An incorporated community in Rogers County, Talala is situated along U.S. Highway 169, nineteen miles northwest of Claremore. Talala was established in 1889 when the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway was completed between Wagoner in the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, and Coffeyville, Kansas. The Talala post office opened in June 1890. "Ta-la-la" is the Cherokee term for the redheaded woodpecker, a bird species that was found in abundance along a nearby stream the Indians called Ta-la-la Creek. There is disagreement on whether Talala was named for that creek or for Capt. John Talala Kell, a red-haired Cherokee who served with the Third Indian Home Guard Regiment during the Civil War.
Talala developed as a ranching and farming community. For a ten-year period during the early 1900s it was the leading cattle shipment point on the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway, which was purchased by the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway in 1909. Stockyards, shipping pens, and dipping vats were located there, and hay was exported in large quantities. By 1915 the town had several hay and livestock dealers, a gristmill, and two feed mills. Other businesses included a meat market, a grocery store, a livery stable, several general stores, a hotel, and a restaurant. Churches, schools, and fraternal orders were organized early on. The Talala Topic, the Talala Gazette, and the Talala Tribune were three of the town's five newspapers.
Talala lost businesses and residents to Tulsa, Nowata, and other communities after the completion of U.S. Highway 169 in 1935. The Talala bank closed during the Great Depression, and the town's brick buildings were later dismantled. The population declined from a high of 340 in 1910 to 198 in 1930. That number increased to 210 in 1950 before reaching a low of 147 in 1960. The Talala and Oologah public schools were consolidated soon thereafter.
The 1990s brought renewed growth to Talala. Although ranching and agriculture remained economically important (a feed store was the community's largest employer in 1995), many residents worked in Tulsa. Talala had a population of 206 in 1990 and 270 in 2000.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Linda Martin, "Talala Outgrows Ghost Town Label," Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 8 May 1995. John W. Morris, Ghost Towns of Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1977). "Talala," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Jon D. May
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