History of Pryor Creek, Oklahoma

 

Pryor Creek, Oklahoma has roots that go back over 185 years. The Union Mission was established in 1820, southeast of what is the Chouteau-Mazie area.  Here was where the first school and printing press were established in what is now the State Of Oklahoma.

 

 

Just prior to the establishment of Union Mission, Captain Nathaniel Pryor settled near here and established a trading post on Grand River. Captain Pryor was a member of the Lewis and Clark Expedition, a veteran of the War of 1812, and agent to the Osage Indians.

 

Over a period of years, pioneers and explorers carved a trail through this section of the country that became known as the Texas or Old Military Road. It passed north and south near what is now known as U.S. Highway 69.

 

In 1870, the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad started construction in the Cherokee Nation along the Kansas border, laying tracks to Texas.  By June 1871, the railroad reached the point where the present town now lies.  Now known as the Union Pacific, the railroad continues to be a valuable asset to the commerce of the community and county.

 

A post office was eventually established naming the town Coo-y-yah, Indian Territory. Coo-y-yah is the Cherokee name for "huckleberry". On April 23, 1887, Coo-y-yah was changed to Pryor Creek, but the "Creek" was dropped by the post office on January 26, 1909. The official name of the city government is still Pryor Creek despite a proposition put before voters in 1963 to change the name.

 

The first mayor, James Lee Mills, a Cherokee, served from 1894-1896. Mayor Mills was a businessman, newspaper publisher, and lawman. In 1951, voters approved our present City Charter of a Mayor-Council form of government. In this form of government, voters elect a Mayor, Clerk, Treasurer, Police Chief and eight Council Members. The charter also established a Cemetery, Park, and Library Board as well as a Municipal Utility Board (MUB), which oversees operations of the city-owned gas, water, electric and sewer systems. 

 

 

In 1991, Ward 4 Council-Member Lucy Schultz was elected as the city's 31st Mayor thus becoming the first and only woman mayor of the town.

 

The Whitaker Orphan's Home was established in 1897 by W.T. and Stacy Whitaker to provide for the orphan white children of the Indian Territory. In 1908, the home became a state institution for orphans and other children in need. In 1982 the state closed down the home and turned the facility over to the Oklahoma Military Department. Under the umbrella of the Whitaker Education and Training Center, the base is home of the Thunderbird Youth Academy. Thunderbird Youth Academy conducts quasi-military program, which targets at-risk 16 to 18 year-old high school dropouts. The program teaches how to strengthen their academic performance, self-esteem, and life skills thus preparing the cadet for the work force and managing a healthy family environment.

 

Pryor Public Schools offer programs for four yr-olds thru 12th Grade. The school system includes four elementary schools, one junior high school, one senior high school, a modern performing arts auditorium and the Burdick Center a modern basketball gymnasium. The school athletic programs have produced State Championships in Girls Basketball, Softball, Golf and Cross-Country.

 

Pryor is home to a branch campus of Rogers State University as well as a campus of the Northeast Technology Center that offers vocational and technical training classes.

 

Area recreational facilities include a brand new state of the art municipal recreation center that includes an indoor swimming pool, fitness center, meeting rooms and a chapter of the Boys and Girls Club. Pryor also has five city parks, Whitaker, Centennial, Roosevelt, Bobby Buck, Earl Ward, as well as a softball & baseball complex. Earl Ward Park is home of the city-owned 18-hole golf course and is located just east of the industrial park on Highway 69A.  Pryor is also just a few miles away from Hudson Lake, Grand Lake and Ft. Gibson Lake

 

On April 27, 1942, the city's downtown business district was destroyed by a devastating tornado which struck at 4:45 p.m. Final figures showed property damage in excess of $2,000,000, and a casualty rate of 454, with 52 deaths.

 

During World War II, the DuPont Company and the U.S.  War Department operated an Ammunition Powder Plant and German Prisoner of War Camp, southeast of the city. The area later became the present-day Mid-America Industrial Park, which is the largest manufacturing park in the state. The industries located in the park provide jobs for hundreds of families that live in and around Mayes County. The park has been selected as the site for a new 1.5 million-square-foot, $180 million Gatorade plant owned by PepsiCo. Other long established employers include Red Devil, NGC Paper, Georgia-Pacific, Solae, Lone Star Cement, Elkem Metals, Orchid Paper and the Grand River Dam Authority, who also operates a coal-fire power generation facility.

 

Pryor and Mayes County is also home to a large agricultural economy which consists of cash crops, beef cattle industry, horse industry and dairy industry. Until recently, Mayes County was the second largest dairy producing county in the state.

 

Today Pryor Creek is still a growing community that offers many opportunities. We have excellent education, recreation, and industrial facilities that make this a really nice place to live.

 

SPECIAL THANKS TO TERRY LAMAR

 

Revised 7/21/06

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