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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Although the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway (SL&SF, commonly known as the Frisco) Company as such came into being only in 1876, a predecessor had actually entered Indian Territory earlier. The Atlantic and Pacific (A&P), chartered by Congress in 1866 to build another transcontinental railroad (which never materialized as such), had built a line from Pierce City, Missouri, into the territory as far as Vinita by 1871. Because of opposition from the Indian Nations, it remained stuck there for a decade and extended the line to Tulsa only in 1882 and to Sapulpa in 1885.

By 1876 the Frisco had bought the A&P and enlarged its presence in Indian Territory by buying the Fort Smith and Southern in 1887, thus acquiring a line from Fort Smith across southeastern Oklahoma to Paris, Texas. From there, access was gained to Fort Worth. After this there was again a lull until in 1897–98 the St. Louis and Oklahoma City constructed a line from Sapulpa to the future capital of Oklahoma, 103 miles away. The road was sold to the Frisco in 1899.

Acquisition of other lines came between 1901 and 1907. In 1895 the St. Louis, Oklahoma and Southern was chartered, and by 1901, when it was sold to the Frisco, it had a line from Sapulpa by way of Henryetta and Ada to a junction with the Katy just north of the Red River. A third long line was the Blackwell, Enid and Southwestern of 1900 (BES, part of the Frisco after 1907), with a line from Blackwell in the north by way of Enid, Clinton, and Frederick to the Red River, opened in 1903. In the same years the Oklahoma City and Western (1899, sold to the Frisco 1907) built a line from the capital to Chickasha and on to the Red River by way of Lawton and Altus to Quanah, Texas, where a subsidiary, the Quanah, Acme and Pacific continued west to Floydada, Texas; it never reached the Pacific of its name. In the far southeastern corner of Indian Territory the Arkansas and Choctaw (renamed St. Louis, San Francisco and New Orleans in 1902) opened its line from Hope (Arkansas) to Ardmore, joining the Santa Fe line there. This company was also sold to the Frisco in 1907 when the Frisco cleaned up its corporate structure. All these lines, together with some more branches constructed in the first decade of the twentieth century, gave the Frisco a total of more than fifteen hundred miles in the state, the largest presence of all railroad companies.

Just as in the case of the then-affiliated Rock Island, overexpansion caused bankruptcy in 1913, which only ended in 1916. The Great Depression of the 1930s made revenues disastrously fall. However, no large-scale abandonments took place before 1940, although the company was again in receivership since 1932. On its feet again by 1947, the Frisco struggled on with growing competition of road and air, and most passenger services were cut back or ended. Several branches were closed, but of the old main lines only the line from Poteau to Hugo was closed by the end of the twentieth century. In 1980 the Frisco lost its corporate identity when it was merged into the Burlington Northern system, which in turn joined forces with the Santa Fe in 1997, thus bringing two former adversaries in Oklahoma together under one roof.

Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr.


James L. Allhands, "History of the Construction of the Frisco Railway Lines in Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 3 (September 1925).

Donovan L. Hofsommer, ed., Railroads in Oklahoma (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1977).

H. Craig Miner, The St. Louis-San Francisco Transcontinental Railroad: The Thirty-fifth Parallel Project, 1853–1890 (Lawrence: University Press of Kansas, 1972).

H. Craig Miner, "The Struggle for an East-West Railway into the Indian Territory, 1870–1882," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 47 (Spring 1969).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Augustus J. Veenendaal, Jr., “St. Louis and San Francisco Railway,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ST009.

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