Seminole Hub of the Oil Patch
Mekasukey Academy, established in 1891, was the Seminole school for boys. The name is a Greek word originally meaning "where the chiefs meet." Later, however, it developed the meaning "place where Christianity is taught." The building was located about three miles southwest of Seminole.
The village of Tidmore was the forerunner of Seminole. Located about three miles southwest of the present city. Tidmore had its beginning in 1893 when the Seminole Nation established the Mekasukey Academy for boys. Whites moving into the area could not buy Indian land; thus the businesses they developed or the homes they built were not on land under their control. Under such conditions Tidmore grew slowly.
In 1895 the Chicago, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad built a line through the Seminole Nation that passed the site of the present city of Seminole. As statehood neared each member of the Seminole Nation, Freedman as well as Indian, selected an allotment. When it became possible for residents of Tidmore to buy some of the allotted land they discovered more of it was for sale in the area where Seminole is now located than in the vicinity of Tidmore to the Seminole location began.
The first three institutions to move from Tidwell to Seminole were a bank, a general store, and a pool hall. Soon afterwards a cotton gin and a barber shop were established. The Post Office Department officially changed the name from Tidmore to Seminole when a plat was filed in 1906. Seminole was incorporated as a city on December 26, 1924. During the first 20 years of its existence Seminole experienced gradual growth.
From 1923 to 1935 the Greater Seminole Area was the world's chief producer of petroleum. The area, located in east central Oklahoma, covers approximately 1,300 square miles of territory in which over 60 different oil pools were developed during the 12 years. Six of these pools- Earlsboro, Bowlegs, Seminole, Little River, Allen, St. Louis- became giant pools in that each produced more than a million barrels of oil. The combined production of all the pools became so great that the price of crude oil dropped to fifteen cents a barrel. Due to the over production and low price, all oil fields in Oklahoma were placed under state control, the production being prorated until the price once again reached one dollar per barrel. Thus, the conservation movement, as far as the oil industry is concerned, started in Oklahoma and largely in the Greater Seminole Area.
The area, when oil play became really important in 1923, was a relatively sparsely populated part of the state. The heart of the area, Seminole County, was the old Seminole Indian Nation. Wewoka, the county seat and former capital, was the largest town and had a population of only 1,520. Seminole, the village around which most of the oil play took place, had a population of 854 in 1920. The population of the area began to "boom" in 1923, when several large pools were brought in, over 100,000 persons moved into the area within a few months. Villages and towns became cities almost overnight. It is estimated that Seminole, in 1926, jumped from 1,000 to 30,000 in two months. Similar results were recorded in Earlsboro, Bowlegs, and other places. During the 12 year period, many tent and shack towns were established- Cromwell, Wilsonville, Weber City, Snomac, Wamego, and others- only to die after the boom passed.
Such a rapid population increase caused many problems. Businesses of all kinds were soon started, especially "eating joints," rooming houses, and recreational establishments. Each place became noted for its red light district with its gamblers, prostitutes, and dope peddlers. Bishops Alley, located adjacent to Seminole, attracted national attention. Such characters as the Kimes Brothers, Spanish Backy, George Birdwell, and "Pretty Boy" Floyd were nationally known and often on the FBI most wanted list. As the towns and cities developed, however, such conditions were brought under control.
The story of the Greater Seminole Area is literally a story of rags to riches to moderate living. Oil brought money into the area so that tenant and sharecropper farming could be abandoned, better homes built, highway systems developed, and cultural improvements made; thus, the standard of living substantially changed. Following the lavish income from oil and then the declining production, a more conservative attitude developed. Seminole is the one boom town to more than maintain its place of importance. It is now the largest city within the area. A junior college, new library, and an enlarged and improved hospital are but a few of the improvements made in this once rough and tough oil town. Many improvements have also been made in the other remaining communities.
The authors vividly tell the story of the trials and tribulations in the development of the area. It is well illustrated and interestingly written story about an area that will never occur again because of the changes in technology of the oil industry.
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