Blackwell, Oklahoma History


"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."

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

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Blackwell is a city in Kay County, Oklahoma, located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 177 and State Highway 11 along Interstate 35 and is about 15 miles to the northwest of Ponca City. Blackwell is located at along the Chikaskia River and to the east of Interstate 35.

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Lying along the Chikaskia River, Blackwell came into existence during the Cherokee Outlet Opening on September 16, 1893. The town is named for Andrew Jackson Blackwell, an allottee of mixed blood who was the dominant force in its founding. Colonel Blackwell platted the original town site and recognized the possibilities of the location. Previous to the opening of the   strip, September 16, 1893, the city had been divided into lots and shortly after the opening there was a drawing for the lots. The twenty five foot lots are explained by the fact that a company advertising Blackwell as a"Garden Spot" sold more certificates than there were lots and the goods had to be cut according to the cloth, was the answer.[3] A post office was established on December 1, 1893. Due to a struggle for regional prominence between Blackwell and nearby Parker, the post office was named Parker from April 2, 1894, to February 4, 1895. After the latter date, the name reverted to Blackwell.[2]

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It is funny how some of the leaders of the community ensured that they would have money, for it is told that sometime before the opening of the outlet, A. J. Blackwell, for whom Blackwell was named, put up 300,000 tons of prairie hay. Later the ground was burned off and when the settlers arrived there was no available feed for their stock, which necessiatated their buying this hay from Mr. Blackwell at $1.00 and $1.25 a bale. A. J. Blackwell kept the entire block where the Security bank now is located, and he evidently was good at figures for he got thirteen lots out of the block, while the others were divided into twelve. He built a three story tin hotel where the bank now stands and kept on building one story buildings until he had the block full. The first brick building is now occupied by the Leuker Drug Company. My first store was located where the First National Bank is, and was the next built, with two more built at the same time directly across the street.[3]

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Blackwell's economy has been based on agriculture and the oil and gas industry. The first gas well was drilled in the city park, and although gas was found, the well was soon abandoned and another well sunk on the Ferry Wheeler farm north of town. The gas from this well was piped to the various buildings in the town and the Blackwell Mill, one of the earliest industries to be established here.[3]

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Between 1897 and 1899 the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway built a line east and west through the community. In 1899 the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway constructed a line north and south. 

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As a result, the town became an agricultural trade center, with wheat, corn, flour, hogs, and cattle being shipped to outside markets, and as a regional market for horses and mules. Petroleum assumed significance when gas wells were drilled in the area in 1901 and 1902. At 1907 statehood Blackwell's population stood at 2,664 and in 1910 at 3,266. By 1911 the town had six churches, three banks, two school buildings, flour mills, and grain elevators.[2]

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The Blackwell Eagle published by E. A. Henthorne, and Blackwell Rock Record published by Homer Chambers were the first newspapers and distributed their first issue on the day of the opening. In October Mr. Walker published the Blackwell Times and some time later Mr. Blackwell established the Blackwell Lion. In March, 1894, the Times and the Rock Record were consolidated and passed into the hands of F. T. Berkey under the name of The Times Record.[3] Citizens supported the Blackwell Daily News as well as the weekly Times-Record newspaper.[2]

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Transportation access also helped the town attract manufacturing and industry. In the 1930s Blackwell had a flour mill, a brick plant, four grain elevators, six oil companies, and fifteen gas plants/refineries. Through the years businesses have included the Globe Oil and Refining Company, the Hazel-Atlas Glass Company, the Blackwell Cheese Company, and the Turvey (meat) Packing Company. The Oklahoma Bottle and Glass Company manufactured fruit jars. Because of the abundance of natural gas for fuel, the Blackwell Zinc Company, a smelter plant, opened in 1916. It employed approximately eight hundred in 1972 and was one of the three largest plants of its kind in the United States.[2] 

