mississippi River and the Gulf of Mexico.

Such advancements have made Tulsa a diverse city full of opportunity. Not only national corporations, but international corporations have made Tulsa their home. For instance, American Airlines, Kimberly-Clark, Ford Glass, State Farm, Thrifty, Dollar, Hilti, Avis, MAPCO, Citgo, and Whirpool are just a few of the leading businesses.

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