Located in Ottawa County, Commerce is five miles north of Miami on U.S. Highway 69, formerly historic U.S. Highway 66. The community first organized as a lead-and-zinc mining camp, known as Hattonville, after Amos Hatton, who in 1906 developed the Emma Gordon mine that started the community. The first post office, operating from 1913 to 1914, was called North Miami. Another early camp, Tar River, merged with Hattonville as each "followed" an ore seam. Although the town may have been called Geneva for a time, honoring Hatton's daughter, by June 1914 the postal designation was Commerce and had the same postmaster, Anna Sergeant, as the earlier North Miami postal facility. A second North Miami community sprang up south of Commerce, with a post office beginning in June 1915.
Developed on land that the U.S. government had assigned to the Quapaw, Commerce was named for the Commerce Mining and Royalty Company, which had bought the mining camp. In 1908-1909 the Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri Inter-Urban Railway built a line from Miami to Commerce to serve the mining industry. By 1917 the line, which served the mining camps in Ottawa County, was operated by the Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri Railway, and in 1919 the Northeast Oklahoma Railroad (NEO) purchased it. In 1914 the Commerce company had the town platted, and by 1916 a mayor-council government had been put in place. In 1918 the town boasted two banks, two theaters, two hotels, two newspapers, many retail businesses, and very productive lead and zinc mines. The 1920 population stood at 2,555.
In 1921 the NEO electrified its lines, creating a trolley system for the mine workers. In 1930 Commerce's population was 2,608, but it slowly declined to 2,422 by 1950. As lead and zinc mining declined in the area, most mines closed by 1960, and residents turned to other occupations, such as farming and ranching. The 1960 population registered 2,378, climbing to 2,556 in 1980. In 1983 the area benefitted from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Superfund Site program aimed at cleaning up the pollution caused by the extensive mining.
Famed baseball player Mickey Mantle matured in Commerce, earning the nickname of "the Commerce Comet." At the beginning of the twenty-first century the Mickey Mantle Memorial Trust planned to construct a museum in town to honor him. On April 6, 1934, infamous duo Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow, with their associate Henry Methvin, killed William Calvin Campbell, a Commerce police officer, and wounded and briefly kidnaped the town's police chief, Percy Boyd. In 2000 the state funded a monument honoring Campbell and detailing the murder. Commerce native Conrad Caldwell, a wrestler under Ed Gallagher at present Oklahoma State University, is honored in the National Wrestling Hall of Fame.
In the mid-twentieth century the Commerce Industrial Development Corporation formed to attract businesses, luring corporations such as the Glenn Berry Manufacturers Incorporated, Newman Industries, and Miami Stone. In 2000, 26.4 percent of the population worked in the production industries. In that year the town's schools (grades pre-kindergarten through twelve) enrolled 882 students, and the population stood at 2,645.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Arrell M. Gibson, "Early Mining Camps in Northeastern Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 34 (Summer 1956). Arrell M. Gibson, Wilderness Bonanza: The Tri-State District of Missouri, Kansas, and Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972) Velma Nieberding, The History of Ottawa County (Miami, Okla.: Walsworth Publishing Co., 1983).
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