Situated in Mayes County Locust Grove is located eleven miles south of Salina on State Highway 82 at the intersection of U.S. Highway 412, better known as Alternative or Scenic Highway 412. Locust Grove's history began years before its founding. According to records of the Oklahoma Historical Society, the Locust Grove area is one of the few places in Indian Territory that saw Civil War action. Federal forces under the command of Col. William Weer surprised a group of Confederates camped near Pipe Springs about sunrise July 3, 1862. Confederate Col. James J. Clarkson's force of three hundred men were so demoralized they were unable to form a battle line. Although gunfire continued in the Locust Grove thickets all day, Clarkson surrendered his remaining men. The locust thickets where this battle took place provided the name Locust Grove to the town.
Locust Grove post office was established March 26, 1873. In 1908 Joel Bryan moved the post office near his store. In 1910 Louie W. Ross bought the Bryan store and moved it to his father's ranch house. This area contained a cemetery, a gristmill, two blacksmith shops, and a separate building to house the post office. This community thrived as Locust Grove until the founding of the present town of Locust Grove.
The existing Locust Grove was founded on May 12, 1912, by O. W. Killam, as a direct result of the construction of the Kansas, Oklahoma and Gulf (KO&G) Railroad. Killam, lawyer, merchant, realtor, and promoter, purchased Elzina Ross's Cherokee allotment for the purpose of establishing a townsite. Ross had opened a boarding house for the railroad workers in her home. The site was platted with streets, business lots, residential blocks, park areas, and a public market place. The new town was incorporated March 4, 1913, and the lots were sold at public auction. The KO&G was completed in time for Locust Grove's first Christmas. By 1920 the population consisted of 587 residents.
The town prospered from 1912 until 1929, when both banks failed during the Great Depression. Since then the community has rebounded with churches, three convenience stores, cafés, banks, a lumber company, and schools. Population in 2000 was 1,366 inhabitants. No longer dependent on agriculture, Locust Grove has varied industries and recreational facilities that help support the town. The area produced artist and sculptor, Willard Stone, who is remembered in the Oklahoma Hall of Fame. The Willard Stone Museum is located east of Locust Grove on alternate U.S. Highway 412 (Scenic 412).
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Historical Highlights of Mayes County (Pryor, Okla.: Mayes County Historical Society, 1977). Pryor (Oklahoma) Jeffersonian, 8 August 1985. George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974).
Betty Lou Harper Thomas
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