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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Inside the Broken Arrow Ledger Democrat office, January 1919
(149, W. P. Campbell Collection, OHS).


Situated on the Muskogee and Creek turnpikes and State Highway 51, Broken Arrow lies fifteen miles east of Tulsa in Tulsa County. The Broken Arrow Expressway and Seventy-first Street are the major roads in the area. In 1836 the Muscogee (Creek) Indians became the first permanent settlers in this part of Indian Territory (I.T.). They came from Thlikachka, near the Chattahoochie River, in Alabama.

After 1865 the cattle business was extensive in the region. George Perryman, a Muscogee (Creek) Indian, pastured his herds from south Tulsa east to the Verdigris River and ten miles south. Jay Forsythe of Texas leased the area west and northwest of Broken Arrow. A large pasture southeast was operated by another Texan, E. L. Halsell. James M. Daugherty, also of Texas, leased the area north of Broken Arrow and east to the Verdigris River from Perryman. Present Broken Arrow is located near the southwest corner of the Daugherty pasture where thousands of cattle grazed during spring before being driven to market.

The city resulted from construction the Missouri, Kansas and Texas (MK&T, or Katy) Railway from Muskogee to Tulsa. After the Arkansas Valley Townsite Company incorporated in I.T. in order to develop townsites, William S. Fears, company secretary, inspected the proposed Katy route, selecting a place near two high mounds southeast of Tulsa. The townsite was laid out on both sides of the Katy, which reached the spot on April 13, 1903. Fears decided the name Broken Arrow would be appropriate, as Broken Arrow Creek flowed though this area into the Arkansas River.

Samuel A. Cobb, a civil engineer, surveyed and platted the Broken Arrow townsite on October 16, 1902. It included Stephen Franklin's 120-acre Creek Nation allotment and Harry Sells's 80-acre allotment; both were Freedmen. Forty acres adjoining the southern edge were purchased from Billy Atkins, also a Creek allottee. Warranty deeds could not be issued for lots, however, because allotment land was restricted from sale. This was changed by the Indian Appropriation Act of March 3, 1903. The company then purchased the lands from Franklin, Sells, and Atkins and issued deeds. An incorporation petition filed in the United States court in Muskogee was approved on May 4, 1903. The first town election was held on June 19, and the town council members were duly qualified by attorney Z. I. G. Holt at their first meeting, held on July 10, 1903.

The town prospered as a service center for an agricultural economy. The principal crops were corn, oats, and cotton. Small amounts of wheat, rye, and barley were also grown. Excess eggs, cream, and butter were often bartered for staple groceries. Beef cattle and hogs provided family meat and cash income. Apples and peaches were also important. Early-day Broken Arrow supported three banks, two cotton gins, four grain elevators, hardware stores, several dry goods, grocery stores, two blacksmith shops, restaurants, hotels, two movie theaters, several drug stores, livery stables, laundry facilities, barber shops, two lumberyards, a newspaper, and four doctors. The 1910 population stood at 1,576, a figure that grew only slightly over three decades to 2,074 in 1940. The Ledger has informed the citizens since the turn of the twentieth century.

After a year, a board of education was established, and the first school was held in the Methodist Church until an education building was completed. The townsite company gave the school district block 30 for the location of the first school. A new, two-story building was constructed, with classes beginning on November 8, 1904. The Broken Arrow School District continued to grow, eventually having sixteen thousand students on twenty-two campuses. In addition, approximately one-fourth of the children in Broken Arrow attend Union School District facilities.

In 1909 Haskell State School of Agriculture established. This facility provided local students with an opportunity to learn manual training, some basic agricultural techniques, and domestic services. When state government cut off its funding in 1907, it closed. The educational building was given to the school district. By 2000 the Tulsa Technology Center and a branch the Northeastern State University provided learning opportunities.

Broken Arrow has a city council/manager form of government. The city owns twenty-two parks and a city golf course. It has two libraries and two post offices. City government provides an extensive community recreation center, an aquatic center, and a multipurpose center that houses a senior citizen recreation center, a community museum, a genealogy library, and a community theater.

After World War II an influx of industries and businesses to the surrounding region rapidly boosted the town's population from 3,262 in 1950 to 11,018 in 1970. By 1980 the figure stood at 34,322, by 1990 at 52,462, and in 2000 at 74,859. In 2010 Broken Arrow had 98,850 residents. Major employers include the Broken Arrow Public Schools, Gatesway Foundation, Wal-Mart, Flight Safety International, City of Broken Arrow, St. Francis Hospital at Broken Arrow, Baker Oil Tools, Kenneth Hagin Ministries, Braden-Carco-Gearmatic, Blue Bell Creameries, and Xeta Corporation. Annual events include annual Rooster Day festivities, a Concert in the Park Series, a CABA Baseball Tournament, a Christmas parade, and the Rhema Christmas Lights Extravaganza.

Donald A. Wise


Angie Debo, Tulsa: From Creek Town to Oil Capital (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1943).

H. Cecil Rhoades, Establishment and Development of Broken Arrow, Oklahoma ([Tulsa, Okla.]: Moongate Enterprises, 1976).

Donald A. Wise, "Origin of the Place Name 'Broken Arrow,'" The Chronicles of Oklahoma 69 (Spring 1991).

Donald A. Wise, Tracking Through Broken Arrow, Oklahoma (Broken Arrow, Okla.: Re Tvkv'cke Press, 1987).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Donald A. Wise, “Broken Arrow,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=BR019.

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