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ROGERS COUNTY

Rogers County is located on the Eastern Lowlands of northeastern Oklahoma. It is bordered by Nowata County to the north, Craig County to the northeast, Mayes County to the east, Wagoner County to the south, Tulsa County to the southwest, and Washington County to the northwest. Rogers County contains 711.44 square miles of land and water area. The terrain is relatively level, but dotted with small hills. Its incorporated communities are Catoosa, Chelsea, Claremore (the county seat), Foyil, Inola, Jamestown, Oologah, Talala, and Valley Park.

A 1981 archaeological survey identified sixty-two prehistoric sites in Rogers County. The Arkansas Band of Osage (so-called because of their proximity to the Arkansas River) settled in the Three Forks area during the 1760s. They established two villages, Pasuga and Pasona, in Rogers County. The latter was situated near a mound along the Verdigris River. Called Claremore Mound in honor of Chief Claremore (Gra-mo'n or Arrow Going Home), it provided a natural fortification.

Cherokee were hunting and settling in the Osage domain by 1800. The Osage considered the Cherokee intruders. For many years raids and retaliations occurred. In 1817 a treaty with the United States granted the Western Cherokee a homeland between the Arkansas and White rivers in Arkansas. That same year the Osage-Cherokee conflict reached a climax at the Battle of Claremore Mound. Western Cherokee helped by Delaware, Choctaw, Shawnee, and others attacked Pasona. Approximately eighty-three Osage men, women, and children were killed.

In 1828 the Western Cherokee exchanged their Arkansas land for a new home in present northeastern Oklahoma, including Rogers County (the Osage had ceded the region to the United States in 1825). Members of the Cherokee Nation East began settling in the area after the Treaty of New Echota (1835). At first settlement was sparse, but by 1838 many Cherokee had settled in what became the Saline District of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. Through the 1840s and 1850s pioneers, both white and Indian, moved into the district and began to cultivate the land. In 1856 the Cooweescoowee District was created from the western Saline District and included present Rogers County.

The Cooweescoowee District provided several political leaders for the Cherokee government. Most notably, Clement Vann Rogers who came to the area in 1856. Rogers, the father of Will Rogers, was a successful mixed-blood Cherokee rancher and trader who became active in tribal affairs. He served the nation as a legislator, a judge, a member of school boards, at the 1906 Constitutional Convention, and worked with the Dawes Commission. His fairness and concern made him popular and influential. Rogers County was created at the Constitutional Convention and designated Cooweescoowee County. But after protests from residents, the name was changed to Rogers County in honor of Clement Rogers. Claremore was selected as the county seat, and work on the present Rogers County courthouse began in 1937.

The county's major lake and streams are Oologah Lake and the Verdigris and Caney rivers. However, there are numerous creeks and small lakes throughout. From earliest settlement the prairie grasses and abundance of water provided excellent cattle ranching conditions. By the late 1800s farming had become prominent. The climate and topography were suitable for a variety of crops, including corn, cotton, and wheat. Agriculture, especially livestock raising, remains a main source of income.

In 1903, prospectors who were drilling for oil or natural gas instead discovered artesian wells. The mineral water in them had a bad smell but was believed to have healing properties. The treatments were cheap and were endorsed by the railroads. A 1904 St. Louis and San Francisco Railway pamphlet proclaimed the healing powers of area spas. Before their popularity declined, the mineral baths benefited the county's economy and encouraged growth.

Other economic activities contributed to the county's development. Coal was first mined in 1890. Usually forty to seventy feet below the surface, the coal was strip mined. It was of sufficient quality for use as coke. Today the county is experiencing land reclamation, turning old mines into pastures or ponds. Petroleum and natural gas production along with manufacturing are major contributors to the present economy. Beginning in the 1970s tourism provided economic expansion. Attractions include Will Rogers State Park northeast of Oologah and the Will Rogers Memorial Museum in Claremore. Other sites are the Totem Pole Park east of Foyil and Claremore's Radium Town and the J. M. Davis Arms and Historical Museum. Educational institutions are the North East Vo-Tech Center near Claremore and Rogers State University in Claremore, originally the Oklahoma Military Academy. At the turn of the twenty-first century sixteen county properties are listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Major highways crisscross the county. State Highway 66 (historic Route 66) traverses the county from the northeast to the southwest. The Will Rogers Turnpike/Interstate 44 runs diagonally from the county's eastern edge to the southwest. U.S. Highway 169 follows a north-south route through western Rogers County, and State Highway 88 runs north-south from Oologah to Inola. U.S. Highway 412 and State Highways 20 and 28 run east and west.

Rail and water transportation are important to Rogers County. In 1882 the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway constructed a line spanning the county from the northeast to southwest, stopping at the present site of Catoosa. The Burlington Northern Santa Fe Railway currently operates the route. In 1889 the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway laid tracks through the county from the southeast corner to the north. In 1909 it was sold to the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway and is presently operated by the Union Pacific Railway. The Tulsa Port of Catoosa is at the head of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System. The two-thousand-acre complex is one of the nation's largest inland ports and employs more than twenty-five hundred people.

The twentieth century was a time of growth for Rogers County. At 1907 statehood the county had a population of 15,485. That figure increased from 17,736 in 1910 to 21,078 in 1940, but dropped to 19,532 in 1950. The county began to boom in the 1960s, gaining approximately eight thousand residents during the decade. The population in 1970 was 28,425. By 1980 it was 46,436 and by 1990 had risen to 55,170. The turn of the century saw another substantial increase as Rogers County was home to 70,641 people in 2000.

Rogers County produced several notable people. Oologah native Will Rogers (1879-1935), a mixed-blood Cherokee cowboy, became a nationally acclaimed entertainer, journalist, and public speaker. Claremore playwright Lynn Riggs (1899-1954) wrote Green Grow the Lilacs that became the basis for the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, Oklahoma! Andy Payne (1907-1977), who was born near Chelsea, won "the Bunion Derby," the International Transcontinental Foot Race of 1928. Singer Patti Page (1927- ) and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) astronaut Stuart Roosa (1933-1994) were also from Claremore.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: John Downing 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 Co., 1922). The History of Rogers County, Oklahoma (Claremore, Okla.: Claremore College Foundation, 1979). "Rogers County," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Sarah C. Thomas

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