Located in southwestern Seminole County, Konawa, a Seminole word meaning "string of beads," lies at the intersection of State Highways 9A and 39. On January 7, 1904, Tom West, a mixed-blood Seminole, sold George Northrup a plot of land that became the Konawa townsite. The post office was established on July 15, 1904, with Robert C. Lovelace as postmaster. Early-day establishments included the first newspaper, the Konawa Chief, hardware and drug stores, lumberyards, a blacksmith, and a bank. In 1903 the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (later the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway) bypassed the nearby town of Violet Springs. Most families and businesses moved to other towns. Some moved their houses to Konawa, and many of these buildings continued to stand at the turn of the twenty-first century.
Konawa served as a trade center for a surrounding agricultural region. At 1907 statehood population stood at 620. The Konawa Leader has informed the citizens since 1917. During the 1920s streets were paved, several oil wells were discovered, and a new high school was built. In November 1931 Konawa caught the attention of Charles "Pretty Boy" Floyd, who robbed the First National Bank. During World War II the Konawa National Guard Armory (National Register of Historical Places, NR 94000483), a Works Progress Administration project, housed German prisoners of war. On February 17, 1961, a tornado destroyed downtown Konawa and injured five individuals.
The energy industry remained a mainstay of the local economy, with oil-field service companies still important. In May 1968 Oklahoma Gas and Electric Corporation broke ground for the Seminole Power Plant, creating the 1,350-acre Konawa Lake at a cost of $45 million. By 1975 the third power unit with an output of more than 1.6 million kilowatts was built. Konawa Lake is listed as one of Oklahoma's top trophy lakes.
In August 1963 Konawa hosted its first All-Night Gospel Singing. During its heyday an estimated twenty-five thousand people attended the annual event. The town maintains a council-city manager type of government. At the turn of the twenty-first century Konawa had 1,479 residents.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ada (Oklahoma) Evening News, 18 February 1961. Arthur Ward Kennedy, They Came From Everywhere and Settled Here, Vol. 2 (Konawa, Okla.: N.p., 1995). Konawa (Oklahoma) Chief, 30 December 1904. "Konawa," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Robert R. Morris, OG&E Energy Corp.: Our First 100 Years, 1902-2002 (Virginia Beach, Va.: Donning Company Publishers, 2002).
Konawa Genealogical Society
© Oklahoma Historical Society