Rush Springs, Oklahoma
An Early Indian Settlement
A Stop on the Chisholm Trail
Stage and Freight Trade
Caddo-Fort Sill Route
The Stage Stand
Parr Post Office
Rock Island Railroad
The Blue Goose Saloon
Opening of Town of Rush Springs
Incorporation of Town of Rush Springs
The New Town Site
Some History since 1901
The Lighting System
The Water System
The Volunteer Fire Department
The Sewer System
The Heating System
The Paving of Main Street
"As to whether Rush Springs will continue to grow
perish as the soil is washed away remains to be seen. Soil
conservation may save the farms, which can support the town for years to come. Nevertheless, I am reminded of a
conversation with an early settler this last summer on the football field. He looked across from the field toward the old
town and made these remarks: 'Old Rush, she is a great old town.'
About 65 miles southwest of Oklahoma City near
junction of Highways 81 and 17, there is a sign that says
"Welcome to Rush Springs, home of 1500 happy faces and a few old soreheads". Also, there is a giant
watermelon slice indicating that Rush Springs is also the Watermelon Capitol.
Rush Springs gets its name from the large springs
the head of Rush Creek from which the town gets its
water supply. It is one of the oldest, if not the oldest, settlements in Grady County, Oklahoma.
The history of Rush Springs may be divided into
periods. The first period may be placed up to 1858. The
springs served as a camping site for Indian tribes from very early days. The Wichita Indians settled on Rush
Creek about four miles southeast of the present town about 1850. It was at this place that the famous "Battle
of the Wichita Village" was fought between the Comanches and the United States Calvary on October 1,
1858. After this battle, the Wichitas fled to Fort Arbuckle.
The second period deals with the Chisholm cattle
(1865-1892). Thousands of head of cattle were driven
northward across the territory over this trail from Texas to Kansas. This trail passed about one and a half
miles east of the town, and the springs served as a watering place for the cattle. This trail ceased to be
used after the railroad was built across the territory in 1892. Parts of this trail can still be seen today.
The third period covers the years
Fort Sill had just been established. Supplies had to be
shipped to Fort Sill from points in the eastern part of Indian Territory. After the building of the railroad
across the eastern part of the territory, Caddo became the main shipping point. Rush Springs was between
Caddo and Fort Sill. A stage stand was built and a little town sprang up. When the government freight
station was moved from Caddo to Texas, the little town nearly died.
The years 1878-1892 make up the fourth
The "Huntley Ranch" was established on Rush Creek near
the site of the old Wichita Village. The ranch became a stage stand and a freight station for local settlers. A
post office, known as "Parr", was established at this place in 1883. In 1892, this post office was moved to
The fifth period begins with the year 1892 when
Rock Island Railroad came through by the springs. It
became a government freight station to Fort Sill for nine years resulting in rapid growth of the town.
The sixth period dates from 1901 when the Rock
Railroad lines were extended to Fort Sill and Lawton;
thus, ceasing the freight trade at Rush Springs. The town has since depended on ranching, farming and oil
interest for its existence.
AN EARLY INDIAN SETTLEMENT
The Wichita Indians
Around the springs grew an important
Most of the early explorers spoke of the grass houses
that made up the villages, and the agricultural efforts of the Indians. Because of so many tribes meeting at
the springs, this village was not located at the springs. It was located about five miles down Rush Creek. It
is interesting to note that the springs were used by different Indian tribes for peace treaties.
Perhaps the first Indians to camp near the
for any length of time were the Wichitas. The first
mention of these Indians were first mentioned by Coronado. He and his expedition met them in southern
Kansas in 1514. Two hundred years later, Spanish settlers of Louisiana found the Wichitas at Spanish Fort,
Texas (near Ringgold on Red River).
In 1770, the Wichitas were harassed by the Osages
Pawnees of La Platte. One village escaped to the
present site of Wichita Falls, Texas. Another moved farther west to Cache Creek to the mouth of Medicine
Bluff Creek and built their lodges on the present site of Fort Sill polo field. Another attack by the Osages at
the end of the eighteenth century, forced the Wichitas at Wichita Falls and Fort Sill to move up the Red
River to a place they called Twin Mountains. One village settled on the Brazos River in Texas, while
another part moved up the north Fork of the Red River.
