Located in northern Johnston County, Mill Creek lies on State Highway 1/7, twelve miles north of Ravia. In 1855 Cyrus Harris, the first governor of the Chickasaw Nation, settled in the area. The town drew its name from the nearby creek and the mill that Harris operated on it. Harris's ranch also served as a stage stand for the lines that traveled west to Fort Arbuckle and Fort Sill. In 1879 the Post Office Department designated a Mill Creek post office, with James Davison as postmaster. In 1891 Felix Penner married one of Harris's daughters, and expanded the ranching operations, creating the Penner Ranch, which continued into the twenty-first century.
From 1900 to 1901 the St. Louis, Oklahoma and Southern Railway, which the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad (Frisco) purchased in June 1901, laid tracks through the area. The railroad ran three miles east of the town, prompting the residents to relocate adjacent to the tracks. Mill Creek then became one of the region's largest towns for shipping cattle. That circumstance also led to a reputation for bootlegging and crime.
In 1901 Mill Creek's estimated population was 600, and six general stores, a bank, a hotel, a livery, a blacksmith shop, a cotton gin, two groceries, two restaurants, a photographer, four doctors, and other retail outlets served the public. Two saloons also were listed in the Indian Territory Gazetteer, although Indian Territory prohibited alcohol. In December 1901 Judge Hosea Townsend of the U.S. Southern District Court at Ardmore approved Mill Creek's incorporation. At 1907 statehood the community's population stood at 644, and it stayed above six hundred through 1920. By 1911 the town had three banks. The Mill Creek Times, the Mill Creek Herald, the Mill Creek Courier, the Oklahoma Standard, and the Mill Creek News reported to the town in the early twentieth century.
In 1930 the population was 422. It increased to 459 in 1940 before declining to 299 in 1950. In the early 1940s the last bank closed, and by 1946 the town maintained a cotton gin, a blacksmith, a garage, several retail outlets, and gas stations. The extraction of gravel and dimension stone near Mill Creek contributed to the economy, with the granite known for its pink-color and called "Autumn Rose." The population continued to fall, reaching 234 in 1970. The trend reversed in that decade, and there were 431 residents in 1980. That year the Frisco railroad merged into the Burlington Northern system, which joined with the Santa Fe in 1997. In 2000, 197 students attended the town's prekindergarten-through-twelfth-grade school system. The population was 340.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: History of Johnston County, Oklahoma (Dallas, Tex.: Curtis Media Corp., 1988). John Bartlett Meserve, "Governor Cyrus Harris," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 15 (December 1937). "Penner Angus Ranch," Vertical File, Oklahoma Centennial Farm and Ranch Program, State Historical Preservation Office, Oklahoma City.
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