Situated near the Tulsa-Osage County line and in west-central Tulsa County, Sperry is located on State Highway 11, ten miles north of downtown Tulsa and five miles south of Skiatook. During its earliest years Sperry lay within the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. There a post office called Sperry was designated on May 17, 1902, with William H. Carson as postmaster, to serve a dispersed rural community that lay between Hominy and Delaware creeks. The Post Office Department may have selected the post office's name. Cotton farming and cattle raising were the main economic activities, with Skiatook the closest town with a bank. Apparently because the location flooded, and because of the impending arrival of a railroad, the post office, now in Robert Martin's store, was moved to the present town's site.
In 1904-06 the Midland Valley Railroad built a line from Arkansas through eastern Oklahoma and on to Kansas. The tracks reached Muskogee in 1904 and in March 1905 were constructed through Sperry to Skiatook. On the route, near Martin's store, the railroad created Beulah (or Buehler) Switch. For nearly a decade Sperry remained a tiny settlement.
However, prosperity arrived with petroleum exploration in the Tulsa vicinity after the 1905 Glenn Pool discovery. By 1910 the town consisted of two mercantile stores, one of which housed the post office, a pool hall, and three boarding houses catering to oil-field hands. Tulsa Rig and Reel Lumber Company set up a yard in Sperry, and by 1913 a bank and a drug store also operated. By 1918 Tulsa Rig and Reel had become Tulsa Rig, Reel and Manufacturing Company and maintained a plant there. Sperry thus grew up with the boom and in 1918 had a hotel, a dozen stores, and telephone connections. Early-day reminiscences assert the enormous oil-boom population were forced to live in tents in a "ragtown" area. As late as World War I the town did not yet have a church, the first such building being moved in from Mena, Arkansas, by a Reorganized Latter-Day Saints congregation. Sperry incorporated in early 1920, the year that its first official census recorded 487 inhabitants, and the 1930 census recorded 563.
Oil-field activity declined in the 1920s, the Great Depression began in 1929, and after World War II State Highway 11 was realigned to bypass the business district. Therefore, between 1930 and 1950 the population remained just under six hundred, and a dozen retail outlets operated. In 1955 a bond issue created a new sewer system, attracting new development, and the population jumped to 883 in 1960. In 1964 the town secured access to Tulsa's water system, prompting a residential boom and a population increase to 1,123 in 1970. Oil production in the 1970s and a controversial city-owned gas utility service nevertheless encouraged growth to 1,276 in 1980. In the 1970s the town grew physically by annexing various adjacent areas.
In subsequent decades a strong retirement community developed. However, younger residents moved away after the oil boom ended, dropping the population to 937 in 1990. By 2000 the school district, retail services, and some light manufacturing provided jobs, but nearly 80 percent of the employed residents commuted to work in nearby towns such as Skiatook, Tulsa, and Owasso. The Sperry schools enrolled 1,308 students in grades kindergarten through twelve. An annual event was the Old West Fest, during which in June 2002 the town commemorated the centennial of its founding. In 2000 Sperry had 981 inhabitants.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Martha Deller, "Sperry: The Little Town That Didn't," Tulsa (Oklahoma) Tribune, 22 April 1981. Beth Macklin, "Sperry to Recall Days of 'Buehler Switch,'" Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 18 May 1978. Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003). "Sperry," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
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