Thirty five years after the treaty with Colonel
the Wichitas returned to Medicine Bluff. In 1850,
because of the scarcity of game and an epidemic of malaria, the Wichitas moved to Rush Creek below Rush
Springs. The Wichitas were very peaceable at this time. In the fall of 1858, they would lose their crops
because of a battle which would be fought there, between the United States Cavalry and the Comanche
Opening of the Town of Rush Springs
A man by the name of Perry Hall claimed all the
around Rush Springs. After his death in 1890, Mrs. Hall
sold their claim and home to F. C. Blakely, her son-in-law. Mr. Blakely had come to the Indian Territory from
Missouri in 1874. In 1878, he married Mrs. Martha Mann, widow of Joe Mann and a daughter of Perry and
Patsy Hall. Following the death of his wife in 1880, Blakely went to Texas and married Isabell Terry. It was
through his former marriage that he received his allotment. After the building of the railroad, Mr. Blakely
enclosed a portion of his land as a town site, which the government permitted him to do. The town site was
surveyed into blocks and lots and could be leased to citizens but not deeded to them.
The town site included two square miles or 1280
and besides covering the present town limits, it was
oneself mile east, north, and west of it. A committee or commission was entrusted to lease the lots in the
town site. This committee was comprised of F. C. Blakely, Alzira Murray, and W. V. Alexander. Their names
appear on most of the early land transcripts.
of the Town of Rush Springs
After the town reached a population of 400 citizens, the Curtis Act provided for the
incorporation of the town. The citizens were given the right to elect officers and vote bonds
On August 17, 1898, a meeting was called for the purpose of
When the vote
for incorporation was taken, forty six were for it and one vote was against it. (Evidently, there
was one ole sorehead even back then.) A committee was selected to choose agents to draw up a petition to
the district judge for incorporation. This committee met on August 19, 1898. The petition was presented to
the Honorable Hosea Townsend, judge of the Southern District, on October 3, at Chickasha. It was heard at
Purcell, Indian Territory, and Judge Townsend ordered the town of Rush Springs incorporated on
November 21, 1898. The town was officially named Rush Springs at this time.
The New Town Site
The Curtis Act also provided for the resurvey of
towns in the Indian Territory so that people could have
legal titles to their lots. These lots could be sold to the Indians and whites alike. The proceeds would go to
the Indian nation in which the town site was located.
The plat of the government survey was approved on
26, 1898. About a year later, the city limits
were surveyed into blocks and lots.
This plat contained a space for the cemetery. The first person to be buried in it was the wife
of M. W. Henry, Shanah D.
Prior to the establishment of the new cemetery, settlers were buried in
an old cemetery
located about one mile north of the present town of Rush Springs. Most of the grave stones
have disappeared, but on August 31, 1949, the following names were found on remaining
stones: Sallie G. Roberts, P. E., wife of Samuel Brown, and Synthia J., daughter of G. J. & M. J. Newton.
Early Growth of Rush Springs
Rush Springs rapidly grew after the building of the Rock Island Railroad in the summer of 1892. (Picture of
early Rush Springs) Besides a number of businesses already established, there was also a newspaper.
The first newspaper to be published in Rush Springs was the Rush
Saturday, January 21, 1893. W. P. Campbell was the editor. In July of 1893, Warren A.
Omohondro was editor. On February 24, 1894, Samual N. Barton took over as editor. On July
21, 1894, the editorship passed to W. R. Orme, and by December 1, 1894, J. W. Childress was
editor. Mr. Childress changed the name to the Landmark. He remained the editor for many
By July 1, 1893, a board of trade had been
for the purpose of promoting the business enterprise
and growth of the town. The membership was made up of the following: F. C. Blakely, president; George M.
Kerr, vice president; George Dunnett, secretary; directors, J. A. Lee. F. K. Low, A. J. Welch, R. T. Warner, H.
M. Howard, and A. S. Warren. Anyone desiring information about Rush Springs would be answered by R. T.
Possibly the first store in Rush Springs was a
store owned and operated by J. W. Haney. It sat by
the big spring before the town opened. It accommodated the settlers near the town and the railroad camp
while the railroad was being built. It was later moved to the present business section of the town.
Many people were coming into the town and the
section was being rapidly built. Nearly every
business man in Rush Springs advertised his business in the first edition of the paper. Those who
advertised were as follows: Aldridge and Patten, Restaurant and Short Order House; E. P. Baker and
Thomas Burk of Baker and Burk Stage; D. T. Crofut, Gents Furnishing Goods; A. J. Gilbreath, Groceries and
Queens ware; F. K. Low and A. M. Dicks, F. K.. Low and Co. (dry goods); S. H. Evans, Commercial House
(hotel); J. A. Lee and Co., Groceries; Dr. S. Mann and Son, Drugs and Medicines; C. H. Mann and S. F.
Roberts, Mann and Roberts (dry goods); J. W. McCrary, Contractor and Builder; W. L. McGranahan, City Meat
Market; and Dr. S. F. Roberts, Physician and Surgeon.
The July 1, 1893 edition of the Light listed the
of twelve more businesses: J. S. Franks,
Rock Island Hotel; J. H. Haney, Groceries and Provisions; G. A. Durling, Contractor and Builder; A. S.