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From 1916 to 1974, the Blackwell Zinc Company(BZC) operated a smelterfacility on the northwestcorner of Blackwell Avenue and north 13th Street.This smelter processed zinc and cadmium concen-trates to produce refined metal. Environmental re-leases from smelting and refining processes causedsome soils and groundwater near the historic facility to contain elevated levels of metals. In 1974, afterclosing and salvaging the facility, Blackwell Zinc Com-pany donated the smelter site to the Blackwell Indus-trial Authority (BIA), a public trust of the City ofBlackwell. Since that time, the BIA has been developing the former smelter site as an industrial park.In 1974 the Blackwell Zinc Smelter ceased operations. At the time, it was the city's largest employer, employing around 1,100 people. The smelter first began operations in 1916. After its closure the land and was donated to the BIA (Blackwell Industrial Authority). Parts of Blackwell are contaminated with various substances, including lead, arsenic, and cadmium.

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Blackwell's first school opened in September 1893 in a small, frame building by Miss Lottie Jerome and it was a subsc ription school which was held in Lovett Junior High Building[3] with fifty-two students in attendance. A gradual enrollment increase created a need for ten teachers by 1899. By the 1930s the school system consisted of six elementary schools, a junior high school, and a senior high school. In 1936 the high school was completed at a cost of $225,000 with funding from a bond issue and the federal Public Works Administration. Oklahoma Baptist College, a private institution, operated in Blackwell between 1901 and 1913. At the turn of the twenty-first century Blackwell's educational system offered head start, prekindergarten, and kindergarten through high school. Higher education was available nearby at Northern Oklahoma College in Tonkawa and at the Pioneer Technology Center in Ponca City. The city maintains nine public parks, a swimming pool, and a golf course, as well as a youth center and a public library. A municipal airport is located southeast of town. The Blackwell National Guard Armory was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.[2]

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The Statue of Lady liberty in front of the Memorial Pool Complex is one of 150 originals remaining in the United States.[4]

Blackwell is home to the Top Of Oklahoma Museum (open weekdays) which is a grand, white structure with a large central dome, the Pavilion was built in 1912 to celebrate the advent of electricity in Blackwell. Its design takes after styles exhibited at the famous “White City” of the World’s Fair in Chicago in 1893. Its lights, which originally numbered over 500, could once be seen for miles across the windswept prairie.

The Kay County Free Fair (the second week of each September) Largest county fair in Oklahoma! Over 90 outdoor vendors, 8 buildings full of exhibits, livestock competition, carnival rides, and live entertainment.

And the Tulips Abloom Festival (early each spring)Craft Booths, entertainment, food, games, beauty pageant, and thousands of tuplips in bloom.

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On May 25, 1955, a deadly F5 tornado struck Blackwell at approx. 9:30pm and cut a swath of destruction through the northeastern portion of city, roughly centered in the neighborhoods surrounding Riverside Park. 20 residents died and 250 were injured. This tornado was part of a significant tornado outbreak across the Central Plains which included another F5 tornado that struck Udall, Kansas killing 82 people and injuring 270. The outbreak spawned 19 tornadoes across Oklahoma, Texas and Kansas alone.

Parker was a town created by a Dr. Parker of Arkansas City, Kansas, who like the founders of Blackwell, expected his town to be the “premier” city of Kay County. Parker was located one mile south of Blackwell across the Chikaskia River. At least two two-story buildings were built and two newspapers established. Parker set about trying to convince a railroad to build a spur into the town then tried to convince the people of “Blackwell Rock” to give up their post office, even though they didn’t have one yet and to merge with Parker, giving up the name Blackwell. A.J. Blackwell convinced the townspeople of Blackwell to turn down the merger with Parker. Shortly thereafter, the Chikaskia River flooded the small town of Parker and practically washed it away. However this was not the end of Parker. It went through two more incarnations, first as Chikaskia City and then as Kay Center. Kay Center at least had the distinction of having its own post office from October 9, 1897 to June 1, 1898, then it too ceased to exist as an organized town.[1]

Places of Interest:

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