Chronicles of Oklahoma

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Chronicles of Oklahoma
Volume 2, No. 1
March, 1924
ORIGIN OF COUNTY NAMES IN OKLAHOMA

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When Oklahoma Territory was established in 1890 seven counties were outlined and were designated first, second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh respectively. Thereafter as other counties were added, when additional lands were thrown upon to settlement, they were designated by the letters of the alphabet. Later on, by vote of the people, county names were adopted.

The first seven counties, designated by numbers, later took the following names: Logan, Cleveland, Oklahoma, Canadian, Kingfisher, Payne and Beaver.

When the Kiowa-Comanche and Wichita-Caddo Reservations were opened to settlement in 1901, the Secretary of the Interior caused the boundaries of the three counties to be defined and their names assigned by executive proclamation.

The Constitutional Convention named all of the counties which were formed from that part of the state of Oklahoma which was included in the Indian Territory together with several new counties which were formed from portions of Oklahoma Territory. Two new counties have been formed and named since the state was admitted to the Union.

Adair: named for a prominent Cherokee family of which perhaps the most noted member was Col. William Penn Adair, who represented the Cherokee Nation at Washington from 1866 until his death in 1881.

Alfalfa: said to have been named in honor of "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, president of the Constitutional Convention by promoters who desired his support.

Atoka: named for its county seat which in turn was named for a noted Choctaw sub-chief.

Beaver: named for the town which is its county seat and its principal stream, which in turn, was the English translation of

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the Spanish word "nutria" which was given to this stream because of the numerous beaver dams on the small streams which are tributary to it.

Beckham: named by the Constitutional Convention for Hon. J. C. W. Beckham of Kentucky, former governor and U. S. Senator from that state, at the instance of a native of Kentucky who was a delegate in the Constitutional Convention.

Blaine: named for Hon. James G. Blaine, congressman, U. S. Senator, Secretary of State and Presidential nominee, on the nomination of his devoted admirer, editor Thompson B. Ferguson of the Watonga Republican who was afterward governor of Oklahoma.

Bryan: named for William Jennings Bryan, three times nominated for president of the United States, and an active adviser of the majority party in the State Constitutional Convention.

Caddo: named for the Caddo tribe of Indians. The name is said to have meant "principal people" in their own language.

Canadian: named for the river which in turn is supposed to have been named by the earliest explorers of its lower valley who were traders and trappers from Canada.

Carter: named after Captain Ben W. Carter, a Cherokee Indian who married and settled among the Chickasaws and whose son Charles D. Carter has represented the district including Carter County in congress ever since statehood.

Cherokee: named for the Cherokee tribe of Indians. The word is said to have been derived from a Chickasaw word "Chiluk-ki," meaning cave people.

Choctaw: named from the Indian tribe. The name is supposed to have been corrupted from "Chato," meaning flat heads, because of an ancient tribal custom to flatten the skulls of children by imposing a weight on the head.

Cimarron: a Spanish word meaning wild or unruly. The full name of the river in Spanish having been "the River of the Wild Sheep."

Cleveland: named for President Grover Cleveland.

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Coal: named for the county seat, Coalgate, and incidentally from the large coal deposits which underlie much of the county.

Comanche: named for the Indian tribe, a corruption of the Spanish word "Camanche," possibly derived from Camino Ancho (i. e., broad road), referring to the great trail over which the Comanches raided from the Great Plains into the country south of the Rio Grande. In other words Comanche may have meant "the Indians of the Broad Road," thus the word Comanche being a contraction or combination of two words.

Cotton: named from one of the county’s staple crops.

Craig: named for Granville Craig of Welch, Oklahoma at the instance of W. H. Kornegay, delegate in the Constitutional Convention.

Creek: named for the Creek Indian tribe. This tribe divides honors with William H. Murray, president of the Constitutional Convention, in that two counties were named for it, namely, Creek and Muskogee.

Custer: named for Gen. George A. Custer.

Deleware: named for Delaware District of the old Cherokee Nation. Delaware District took its name from Delaware Town which was located in the Spavinaw Hills in the early part of the last century. It was occupied by a band of Delaware Indians who left the United States and settled in Louisiana Province, then Spanish territory, shortly after the close of the American Revolution.

Dewey: was designated as county "D" at the time of the opening of the Cherokee-Arapaho Reservation in 1892 and continued to be known as County "D" until the general election of 1898 when the people of the county voted that "D" had stood for Dewey throughout all these years.

Ellis: named for Abraham H. Ellis, member of the Constitutional Convention.

Garfield: named for President James A. Garfield.

Garvin: named for Samuel Garvin of Pauls Valley, a prominent intermarried citizen of the Chickasaw Nation.

Grady: named for Henry W. Grady of Atlanta, Ga. a distinguished orator and writer.

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Grant: named for President Ulysses S. Grant.

Greer: was so named in 1860 by the legislature of the state of Texas in honor of Lieutenant Governor John A. Greer of that state. It was claimed as a part of the dominions of Texas until 1895 when the U. S. Supreme Court decided that it was not a part of Texas, after which it was annexed to the territory of Oklahoma.

Harmon: named for Judson Harmon, attorney general under President Cleveland and later governor of Ohio. Harmon county was originally a part of Greer County and when Greer was annexed to Oklahoma it was at the Attorney General Harmon’s suggestions that the settlers were permitted to buy an additional quarter section of land adjoining their homesteds at a nominal price. It was in remembrance of this friendly act on his part that some of the early settlers later caused the county to be named in his honor.

Harper: named for O. G. Harper, a clerk in the Constitutional Convention.

Haskell: named for Charles N. Haskell, a member of the Constitutional Convention and later elected first governor of the state.

