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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

SHANAHAN, PATRICK (1834–1906).

Irish immigrant Patrick Shanahan waged "Shanahan's war" against the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway (SL&SF, or Frisco, formerly the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad until 1876) in 1882. Born on March 16, 1834, in Ireland, Shanahan immigrated to the United States in 1849. He lived in New York, Iowa, Minnesota, and Colorado before settling in Indian Territory, just west of Vinita. In 1880 he married Charlotte Rogers, a Cherokee citizen.

In 1882, when the SL&SF targeted Shanahan's land as a thoroughfare to link Vinita with Sapulpa, he refused their offer. He met the railroad crew armed with a rifle, creating a fortification and recruiting men who supported him. A two-week standoff resulted, with Shanahan demanding a large sum of money to allow the construction. The railroad summoned Dennis Bushyhead, principal chief of the Cherokee Nation, to help reach an agreement. According to Edward Shanahan, Patrick's son, a compromise was reached when Bushyhead guaranteed that Shanahan would be paid. Bushyhead reported that he declared Shanahan an intruder, insisting that his Cherokee wife had still been legally married to someone else when Shanahan married her. Because removing intruders was an obligation of the U.S. government, they had to deal with the obstruction, thereby absolving the Cherokee government of any responsibility. Bushyhead did allow a sanctioned commission to appraise the damage that the railroad caused to Shanahan's improvements. Shanahan consented, and it seems his Cherokee citizenship was reinstated later that year. The commission assessed the damage at $316.66, and Shanahan later adjudicated for this amount as a settlement. Patrick Shanahan died July 2, 1906, in Vinita. His son Edward, a successful druggist in that town, held office as Vinita mayor at that time.

Larry O'Dell


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

Dennis Bushyhead to D. H. Ross and R. M. Wolfe, April 26, 1882, Railroad Correspondence, Cherokee Nation Papers, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Craig Miner, "The East-West Railway into the Indian Territory, 1872–1882," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 47 (Spring 1969).

Ed Shanahan Interview, "Indian-Pioneer History," 77:215, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Vinita (Oklahoma) Daily Chieftain, 3 July 1906.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “Shanahan, Patrick,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=SH006.

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