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The community of Lenapah is located in north-central Nowata County, eleven miles north of Nowata and sixty-two miles northeast of Tulsa. Lenapah was named by resident Elizabeth Kinney in 1889, and is an adaptation of the ancient Delaware tribal name of Lenápe. Covering less than one square mile, the town is located just west of the junction of U.S. Highway 169, which runs north-south through the center of Nowata County, and State Highway 10, which merges with Highway 169 from the east. Additionally, Lenapah is located along the Union Pacific Railway, which runs north-south through the county's center and the town's west side.

Lenapah has long been an important agricultural community. Surrounded by fine farmlands on a rolling prairie, the site's early development received a boost when the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway built a depot there in 1889. That helped establish the town's post office, which opened on April 9, 1890. The outlaw Crawford "Cherokee Bill" Goldsby robbed a Lenapah store, killing one man, on November 8, 1894.

Not long after the turn of the twentieth century one of the area's earliest and most profitable oil field discoveries occurred just west of town. Nearby natural gas deposits resulted in the early piping of that fuel into Lenapah's homes and businesses. During the 1930s and 1940s Lenapah was one of the towns through which the Union Electric Railway ran. That system connected Lenapah to Nowata on the south and to towns in southeastern Kansas on the north. Over the years Lenapah acquired the reputation of producing a number of well-known rodeo cowboys, including Everett Shaw.

Lenapah's first census taken in 1900 reported 154 citizens. At 1907 statehood its population was 331. The oil-boom growth experienced in some nearby towns did not significantly impact Lenapah. The population grew from 412 in 1910 to 434 in 1920, the town's highest recorded figure. Between 1930 and 1980 the number of inhabitants averaged 343, ranging from 395 in 1940 to 322 in 1960. The town had 253 residents in 1990 and 298 in 2000. Lenapah had three business enterprises in 2002, including a construction firm and a retail trade establishment.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: John D. Benedict, Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma, Including the Counties of Muskogee, McIntosh, Wagoner, Cherokee, Sequoyah, Adair, Delaware, Mayes, Rogers, Washington, Nowata, Craig and Ottawa, Vol. 1 (Chicago: S. J. Clarke Publishing, 1922). Robert W. DeMoss, A Look at the History of Nowata, Oklahoma, and Vicinity (Rev. ed.; [Nowata, Okla.]: N.p., n.d.). Felix M. Gay, History of Nowata County (Stillwater, Okla.: Redlands Press, 1957). "Lenapah," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Gary Cheatham

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