Foraker, Oklahoma History

foraker map

"This information was gathered from various sites throughout the Internet. The numbers behind the sentences correspond to the web page I got the information from during my research. It is a conglomeration of information that has it's resources on the corresponding webpages. Please visit those web pages as the people there have done hard work in making history more available to all of us.

Paul Reeves

At the bottom of the page are 'Places of Interest' where I have captured some of the history of the local area.

Located a few miles west of the Tall Grass Prairie Preserve, it was named for a U.S. senator from Ohio. It had two booms: first in agriculture (corn, alfalfa, cattle, hogs) and second as a shipment point serving the Burbank Field.[4] Once it had 2,000 residents; today it's maybe two dozen. The community was named for Sen. Joseph B. Foraker of OH.[1]

Foraker is located in Osage county, in Sections. 28/29, T28N, R7E, 13 miles north, 12 miles west of Pawhuska; 6 miles north, 5 miles east of Shidler.[3] 

It was located in the northwestern part of the Osage Nation (now Osage County) in an area of rolling plains. It was settled in 1905 and was a government townsite platted under the supervision of the Department of the Interior. The Post Office was established February 13, 1903.[3]

The town in 1908 advertised itself as In the heart of this farmer's and stockman's paradise flourishes Foraker -- one of the best Little Towns in the state. Shortly after its settlement, Foraker became an agricultural boom town.[3] 

By 1909 the population living within the incorporated city limits was estimated at five hundred, and the trade territory had a radius of approximately, twenty-five miles. The town was served by the Midland Valley Railroad (abandoned in 1968), and a second line had been surveyed through the area, crossing at Foraker. The second rail line was never built.[3]

Corn and alfalfa were the principal crops in an area rich in natural pasture. It was bound to become one of the best hog and cattle producing sections in Oklahoma.[3] 

Though it was only four years old, Foraker resembled a much older place. Concrete sidewalks and been put down throughout the business district, and much building was in evidence. Already in operation were two banks, two drugstores, three hardware stores, six mercantile stores, two grocery stores, two lumberyards, two livery stables, two grain elevators, and other necessary retail establishments. There were also two live newspapers, two churches and active fraternal organizations.[3] 

The newspapers of Foraker were the Foraker Tribune, Foraker Free Press; Foraker Sun.[3]

Two blocks had been designated for a public park, thirty thousand dollars in bonds had been voted for a light and water system, and a new twenty-thousand-dollar school building had been completed. Freight and passenger service into and out of Foraker had tripled within the year.[3]

After a rapid beginning Foraker stagnated until about 1920, when oil was discovered in the Burbank area some fifteen miles to the south. Foraker became the shipping point nearest the new oil field. Thus, the town had another boom period, when it became the center for the distribution of oil-field equipment and supplies. During the 1920s each block in Foraker had a least four houses.[3] 

A branch rail line (Osage Railway) was extended from Foraker into the oil-producing area for the shipment of tank cars of petroleum products. Population of the town jumped to over two thousand, and several new business buildings and homes were constructed. Because the oil was not found in the area immediately adjacent to Foraker, the town escaped and did not suffer the rough and lawless times of the true oil-field community.[3]

With the decrease in oil production during the 1930s, Foraker declined rapidly. The development of large ranches, the abandonment of the railroads (The Osage Railway was abandoned in 1953), the building of highways, and the use of large trucks to move livestock to market have resulted in the demise of the town. No businesses now operate, and only a few people live in the once thriving community. As one long-time resident still living in what remains of the town stated, "Stores gone, post office gone, train gone, school gone, oil gone, boys and girls gone -- only thing not gone is graveyard and it git bigger."[3]

Ben Johnson  (Deceased)


Ben Johnson, Jr., cowboy and actor, was born on June 13, 1918 in Foraker, Oklahoma . His father, Ben Johnson, Sr., was a ranch foreman and a world champion roper. The annual "Ben Johnson Memorial Roping" in Pawhuska, Oklahoma is named in honor of Ben Johnson, Sr.[2]

Ben Johnson, Jr., worked as a ranch hand making $30 a month, plus   found (room and board). And in his spare time he, like his father, participating in rodeo roping contests. That is what he was doing when, in 1940, movie producer Howard Hughes hired him to take a load of horses from Oklahoma to Hollywood, California. They paid him $175 per week for being a horse wrangler for the film studio, and he decided to stay with it because that was 25 times what he made for cowboying ($9,100 per year as opposed to $360). [2]

I was privileged to interview Ben Johnson one afternoon in May of 1986 at the Lazy E Arena in Guthrie, Okla. He was in town that week for his annual "Ben Johnson Pro Celebrity Roping" to raise money for charity. He was a friendly, down-to-earth man who was easy to like. And he told me that his father taught him how to rope and that he had learned a few rope tricks from fellow Oklahoman Will Rogers. [2]

Johnson became a stunt man and double for such stars as Jimmy Stewart, John Wayne and Gary Cooper. And eventually he got a talking part or two. [2]

In 1950 he was the star of John Ford's "Wagonmaster". He still wanted to win the world championship in roping, as his father had many years before. So in 1953 he took time off from the movies to hit the rodeo trail full-time. And he did win that coveted world roping championship.[2]


He won the 'Best Supporting Actor' Academy Award for his role in "The Last Picture Show". When questioned Johnson said, "I turned down that picture three times because the script was just full of four-letter words." Finally, Johnson agreed to take the part, with the stipulation that he could rewrite his dialogue. He said with a smile, "I won the American Academy Award, the English Academy Award, the Golden Globe Award, the People's Choice Award, and the New York Film Critic's Award and I didn't have to say any dirty words to do it." He was later honored with a Golden Boot Award and his own star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.[2]

Ben spent over fifty years in the motion picture business appearing in more than 300 films and television programs which include co-starring with William Holden in "The Wild Bunch", John Wayne in "Chism", "My Heroes Have Always Been Cowboys" and television's "Bonanza-The Return". His last role, appropriately enough, was as cowboy Jason 'Big Man' Garson in "Ruby Jean and Joe", an original western movie co-starring Tom Selleck and JoBeth Williams.[2]

On April 8, 1996, Ben Johnson went to see his mother at a retirement center near his home in Mesa, AZ. While there he had a heart attack and died. He is buried in the cemetery in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.[2]


 Places of Interest:


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