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The Washington County community of Copan is situated fourteen miles north of Bartlesville, adjacent to U.S. Highway 75. A trading post was on the present townsite during the 1880s, and an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway station was constructed there in 1899. Although the depot was named after the ancient Honduran city of Copan, the settlement was called Lawton following the establishment of its post office in 1900. Lawton was renamed Weldon in 1901, and Weldon adopted the depot's designation in 1904. Copan was incorporated in 1906, and M. J. Courtney, who also published the town's newspaper, the Copan Leader, beginning in 1910, was its first mayor.

Santa Fe Depot, Copan OK

The petroleum industry was a boon to Copan's early economy. In 1904 the Prairie Oil and Gas Company laid Oklahoma's first trunk pipeline. The six-inch line extended from Bartlesville through Copan to Humboldt, Kansas. Around that same time Prairie Oil constructed an oil storage facility north of Copan. The site contained 107 metal tanks, each having the capacity to hold thirty-five thousand barrels of crude. The Copan Oil Field, discovered in 1907, included some eight square miles and had nearly twenty-two hundred wells by 1915.

The Copan School District was established in 1906 on ten acres of land donated by the Sheets family, proprietors of the Georgia Oil and Gas Company. Copan's students were reportedly the first in Oklahoma to be transported to school in horse-drawn wagons. A modern schoolhouse was built in 1908, and a brick secondary school was constructed in 1915.

Copan was devastated by fire in 1906, 1911, and 1912. Its population increased from 305 in 1907 to a high of 960 in 1980. The town had 796 residents in 2000. Because of nearby Hulah and Copan lakes, Copan's present economy is based upon tourism and recreation. Impounded in 1951, Hulah Lake attracted new residents to Copan, many of whom constructed homes. The 1983 completion of Copan Lake brought renewed community growth, including a new post office and improved water and sewer lines.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Copan," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Ruby Cranor, Caney Valley Ghost Towns and Settlements (Bartlesville, Okla.: Blackman Printing, 1985). Paul F. Lambert, Margaret Withers Teague, and Kenny A. Franks, Washington County: A Centennial History (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1999). Margaret Withers Teague, History of Washington County and Surrounding Area, Vol. 1 (Bartlesville, Okla.: Bartlesville Historical Commission, 1967).

Jon D. May

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