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Oklahoma Memories

Capital Moves to OKC

2012-06-02

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"...boarded the south-bound train and returned to Oklahoma City at 10:20pm. According to the papers, the whistles screeched, the bells rang and the auto horns tooted, and the governor was met by a great reception committee and paraded to the Lee-Huckins Hotel. After twenty years of struggle, Oklahoma City was definitely and finally the capital of Oklahoma."

Irvin Hurst was the long time city editor of the Daily Oklahoman and published a history of early Oklahoma government titled The 46th Star. He was a close friend of our first Governor Charles Haskell, and he was describing Governor Haskell's arrival in Oklahoma City the night of June 11, 1910...the day the voters decided to move the capital from Guthrie to Oklahoma City.

From the Oklahoma History Center, this is Oklahoma Memories. I'm Michael Dean.

When Governor Haskell arrived at the Huckins Hotel, he asked for a stenographer and dictated a memo which he nailed to the door of his new office, proclaiming Oklahoma City to be the capital of the state of Oklahoma. On Wednesday of that week, a giant celebration was held on the fairgrounds near what is today NE 10th and Martin Luther King. Haskell dictated his memory of the speech to Hurst twenty-two years after the fact, but Hurst was convinced Haskell's memory of the speech that he gave was accurate. Hurst then continued to quote Haskell's speech.

"It has never been the policy of the present governor of Oklahoma to let another man to get to first base before he gets there himself. If there are to be any injunction suits, he proposes to let those suits to find him where he wants to be rather than at the place from which he is trying to get, and that is why the official seat of government for the state of Oklahoma today is Oklahoma City. I'm glad to know, however, that Oklahoma City and its men who have made this vigorous campaign for the state capital, hesitate to accept the capital at this time if they think they have gained it by deception. Your chamber of commerce, however, may rest in peace for you haven't stolen anything."

From the time the state capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City, there have been almost countless myths surrounding the move, all of them suggesting that the state seal was stolen from Guthrie and moved to Oklahoma City. Francis Haskell, daughter of Charles Haskell, tells of one of the myths and her father's reaction to it.

"Many people have told how he climbed out the capitol window and so on, but he hadn't been in Guthrie for three weeks. So, I used to say to him 'Why you let people sit up right in front of you and say how they helped you get out the window?' And he'd say "Why lose a friend by spoilin' his story? He's told it so much he believes it.'"

Here's what really happened: On July 21, 1909, the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce delivered a petition to the assistant secretary of state in Guthrie, calling for the capital to be permanently moved to Oklahoma City. They argued that Oklahoma City was the natural choice for the capital since it boasted a central location, a growing population, and a strong economic community. The proclamation was originally prepared with June 14, 1911, designated as the date for the special election. Governor Haskell marked out the "fourteenth" and wrote in the "eleventh," causing the election to be held on a Saturday with the results to be known on Sunday. So, on Saturday, June 11, 1910, almost a year after the petition had been delivered, with no mention as to when the move would take place, Oklahoma City won the election, Guthrie finished second, and Shawnee third.

Governor Haskell was in Tulsa on the day of the election. After receiving word that Oklahoma City was the projected winner, he and his wife and some friends boarded a special Frisco train for Oklahoma City. Before he left he phoned his private secretary, W.B. Anthony, and ordered him and the secretary of state to pick up the state seal from the Logan County courthouse and meet him at the Lee-Huckins Hotel in Oklahoma City, and that's what they did.

You can learn more about our state government by visiting the Oklahoma History Center on NE 23rd Street, just east of the state capitol in Oklahoma City. Oklahoma Memories is a production of the Oklahoma History Center, dedicated to collecting, preserving, and sharing our state's past. I'm Michael Dean