From the unpaved streets of the Land Run to the Interstate highways of today, city drivers are not surprised by the potholes, cracks and rough surfaces they encounter.
A story from The Oklahoman on Nov. 27, 1925, addressed that issue but also gave the history of several street names.
Here are some excerpts from the article:
“Pavements rutted by heavy truck traffic, inclement weather are not endeared to the hearts of Oklahoma Cityans in their infancy of heavy taxes nor when a puncture is picked up. They are the roundelay of abuse from city hall to the city limits — and yet have a heart — they have a heart.
“Take Bath avenue, back of that name is a personality — not a Saturday night ablution. The street was named for V.L. Bath, realty man.”
Bath was one of Oklahoma City’s earliest settlers.
“Dewey avenue has two fathers and is proud of both. One is Admiral Dewey, Spanish-American war hero and the other, Dr. Fred S. Dewey, pioneer physician of the capital city and formerly an army contract surgeon during the 90s. It is the only street in the city that old-timers attribute to different men.”
Dr. Frederick Stanley Dewey was Oklahoma City’s first coroner. His father was Adm. George Dewey’s cousin.
“Peter Billen who platted the Aurora addition was a prominent farmer here, breathed life into the painted curb signs, Billen avenue.”
Billen was born in Prussia in 1845 and grew up in Aurora, Ill. He moved to Oklahoma City in the 1890s and bought a farm on NW 16th.
The addition he platted was named for his boyhood home.
“Ellison avenue looks to Luke Ellison, prominent Mason in Oklahoma City in the early days as a godfather.”
Ellison bought the farm that was to become the Miller Boulevard neighborhood for $200.
“Reno is for Major Reno, an early-day army officer.”
Maj. Gen. Jesse L. Reno was killed while commanding his troops at the Battle of South Mountain during the Civil War.
He lent his name to towns in Nevada and Pennsylvania, a county in Kansas, as well as our own El Reno and Fort Reno.
“The forests live with Ash avenue, Elm street, Cypress and Walnut and the Indian tribes with Pottawatomie, Choctaw or the state’s with Pennsylvania and California while Kate avenue they’ll tell you at the city hall received it’s baptism at the hands of a congenial Irish woman, called Kate, who served home-made doughnuts and coffee to a crew that surveyed the street.”
Coltrane Road was named for John J. Coltrane, an ’89er born in North Carolina who owned land in the area near NE 36 and the street with his name.
The road begins at NE 23 Street between Bryant and Sooner Road and runs north, skipping a couple of section lines, nearly to Guthrie.
However, the street wasn’t originally named for the Oklahoma pioneer. It was named State Street.
According to an Oct. 5, 1944, story in The Oklahoman, the name change occurred because of a complication.
It seems there were two State streets in Oklahoma City — the northeast location and one in far northwest Oklahoma City, four blocks east of MacArthur Boulevard.
“It’s the folks along the west-side State Street who are raising the fuss. Their visitors go to the wrong street first, then have a long drive going to the right State Street.
“Besides,” says Mike Donnelly, County Commissioner District 2, site of the “west” State Street, “that other State Street never did rightfully exist. Originally it was named ‘Grant.’”
Mrs. Carl W. Skinner, one of several residents along the street and a niece of John Coltrane, said: “I was born about a mile from here and the street never has been called anything else (State Street) since it was opened several years ago.”
John J. Coltrane “originally owned three quarters of a section in that neighborhood. When the state capital was moved here from Guthrie, Coltrane offered land for the site.”
On July 5, 1911, The Oklahoman listed real estate transactions, and J.J. Coltrane transferred land to the State Capitol Building Co. for the sum of $1. In other early advertisements, Coltrane offered cattle for sale, and in the U.S. Census he is listed as a farmer.
The northwest corner of NE 36 and Coltrane was part of the land offered for the Capitol. The southeast corner was once the summer home of Gov. Robert S. Kerr and later the monks of the Holy Protection Orthodox Monastery of Forest Park. It is now privately owned.
R.L. Peebly (Peebly Road), county commissioner for the district, said he would entertain any suggestions for a new name, and Mrs. Skinner said she “would like for the name ‘Coltrane’ to be considered, honoring her uncle.”
While I found no official announcement, apparently there was no objection, and the east State Street became Coltrane Road.
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.