Pottawatomie County 1921

Pottawatomie County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 69,442. Its county seat is Shawnee.

Pottawatomie County was carved out of land originally given to the Creek and Seminole after their forced removal from Georgia and Florida. After the Civil War, the Creek and Seminole were forced to cede their lands back to the federal government, and the area of Pottawatomie County was used to resettle the Iowa, Sac and Fox, Absentee Shawnee, Potawatomi and Kickapoo tribes.

Non-Indian settlement began on September 22, 1891, when all the tribes except the Kickapoo agreed to land allotment, where communal reservation land was divided and allotted to individual members of the tribes. The remaining land was opened to settlement.

During the land run, Pottawatomie County was organized as County “B” with Tecumseh as the county seat. In 1892, the voters of the county elected to rename County “B” as Pottawatomie County after the Potawatomi Indians.

In 1895, the Kickapoo gave up their land rights and their land was given away to white settlers in the last land run in Oklahoma.

In 1930, Shawnee, now bigger in size than Tecumseh, was approved by the voters to become the new county seat.


The information below is taken from the MIAMI NEWS RECORD and a story by Clyde Wooldridge who is a local historian in Oklahoma.


Shawnee and Pottawatomie County were much in the public eye as a potential oil field. Derricks were erected in every direction from the city, one even being within sight, while others were only a short ride by automobile. The wells were being drilled on the strength of reports from expert geologists, men who caused the large companies to stake millions of dollars on their judgment.

The country about Shawnee was leased up for many years and occasionally some zealous individuals made attempts to put down a test well. Through inexperience and lack of capital, those attempts resulted in failure.

However, things appeared to be different in 1921. The wells were being drilled by the large oil companies, each one having blocked up large areas to ensure them against loss if success rewarded their efforts. The companies were drilling and those holding thousands of acres in leases embraced all the larger companies operating in Texas and Oklahoma and some of the independents.

Apparently, the time had come when they were prepared to drill their holdings and settle any doubt there may be as to the productivity of the field. The best men were given the contracts for drilling, the most complete equipment was installed, pipe and casing to go down the limit of distance, tankage and other requisites were on the ground.

Four wells were being drilled within an hour’s automobile ride of Shawnee, and with the completion of the approaches to the Asher bridge, six more wells along the river would be within an hour of Shawnee under ordinary conditions of travel.

Those facts interested Shawnee, for the city was in position to serve each of those potential oil districts and was a sort of city where the families of oil men and those interested in the companies could find a very pleasant home. The fellow who must stay “on the lease,” found a pleasant welcome in Shawnee.

Shawnee was also interested in the development of the oil resources in the county and district. From the standpoint of building up its financial and business prestige, it sought to increase the volume. Nothing had a more exhilarating effect than the bringing in of a real oil well.

The drilling operation that was attracting the great amount of attention in Shawnee was that of the Transcontinental Oil & Refining Company of Pittsburg, five and one-half miles northwest of Shawnee, where a steel derrick had been erected and a hole put down 285 feet at the present. The contractor of the well was Gene O’Brien, one of the experienced men of the Oklahoma field.

(This story and hundreds more appear in the first volume of Shawnee history, entitled: “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE EARLY YEARS, 1830-1929.” It can be purchased by calling Clyde Wooldridge at (918) 470-3728, or by visiting the Pottawatomie County Historical Society at the old Santa Fe Depot. It can be purchased for $35. Volume two, “1930-1949,” is also available for $30. They may be obtained as a package for $60. Volume three, “REDBUD CITY: SHAWNEE, THE MIDDLE YEARS, 1950-1969,” is coming sometime before Christmas. All three volumes are slightly over 400 pages with hundreds of photos and illustrations. They are fully-indexed, making it easy to look up individuals or places of business. Volumes four and five are scheduled in the next two to three years, bringing the history up to the current time of publication.)

Clyde Wooldridge is a local historian.


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