According to “Bunky,” there were only 23 streets in Oklahoma City on April 23, 1889. “Bunky” was the pen name of journalist Irving Geffs, who wrote this fact in his book, “The First Eight Months of Oklahoma City,” which was published in 1890.
The named streets running north and south were Santa Fe, Broadway, Robinson, Harvey, Hudson and Division, and those running east and west, north of Reno, were Main, Grand and California. South of Reno, the streets were Washington, Noble, Chickasaw, Pottawatomie, Frisco and Choctaw. These would become S 2 through S 7, respectively. North 1 through N 7 made up the rest.
Of these, Grand, now named Sheridan, was first named Clarke after Sidney Clarke, pioneer and civic leader; Washington for President George Washington; Noble for John W. Noble, who was secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior when Oklahoma Territory was opened for settlement; and Frisco for the St. Louis & San Francisco Railroad. Indian tribes made up the others.
Many of the later streets named during the early days in Oklahoma City got their names from pioneers associated with the land run, original landowners and developers of housing additions.
On Nov. 21, 1915, The Oklahoman interviewed the secretary of the Chamber of Commerce, Elmer E. Brown, on his recollections about the names of city streets.
Here are a few names I was able to verify:
Durland Avenue — “In honor of Otto Clay ‘O.C.’ Durland, who in a contest, won a quarter section of land in what is now the Oak Park addition.” When Brown says contest, what he meant was Durland’s land claim was disputed all the way to the state Supreme Court.
Laird Avenue — “For S.E. Laird, prominent early day settler.” He was a landowner, and Laird Avenue is the entry to the Oklahoma History Center.
Everest Avenue — “For J.H. Everest, a lawyer.” A pioneer Oklahoma City attorney, at his death, he had been the last surviving charter member of the First Christian Church.
McKinley Avenue — Named not for the president but for “Miss Margaret McKinley, prominent woman real estate speculator in early days.”
Douglas Avenue — “For McGregor Douglas, prominent businessman, now dead.” At the time of his death in 1908, he was secretary of the Central Title and Investment Co. and the Oklahoma Loan and Building Co. and a member of the Real Estate Exchange.
Brauer Avenue — “For George Brauer, half-brother of Douglas.” This one is wrong. George Brauer is listed as the stepbrother of Anton Classen in Classen’s obituary, and in Brauer’s obituary several surviving Classens were listed as brothers. He was one of the founders and secretary-treasurer of the Oklahoma Railway Co., the trolley car business.
Dewey Avenue — Named “in honor of Admiral George Dewey.” Hero of the Battle of Manila in the Spanish-American War in 1898, Dewey was named an admiral in 1903.
I was not able to verify this, but Brown said California Avenue got its name from the number of Californians who settled there after the land run.
I hope this sheds some light on where the names came from for those streets we drive on every day.
Read “The Archivist” online at blog.newsok.com/archivist.
MOURN THE LOSS OF GYPSY QUEEN NOMAD, HEAD OF BAND HERE, IS BURIED IN FAIRLAWN CEMETERY.”
It was just a small item on Page 5 of The Oklahoman, on Tuesday, Feb. 4, 1908, with a headline almost as big as the story.
Ellen Young, 69, was camping in Colcord Park near the river with her “band of nomadic Egyptians” when she died in a tent Friday, Jan. 31, 1908. Her funeral services were conducted the following Monday by the Rev. T.H. Harper of Pilgrim Congregational Church, and she was buried at Fairlawn. Fifty grief-stricken Gypsies attended her service.
The Oklahoman’s story read: “Mrs. Young had spent all her life travelling in covered wagons through Europe and America, telling fortunes, creating rugs, painting pictures, doing what she could to secure a living from a nomadic wandering life. Unlike her countrymen, she became a Christian, and she is of the strain of family which includes the renowned Congregational preacher, “Gypsy,” Smith, one of the greatest preachers of England.”
Can you imagine how cold it was living in a tent in January in Oklahoma?
From my research, I learned Gypsies more likely came from India, than Egypt, and many more of them were, and are, of the Christian faith than most people think.
Also, Rodney “Gypsy” Smith, born in 1860 in England and raised in a gypsy wagon, never attended school and was converted at the age of 16. He started preaching at 17, and during his evangelistic career that ended in 1947 with his death, he was as widely traveled and admired as Billy Graham is today.
Colcord Park, later renamed Delmar Gardens, was owned by Charles Colcord and consisted of 160 acres near Reno Avenue and Western close to the North Canadian River. Baseball was played in that area until the flood of 1923.
A trip to Fairlawn Cemetery and a check of the records located Young’s resting place, 103 years after her death.
The original entry in the cemetery ledger read Mrs. Emma Young (gypsy) camped near the ballpark, died Jan. 31 and was buried Feb. 3, 1908. The ledger also disclosed the location of her burial place in the cemetery and the funeral home handling the arrangements. Her first name was different, but the rest of the facts fit the newspaper’s story.
Turns out, her final resting place is just a few steps north of the cemetery office.
The last curious fact about Ellen/Emma is that her grave stone bears the wrong year for her death.