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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


The cultural groups that make up the British Isles have a strong tradition in Oklahoma. Immigrating from England, Scotland, and Wales to North America in the eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, men from those countries became trappers, explorers, traders, and military personnel. Some, such as the traders Hugh Glenn and Alexander McFarland, entered the region of present Oklahoma early in the 1800s. At that same time others lived among the Indian tribes in the southeastern United States. By the time the U.S. government began relocating the Five Tribes to the Indian Territory in the 1830s, many members of those tribes had Scottish or English spouses or ancestry, because traders, missionaries, and explorers had married American Indians. Some had done so because of a shortage of, or lack of, countrywomen, but probably the most important factor promoting intermarriage was that it allowed a non-Native to live in and conduct business with an Indian nation. Therefore, from the mid-nineteenth century onward, many leaders of the southeastern Indian nations were mixed-bloods, including the Creeks' McIntosh family, the Cherokees' Adair family, the Chickasaws' Colbert family, the Choctaws' McCurtain family, and the Seminoles' Brown family. For example, Dr. John Brown, father of Seminole Principal Chiefs John F. Brown, Jackson Brown, and Alice Brown Davis, had graduated from the University of Edinburgh in Scotland before immigrating to the United States.

For most of the nineteenth century the mixed-bloods, the missionaries, including Wales native Evan Jones, and the U.S. Army troops stationed at various forts encompassed the majority of British Islanders in the Indian Territory. In the 1870s the owners of the Choctaw Nation's most dangerous coal mines recruited English, Scottish, and Welsh miners. However, by the end of the nineteenth century most of the British miners had moved to less hazardous mines, had obtained leadership roles in the unions, or had filled management positions or specialized roles for the companies, and natives of other European lands dominated the mines' work force. For example, William Cameron, born in Scotland, developed a safer open-face coal-mining system for the region and became the inspector of mines for Indian Territory. Another native of Scotland, Peter Hanraty, led a successful strike against the mine owners. He later turned to politics and in 1906 was elected as a representative to the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention. By 1900, according to the U.S. Census, the Choctaw Nation included 520 English, 325 Scots, and 165 Welsh natives. In total, the nations and reservations in Indian Territory reported 779 English, 404 Scots, and 175 Welsh.

Land and the economic opportunities associated with it attracted a number of British Islanders as well. In the 1880s investors in England and in Scotland formed business conglomerates and leased ranch land in the Cherokee Outlet and on Plains Indian reservations, as well as in other states. Their enterprises included the Matador Land and Cattle Company (Scottish) and the Cattle Ranch and Land Company (English). They sent their countrymen to run the ranches and raise cattle. In the 1890s, as the United States allotted and opened the reservation lands to non-Indian settlers, a number of immigrants from the British Isles, as well as first-generation descendants, participated in the land runs and openings. In 1890 the census of Oklahoma Territory (O.T.) reported 290 English, 118 Scots, and 19 Welsh natives living in the former Unassigned Lands of central Oklahoma. By 1900 the census reported that O.T.'s residents included 1,121 English, with 120 living in Woods County and 118 in Oklahoma County. The same year there were 333 Scots and 94 Welsh in the territory.

Immigration from the British Isles continued through the first half of the twentieth century. In 1920 the number of Oklahoma residents born in the three countries reached its zenith, with 2,687 English, 1,120 Scots, and 319 Welsh. At the end of the 1920s the U.S. Census reported that 11,150 residents claimed that one or both parents had been born in England, with 3,819 in Scotland, and 1,088 in Wales. After that, the numbers began to decline.

Late-nineteenth-century and early-twentieth-century English-speaking immigrants rapidly blended into the state's population, becoming farmers, ranchers, Protestant ministers, artisans, and merchants. The early development of golf in Oklahoma can be attributed to natives of Scotland. Alexander Findlay designed the state's first known course, located at the Guthrie Country Club. Leslie Brownlee (Oklahoma City's Lakeview Golf Course) and Arthur Jackson (Oklahoma City's Lincoln Park) were two early-twentieth-century Scottish golf professionals that designed courses and promoted the game. The British Islanders also involved themselves in politics. Democrat Joseph J. Curl, born in England, represented the Bartlesville area at the state's Constitutional Convention. The Oklahoma Socialist Party's success in the 1910s in part stemmed from its early leadership, including Scottish-born Alex Howat and Welshman John Ingram, who focused on politicizing the miners.

After World War II the number of Oklahomans born in England climbed, while the Welsh and Scots continued to decline. Many of the new immigrants were English "war brides." From 1940 to 1960 the English-born residents increased 1,323 to 1,891, while the Welsh declined from 125 to 71 and the Scots from 580 to 380. In 1970, 5,702 Oklahomans had one or both parents from England, with 1,410 having one or more parents from Scotland and 410 from Wales. At the end of the twentieth century the state held numerous British, Scottish, and Welsh clubs that met regularly to commemorate their ancestry. The United Scottish Clans of Oklahoma annually hosts the Oklahoma Scottish Games and Gathering in Tulsa, with various events highlighting Scottish traditions. In the U.S. Census of 2000, 8.4 percent (291,553) of Oklahomans claimed English ancestry, and 1.5 percent (52,030) claimed Scottish and 0.5 percent (16,960) Welsh.

Larry O'Dell


Patrick J. Blessing, The British and Irish in Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980).

Stanley Clark, "Immigrants in the Choctaw Coal Industry," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 33 (Winter 1955–56).

William G. Kerr, Scottish Capital on the American Credit Frontier (Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1976).

William M. Pearce, The Matador Land and Cattle Company (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1964).

Frederick Lynne Ryan, The Rehabilitation of Oklahoma Coal Mining Communities (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1935).

William W. Savage, Jr., The Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association: Federal Regulation and the Cattleman's Last Frontier (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1973).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “English, Scottish, and Welsh,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=EN008.

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