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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Located in Sequoyah County, Vian lies at the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and State Highway 82, just north of Interstate 40, and eleven miles west of Sallisaw. The community, which began in the Cherokee Nation, evolved from a trading post between the Big and Little Vian creeks, from which the town took its name. The first postmaster, Mahala Thompson, originally wanted to name the post office, established in 1886, Round Mountain, but that name had been taken. In 1888 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway laid tracks through the region, and Vian benefited, establishing itself as a shipping point for agricultural production, especially cotton. In 1901 it was estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 bales were annually shipped. The 1900 population stood at 296.

By 1910 Vian had 794 inhabitants. In 1911 they supported two banks, the Sequoyah County Democrat newspaper, a telephone connection, two hotels, and several retail outlets and restaurants. In 1917 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern combined with the Missouri Pacific Railway, becoming the Missouri Pacific Railroad.

In the late 1880s a school had opened to educate the area's Cherokee children. In the mid-1890s Rev. J. B. Barry established a school for white children. Circa 1897 the community built a schoolhouse that was used until a three-story, brick building was constructed in 1909. Douglass High School existed as a separate school for the region's African American students until the mid-1950s. In 1956 a modern high school building was built, partially funded with federal grants for areas serving large numbers of American Indian pupils.

Vian's population reached 1,176 in 1920 before declining to 900 in 1930. Agriculture and ranching remained an integral part of the economy. In 1932 the area still produced enough cotton to require three cotton gins. By 1946 the town had only one gin and one bank, and in 1950 the population stood at 927. Through the years newspapers reporting to the town have included the Vian American, the Vian Press, the Vian Tribune, the Democrat-American, and the Vian Tenkiller News. Located between Lake Tenkiller (impounded in 1953) and Robert S. Kerr Lake (1970), the community and its vicinity have profited from additional tourism. The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge lies south of Vian adjacent to Kerr Lake.

The 1970 population was 1,131, climbing to 1,521 in 1980. Oklahoma Supreme Court Judge and politician W. A. Carlile attended school at Vian. Scenes for the movie Where the Red Fern Grows (1974) were filmed in the area. In 2000, 988 students constituted the prekindergarten-to-high school enrollment. The population stood at 1,362. It grew to 1,466 in 2010.

Larry O'Dell


"Former Jurist W. A. Carlile Dies at Age 74," Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 21 November 1961.

The History of Sequoyah County, 1828–1975 (Sallisaw, Okla.: Sequoyah County Historical Society, 1976).

H. D. Ragland, A History of Sequoyah County (Sallisaw, Okla.: Privately printed, 1957).

Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 20 March 1995.

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Larry O'Dell, “Vian,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=VI002.

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