An incorporated community in rural Osage County, Foraker is situated along County Road N3610, thirteen miles north and twelve miles west of Pawhuska. Established in 1906, Foraker flourished before 1930. It recorded a population of twenty-three in 2000. Actor Ben Johnson was a Foraker native, and the Tallgrass Prairie Preserve is located southeast of town.
Named in honor of Ohio's Sen. James B. Foraker, the town began as a 160-acre tract along the Midland Valley Railroad in 1905. Reserved prior to the allotment of the Osage Nation (present Osage County) the land was platted under the direction of the Department of the Interior. Each surveyed lot was auctioned in May 1906 and, unlike elsewhere in the Osage Nation, buyers retained their property's mineral rights.
Foraker quickly became known for its agriculture. Principal commodities included corn, alfalfa, and wheat. More importantly, the area was ideal for cattle ranching. Fifteen thousand cattle were shipped from Foraker during one six-month period. After a brief decline the town was renewed by the discovery of the Burbank Oil Field in 1920. Because of the Midland Valley Railroad, Foraker became a petroleum industry supply and equipment center. The Osage Railway was extended ten miles southwestward from Foraker to Shidler in 1922. During the first half of 1922, a year in which the Foraker vicinity had ninety-four productive oil and natural gas wells, local businesses earned $169,000 in lumber, oil-field supply, and other sales.
During its heyday Foraker had concrete sidewalks, a water system, two banks, hardware, mercantile, and grocery stores, lumberyards, livery stables, grain elevators, two churches, a school, and various fraternal orders. Three newspapers, the Foraker Tribune, the Foraker Free Press, and the Foraker Sun, were published there.
Foraker's largest recorded population was 415 in 1910. That number dropped steadily after 1930 as the town diminished with the Osage oil boom during the Great Depression. The Osage Railway and the Midland Valley Railroad routes were abandoned in 1953 and 1968 respectively, and Foraker's business district fell vacant. Present employment requires an out-of-town commute, and the nearest post office is located at Shidler.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Foraker," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Kenny A Franks, The Osage Oil Boom (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1989). John W. Morris, Ghost Towns of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977). Osage County Profiles (Pawhuska, Okla.: Osage County Historical Society, 1978).
Jon D. May
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