Braggs is located in Muskogee County ten miles south of Fort Gibson on Highway 10. The town was originally named Patrick, Indian Territory, on May 2, 1886, after its first postmaster, John J. Patrick. The town's name was changed to Braggs to honor a prominent landowner, Solomon Bragg, on September 10, 1888.
Braggs was a farming community and at various times from 1910 to 1913 had three cotton gins, three banks, and three newspapers. The South Bethel cemetery, where Solomon Bragg and J. J. Patrick were buried, is located southwest of Braggs. Some infamous outlaws such as the Cook Gang, Cherokee Bill, and Henry Starr made regular trips through the town. By 1907 the population stood at 330, and by 1940 at 392.
America's entry into World War II brought many changes to Braggs. A military cantonment complex, named Camp Gruber for Brig. Gen. Edmund Gruber, author of the song "The Caissons Go Rolling Along," was built in 1942 by Manhattan-Long Construction Company at a cost of $30 million. The camp covered more than 60,000 acres and trained tens of thousands of men. The forty-second Infantry "Rainbow" Division as well as the Eighty-eighth Infantry "Blue Devil" Division were housed there.
This post created the largest financial boom that Braggs had ever experienced. New businesses were started, a hotel was built, and homeowners cleaned up spare rooms and rented them to the soldiers' wives. The camp was a city within itself. The Missouri Pacific Railroad, vital for the loading and unloading of men and equipment at Gruber, later became the Union Pacific Railway and continued service to the town at the beginning of the twenty-first century. In spring 1942 Pres. Franklin D. Roosevelt made a secret trip by train to inspect the army's training post. In 1943 the army used part of the camp to house German prisoners of war. When the camp was deactivated in 1947, Braggs's economic and population growth ended.
An economic boost came in 1977 when Camp Gruber reopened for reserve and active unit training. In 1998 the National Guard Air Assault School was opened. The town had 374 residents in 1950 and 301 in 2000.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: John Downing Benedict, Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing Co., 1922). B. J. Brooks, South Bethel Cemetery, Braggs, Oklahoma (Muskogee, Okla.: Bertie Brown Books, 2000). Odie B. Faulk, Muskogee City and County (Muskogee, Okla.: Five Civilized Tribes Museum, 1982).
B. J. Brooks
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