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Serving as the county seat for Johnston County, Tishomingo is situated along U.S. Highway 377/State Highway 99, thirty-one miles east of Ardmore and 115 miles southeast of Oklahoma City. Tishomingo began as a trade center and became the capital city of the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory, from 1856 until Oklahoma statehood in 1907. Named after Tishomingo, a Chickasaw Indian chief who died on the Trail of Tears in 1838, the town was granted a post office on June 29, 1857.

When Mississippi legislation brought all American Indians within that state under government control, the Chickasaw Nation decided to move westward to the Indian Territory (present Oklahoma). There, in return for a payment of $530,000, the Choctaw agreed to allow the Chickasaw to occupy a part of their land. About six thousand Chickasaw removed, of which eleven hundred were African American slaves.

Prior to the founding of Tishomingo in 1852, the area was called Good Springs. Several springs flowed into Pennington Creek from the west. The waters gave the location its name and provided a suitable camping and gathering site along the road from Fort Washita to Fort Arbuckle. By 1856 permanent homes had replaced the temporary camps and "Tishomingo City" became the capital of the new Chickasaw Nation. Though the Chickasaw population was small, they had acquired vast wealth from land sales before removal and tribal annuities.

A capitol building was constructed in 1897 with slabs of hand hewn red granite quarried from an area west of town. The official dedication was held in 1898 with occupation by offices of the governor, the bicameral legislature, headquarters for the Indian militia, and other Chickasaw officers and Indian Territory clerks. Territorial court was conducted there from time to time. The Western Oklahoma Railroad built from Haileyville to Ardmore by way of Tishomingo in 1902. The line was acquired by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway in 1902 and was abandoned in 1938.

Tishomingo had thirteen hundred citizens at 1907 statehood. In 1908 local schools had an enrollment of five hundred students. Business boomed with thirty retail stores, two banks, and two churches. Voters elected Tishomingo the Johnston County seat on June 11, 1908, and again in 1922. The county's first courthouse was a two-story, frame building that burned in 1908. The Chickasaw National capitol building was sold to Johnston County in 1910 and served as the courthouse into the twenty-first century. Early newspapers included the Chickasaw Capital and the Tishomingo News.

The Oklahoma Legislature located the Murray State School of Agriculture (present Murray State College) at Tishomingo in 1908. The town had a population of 1,408 in 1910. That number increased to 1,871 in 1920, declined to 1,281 in 1930, and grew to 1,951 in 1940. The completion of nearby Lake Texoma in 1944 boosted the town's economy. The number of local inhabitants rose from 2,325 in 1950 to a high of 3,212 in 1980.

One of the state's oldest cemeteries is Tishomingo Cemetery and is known to have been in existence as early as 1832 and perhaps longer. Originally an Indian graveyard, those buried there include Chickasaw governors Douglas H. Johnston and Robert M. Harris and Oklahoma governors William H. Murray and Johnston Murray. The Governor William H. Murray House (NR 84003066) is listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Other historic properties are the Chickasaw National Capitols (NR 71000663), the Tishomingo National Guard Armory (NR 94000489), the Tishomingo City Hall (NR 75001565), and the Bessie Poe Hall on the Murray State College campus (NR 81000464).

In 2000 Tishomingo had 3,162 residents and 104 businesses, including twenty-five retail trade and nineteen health care and social assistance establishments. Medical needs were served by Johnston Memorial Hospital, and the weekly Johnston County Capital-Democrat kept locals informed. The town is presently administered by a home-rule charter form of government.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ada (Oklahoma) Evening News, 4 May 1952. History of Johnston County, Oklahoma (Dallas, Tex.: Curtis Media Corp., 1988). "Tishomingo," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Maxine Bamburg

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