Wewoka, Oklahoma

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Wewoka, Oklahoma
City
Location of Wewoka, Oklahoma
Location of Wewoka, Oklahoma
Coordinates: 35°8′58″N 96°29′40″W / 35.14944°N 96.49444°W / 35.14944; -96.49444Coordinates: 35°8′58″N 96°29′40″W / 35.14944°N 96.49444°W / 35.14944; -96.49444
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Seminole
Area
 • Total 4.8 sq mi (12.5 km2)
 • Land 4.8 sq mi (12.5 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
Elevation 804 ft (245 m)
Population (2000)
 • Total 3,430
 • Density 714.6/sq mi (274.4/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 74884
Area code(s) 405
FIPS code 40-80550[1]
GNIS feature ID 1099657[2]

Wewoka is a city in Seminole County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 3,430 at the 2010 census. It is the county seat of Seminole County.[3]

Founded by John Horse and Black Seminoles in the late 1880s, Wewoka is the current capital of the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma.

History[edit]

The city was named for the wife of Osceola. (1838 lithograph)

Wewoka's history begins with John Horse, who was also known as Gopher John.[4] In the spring of 1849, Horse and a group of Black Seminoles founded a settlement near modern-day Wewoka.[4] He named the settlement Wewokea after Osceola's second wife who was of both Seminole and African ancestry.

In autumn of 1849, Horse and Seminole chief Wild Cat led Seminole families into Mexico to avoid the attempts of slavers to raid families and capture people of African descent.[4] The Mexican government offered Wild Cat, Horse and other Seminoles land in Mexico if they could rid the land of renegades who were terrorizing Mexican citizens. Wild Cat was the next hereditary chief of the Seminole Nation but the government appointed its first chief John Jumper instead. The descendants of Wildcat and his band were split for a time between Wewoka, Texas, and Mexico until 1918.

The city was founded in 1866 when Elijah J. Brown, an employee of the federal government led Seminole refugees from Leroy, Kansas to Indian Territory.[5] During the American Civil War, the Seminole Nation had sided with the Confederacy. When the Confederacy lost, the United States government required the Seminole to sign a new treaty. It required them to emancipate their slaves, give freedmen who wanted to stay in the territory full rights as citizens, including voting in the tribe. The Seminole Nation made Wewoka their capital city and Seminole Governor John Brown had a log house erected at Wewoka as the Seminole capitol in 1877.[5]

Freedmen settled in Wewoka along with the Seminole and Elijah Brown was the only legal white settler in the county until the Oklahoma Land Run of 1889. In 1907, Wewoka became part of the state of Oklahoma, which was admitted to the union. In 1908 it was designated as the county seat of Seminole County, Oklahoma, winning out in an election against the city of Seminole, Oklahoma.

The city developed around the house that Andrew Jackson Brown and his wife Mannie Lou built at 11th Avenue and Muskogee. Brown was the brother of Seminole Governor John Brown and the two owned and operated the Wewoka Trading Company.[6] They were prominent Seminole of Creek and Scottish ancestry. Descendants included two prominent Seminole chiefs, Lucy Brown McKellop and her husband John F. McKellop. The house still stands, the last remaining structure of the Nineteenth Seminole Republic. It straddles the border between the Seminole and Creek nations and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

In March 1923, oil was discovered a mile and a half southeast of Wewoka. R. H. Smith drilled the first commercial well in 1923 on St. Patrick's Day. Great wealth was realized by many Seminole in 1925 with the exploration of the Magnolia Petroleum Company. In the 1920s and 30's the great Seminole Oil Fields were the largest suppliers of oil anywhere in the world. In 1925 the population of Wewoka was 1,520. By 1927 the population increased to over 20,000, as adventurers and workers came, to make their fortunes. It rapidly had become the third-largest city in Oklahoma.

From 1927 to the present, the oil companies took out as much as they could get. As the oil decreased, jobs and people left the city. By 1950 the population of Wewoka was 6,753 and in 1960 it was 6,300. The population continued a steady decline, but the city has continued as the commercial center of the region. The 1980s and 1990s were difficult for the city. Businesses left town and poverty greatly increased.

The city leaders tried to protect themselves by refusing to allow competition, like Wal-Mart, to enter the city. Holdenville and Seminole do have Wal-Mart stores. Seminole's Wal-Mart has the super-center configuration offering groceries as well as dry goods.