Warren, Furniture and Hardware; Mosbacher and Raas, New York Store; J. P. Freeman, Confectionery; R. A.
Wilburn, Barber; W. M. Cooper, Dry Goods; C. Y. Marvin, Salesman, Lumber, Wm. Cameron and Co.; and T.
Fitzpatrick, General Merchandise.
S. H. Hancock was listed as the postmaster of the
Springs post office at this time. He was appointed
as the first postmaster.
The November 11, 1893 edition of the Light listed
more business establishments: A. M. Dick, Sawmill;
S. W. Starks, Stock Buyer; Dr. D. F. Harris, Physician and Surgeon; Henry Manford, Groceries; S. N. Barton,
Real Estate; Mrs. M. E. Mann, Rush House (rooming house); Mrs. F. M. Hudson, Hotel Hudson; and J. N.
Lloyd, Brick Yard.
The "Rush Springs Academy" was also advertised in this issue of the paper.
There were other businesses which did not
in the early papers. These were as follows: Jos.
Boddy, Flour and Feed; D. T. Crofut, Notions; John Cox, Blacksmith; F. K. Low, Cotton Gin; C. H. Mann and S.
F. Roberts, Boots and Shoes; O. B. Moffett, Restaurant; G. D. Saum and Ira Morrison, Restaurant; and J. E.
Willis, Meat Market.
By 1901, there were some sixty one business establishments in Rush Springs.
Besides the business establishments, other
were also coming into existence. There was the
Masonic lodge, schools, and churches.
The Masonic Lodge Number Seven of Rush Springs was organized by John Coyle at Erin Springs. It was
chartered in 1876. Mr. Coyle helped build a two story building for a lodge hall. The upper floor was used as
the hall and the bottom floor was used for school and church. The lodge served most of the western part of
the Chickasaw Nation, a radius of fifty miles. The lodge was moved to Rush Springs in 1892, after the town
was opened. A temple was built the following year to house the members of the lodge.
By 1901, Rush Springs had over 518 people living in the city limits, and the children were
in need of education. Schools in those days had to be supported by subscriptions.
Prior to 1900, Rush Springs had established at least two schools.
There was a public school of between seventy and eighty scholars,
which was taught by
Miss Lee the first week. Because there were so many students in attendance, there
was considerable dissatisfaction which resulted in the employment of a gentleman principal.
H. C. Hovis established a school, "The Rush
Academy". Hovis was the teacher and Miss Alice
Howare was the assistant.
Another early school was held in the old
Church located on the northwest corner of Fourth Street
and Seminole. P. B. Gates was one of the early teachers.
Later these schools combined and a new two story
building was built to house the schools. This
building burned and another building was erected.
By July 1, 1893, there were four church denominations in Rush Springs. Those were the
Presbyterian, Methodist Episcopal, Baptist, and the Wesleyan Methodist. All of these
faiths worshipped together at first with the preachers taking turns delivering their
sermons. Sunday school was held at three o'clock in the afternoon. Only two of these
churches remain in existence, the Baptist and Methodist.
Farming has been an important industry around Rush Springs for many years. As stated earlier, the Wichita
Indians were farmers. In 1858, these Indians had nearly 100 acres of corn growing near their village on Rush
Creek southeast of Rush Springs. These Indians also raised watermelons.
Early settlers told of the large crops of cotton
on the farms near Rush Springs. There were as many
as three cotton gins in operation to gin the many bales of cotton brought in by the farmers.
Even though corn and cotton were important, they
lessen the importance of watermelons as a crop.
Rush Springs is called the "Watermelon Capitol of the World". At times, there were lines of trucks a mile
long waiting to unload their melons for shipment. (Picture of watermelon harvest in the 1940's) Each year,
the Lions Club at Rush Springs sponsors a watermelon festival attracting people from all over the state and
many foreign countries. In 1948, the prize watermelon sold for one hundred dollars.
Ranching has also played a significant role in the development of the community around
Rush Springs. The town became quite a shipping point for livestock in the early day.
One of the many interesting points about the development of the
the many men who were ranchers. Many of these were white men who married Indian
women. They were called intermarried citizens and had practically the same rights as
As mentioned earlier, Perry Hall claimed all the
around Rush Springs for miles. At one time, he claimed
the old Huntley ranch place, known as the old "Dr. Strum" place. He sold his right to James Rennie in 1878,
and the latter leased it to S. M. Huntley.
Dr. J. J. Strum was a Texan and came to the
country with the Texas bands of Indians in 1859. He
settled near what is now Anadarko. Prior to this, he had been a government agency employee at the Lower
Brazon Agency, near Fort Belknap. His wife was a member of the Anadarko tribe.