Hughes: named for William C. Hughes, member of the Constitutional Convention.

Jackson: named for President Andrew Jackson.

Jefferson: named for President Thomas Jefferson.

Johnston: named for Douglas H. Johnston, Governor of the Chickasaw Nation.

Kay: name was derived by spelling out the letter "K," which was the original official designation of the county.

Kingfisher: named for its county seat town which in turn was named for the creek. There has been a dispute as to the origin of the name of the creek. Some contend that it was named for the piscatorial bird which dives into its waters while others stoutly maintain that it was named for a cattle man, King Fisher, whose ranch headquarters were located in its valley. The facts are as follows: Two ranchmen—an uncle and nephew—by the

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name of Fisher were located in the vicinity of Kingfisher at an early day. The uncle had his ranch on one creek which was called, for him, Uncle John’s Creek, and is so named to this day. The nephew, whose first name was King, had his ranch on the other creek and, for him, it was called and is still called King Fisher Creek.

Kiowa: named from the Indian tribe. The name is a corruption of the name "Ka-i-gwu," meaning "principal people."

Latimer: named for J. S. Latimer, member of the Constitutional Convention.

Le Flore: named for a Choctaw Indian family of French descent, a number of the members of which have been prominent in the tribal history.

Lincoln: named for President Abraham Lincoln.

Logan: named for General John A. Logan.

Love: named for a prominent Chickasaw family and especially in honor of one member, Overton Love, popularly known as "Sobe" Love.

McClain: named for Charles McClain, member of the Constitutional Convention.

McCurtain: named for a prominent Choctaw family, three members of which, brothers, were principal chiefs of the Choctaw Nation.

McIntosh: named for a family prominent in the Creek Nation, a number of the members of which were chiefs and leaders.

Major: named for John C. Major, a delegate to the Constitutional Convention.

Marshall: named in honor of the mother of George A. Henshaw, delegate to the Constitutional Convention. that having been her maiden name.

Mayes: named for a prominent family in the Cherokee Nation, two members of which were principal chiefs of the tribe.

Murray: named for William H. Murray, president of the Constitutional Convention.

Muskogee: named from the city, which in turn was named for the Muskogee or Creek tribe of Indians. The word is a

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corruption of "Maskoki" said to have been derived from an Algonquin word signifying swamp or marshy land.

Noble: named for John W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior in President Harrison’s Cabinet.

Nowata: named for its county seat town. The name is said to be a corruption of the Delaware Indian word "Noweeta" meaning "welcome."

Okfuskee: named for one of the Creek Indian towns or clans.

Oklahoma: combination of two Choctaw words "Okla" meaning people and "Humma" red.

Okmulgee: named for its county seat town which, in turn, was named for one of the old Creek towns or clans.

Osage: the tribal name "Wazhazhe," as spelled by the French settlers of the Mississippi Valley.

Ottawa: the tribal name, corruption of "Adawe," meaning to trade or traffic.

Pawnee: the tribal name corrupted from "Pariki," meaning horn and refers to the tribal custom of dressing the scalp locks to resemble a buffalo horn.

Payne: named for Captain David L. Payne, the leader of the "boomers" who tried to settle in Oklahoma before its settlement was authorized by Congress.

Pittsburg: named for the city of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, the final "h" having been dropped.

Pontotoc: the name of one of the counties of the Chickasaw Nation, which, in turn, had been named for Pontotoc Creek in the old Chickasaw country, in Mississippi.

Pottawatomie: named for an Indian tribe, a corruption of the Algonquin term "Pottawatomink," meaning "people of the place of fire."

Pushmataha: named after the great Choctaw Chieftain, Apushmataha, meaning "the sapling is ready, or finished, for him."

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Roger Mills: named by vote of the people of the county, most of whom were recent emigrants from Texas, of which state Roger Q. Mills was then U. S. senator.

Rogers: named for Clement V. Rogers, member of the Constitutional Convention and father of Will Rogers, the stage comedian.

Seminole: named for the Indian tribe, the name being a corruption of "Seminola," a Creek Indian word for "seceder" or "runaway," the Seminole tribe having originally been an offshoot of the Creek tribe.

Sequoyah: named for the Indian who invented the Cherokee alphabet.

Stephens: named for John H. Stephens, congressman from Texas, who took great interest in Indian Territory legislation just prior to statehood.

Texas: named because the No-Mans-Land or Panhandle strip of which it was a part, formed a part of the Texas session of 1850.

Tillman: named for Ben Tillman, U. S. Senator from South Carolina.

Tulsa: named from Tulsey Town, one of the old Creek towns or clans.

Wagoner: said to have been named for its county seat, which in turn is said to have been named for Bailey P. Waggoner, attorney of the Missouri Pacific Railway Company at the time of building one of its lines led to the founding of the town.

Washington: named for President George Washington.

Washita: named for the Washita River which was called by the French, "Faux Ouachita," literally meaning "false Washita," in distinction from the true Ouachita, of Arkansas and Louisiana. Evidently the spelling of the name of the Oklahoma stream was changed by substituting "w" for "ou." The name Washita was that of one of the minor tribes of the Caddoan stock.

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Woods: named for a noted Kansas pioneer, politician and legislator, Samuel N. Wood, who was assassinated two years before the opening of the Cherokee Outlet lands to settlement. Many of his political followers who regarded him as a martyr, settled in Oklahoma, and in preparing the ballot to vote on his name the letter "s" was inadvertently added.

Woodward: named for its county seat, which, in turn, was named from a station on the Santa Fe railway, and it in turn for a director of the Railway Company, B. W. Woodward.

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