Other early cattlemen of the section were Frank
W. V. Alexander, M. A. McDonald, S. M. Huntley, and
L. W. Long.
Walter Long came west at the age of
In 1899, he married Minnie Bell. Following marriage, he came
with his young bride to the Indian Territory and settled near Purcell. He purchased a few head of cattle and
went into the ranching business for himself. Two years later, the young couple leased a ranch northeast of
Rush Springs on Roaring Creek. He later purchased it, and it was one of the best in the country. In 1912,
the Longs established their residence in Rush Springs. During World War I, Mr. Long was sent to
Washington, D. C., along with John Gerlock of Woodward, Oklahoma, to represent the cattlemen of
Oklahoma and West Texas.
Rush Springs wasn't slow as a shipping point for
There was more stock shipped from Rush
Springs than any other town on the Rock Island railroad south of Chickasha.
A note of interest: Two movie stars were
on the Evans ranch east of Rush Springs. These stars were
longhorn steers by the name of Tex and Tom. They starred in the movie "Hud" along with Paul Newman.
Some History Since 1901
Nearly all civic improvements have come into existence since 1901.
The Lighting System
The first record of a desire for electric lights by the people of Rush
Springs was in October of
1910. A bond election was held, and $8,000 bonds were voted to construct a system to furnish
Rush Springs with electricity; however, nothing was done to build the plant and the bonds were
never sold. In October of 1915, a franchise was given to the Rush Springs Electric Company to
furnish electricity. This company built the first electric system in Rush Springs.
The Water System
Prior to 1901, all the people of Rush Springs used wells and the springs as a source of
water. The first public water supply were two wells on Main Street or Blakely Avenue.
One was located in the center of Main Street between Rush Avenue and Second Street.
The other was between Second and First Streets.
A bond election was held on June 1, 1917, to construct a municipal
system. The A
fifty thousand gallon water tower was built at a cost of $7,190 by the Chicago Bridge and
Iron Works. The big spring from which Rush Springs gets its name is the source of the
The Volunteer Fire Department
Rush Springs had only a volunteer bucket brigade
fighting fires. Soon after the establishment of the
water system, fire fighting equipment consisting of some five hundred feet of hose and a model "T" Ford
was secured. In 1928, the town bought a Reo fire truck with a four hundred GPM pump, and in 1947, a new
Ford five hundred GPM pump truck was purchased. The personnel of the fire department is comprised of
volunteer firemen who did and still do a very good job of fighting fires.
On June 1, 1917, the people of Rush Springs voted a bond issue of $25,000 to construct a modern sewer
system for the town. The system was completed soon after. Since then, the people have voted a number of
bond issues to improve and extend the system.
The Heating System
The first natural gas franchise was voted in 1923. This was given
to the State Fuel Supply
Company. Prior to this, they were obliged to burn either wood or coal for fuel. In 1948, the
people of Rush Springs voted to give the company another twenty five year franchise to sell
Paving of Main Street
In the spring of 1926, the business men of Rush Springs and others
the two blocks
comprising the business district, voted to pave the street of District One. This was from
Second Street to Fourth Street, or from George Denton's store to the Antrim Lumber
Company. In 1927, the Second District, which comprised the the section of Blakely
Avenue, from George Denton's store one block east was paved. The expense of the
paving was borne by an assessment against the property owners of the districts. Since
then, other streets have been paved.
In 1933, the CCC Camp (Civilian Conservation
was moved to Rush Springs. This gave the town a
much needed boost. The camp was located in the park near the springs. This was an agency authorized by
the government to hire unemployed young men for public conservation work. The corps was set up as part
of the New Deal program to provide training and development. The CCC conserved and developed natural
resources by such activities as planting trees, building dams, and fighting forest fires. Congress abolished
the CCC in 1942.
In 1900, the population of Rush Springs was 518. By 1910, the it
had risen to only 823. In
1923, it had dropped to 768 people. Seven years later it had increased to 1,340. The main
reason for this increase was the development of oil and gas interests. This brought many
people to Rush Springs and other towns in this part of Grady County.
In 1915, the Cement field was mapped by Frank Buttram in association
D. W. O'Hern.
The first well was drilled by Walter Jones and others. The well was drilled to a depth of about
1,600 feet and showed gas. This was perhaps the first showing in Grady County.
In 1916, the A. T. and S. F. Railway Company
several wells along the Grady-Stephens County lines
getting showings in at least three of the tests. Lack of pipelines prevented further development at that
Since 1924, much drilling was done southeast of
Springs. The Cox City field was opened which
required many people for its drilling operation. Many of these people lived in Rush Springs. This oil
interest did a lot to keep the little town of Rush Springs from perishing.