The crime rate in Wewoka during the 1980s increased; the radio commentator Paul Harvey called Wewoka "Little Chicago," because it had a higher crime rate per capita than the city of Chicago. The violence in the city caused people to avoid coming to Wewoka and gave the city a reputation that continues to linger.

By the mid 1990s, new leadership began to turn commerce around in the city. The police force was increased and began to get the crime rate under control. The crime rate by 2001 was below average for the state of Oklahoma. The historic downtown received a face lift of new sidewalks, streets, lights and flowers. Wewoka was selected as one of Channel 5's Top Five Cities in 2004.

The city of Wewoka continues to work to attract businesses and maintain population. The current population of Wewoka is just over 3,500. The projections show that the city will continue to decrease in the coming years. The ethnic diversity continues, with 52% white, 22% American Indian and 18% African American. The average household income is approximately $37,000 a year, a substantial increase over 2002. According to the demographic comparison, the number of households is decreasing, but the income of those living in Wewoka is increasing.[7]

Geography[edit]

Wewoka is located at 35°08′58″N 96°29′40″W / 35.149473°N 96.494361°W / 35.149473; -96.494361.[8]

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.8 square miles (12.5 km2).None of the area is covered with water.

Demographics[edit]

2010 census[edit]

As of the 2010 census, there were 3,430 people, 3,177 households, and 803 families residing in Wewoka.[9] The average household size was 2.56 and the average family size was 3.23.[9] Less than 30% of the population was under the age of 18 and 16.3% was age 65 or older.[9]

2000 census[edit]

The 2000 census[1] counted 3,562 people, 1,390 households, and 884 families residing in the city. The population density was 736.1 people per square mile (284.2/km2). There were 1,762 housing units at an average density of 364.1 per square mile (140.6/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 51.04% White, 19.88% African American, 21.45% Native American, 0.28% Asian, 0.08% Pacific Islander, 1.04% from other races, and 6.23% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.39% of the population.

There were 1,390 households out of which 30.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 40.0% were married couples living together, 19.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.4% were non-families. 33.4% of all households were made up of individuals and 18.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.45 and the average family size was 3.14.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.8% under the age of 18, 9.4% from 18 to 24, 23.4% from 25 to 44, 19.5% from 45 to 64, and 19.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 37 years. For every 100 females there were 84.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.4 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $19,490, and the median income for a family was $27,130. Males had a median income of $22,467 versus $17,670 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,039. About 26.6% of families and 29.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 42.0% of those under age 18 and 20.0% of those age 65 or over.

The drive from Wewoka to the nearest major metropolitan area Oklahoma City is a little over one hour. The drive to Tulsa is a little over 1.5 hours. The nearest interstate highway to Wewoka, I-40, is 15 miles.

Education[edit]

Wewoka's "2011 Academic Performance Index" score for their public school system was 749. The statewide average score for this measure for 2009-2010 was 1092. In comparison, other public schools in the region scored as follows:

    Holdenville, 979
    Wetumka, 925
    Konowa, 1060
    Seminole, 966
    Varnum, 985

Wewoka Public Schools was not marked as a "School in Need of Improvement" in this state-generated report card. Although the school system was scored low, some Wewoka Public School system alumni of all races and social-strata regularly earn Ph.D.s, J.D.s, and other professional degrees in later life.

The Wewoka Public School system has a large brick high school building, designed and constructed during the Great Depression by the WPA. The high school auditorium serves for community events as well.

Wewoka is a 20-minute drive from an Associates Degree-granting college at Seminole State College. In addition, Wewoka is a 45-minute drive from two Ph.D.-degree-granting universities in Shawnee: Oklahoma Baptist University and St. Gregory's University. East Central Oklahoma State University is a 50-minute drive from Wewoka. The University of Oklahoma is an hour and 20 minutes from Wewoka, with Oklahoma State University being one hour and 45 minutes away.

Barbecue hub[edit]

Wewoka's reputation for barbecue from the 1970s through late 1980s was unmatched.[citation needed] Ben's Barbecue and Johnnie Mae's BBQ delivered "legendary" meals of pork ribs (Ben's), steaks (Ben's), special garlic salad dressing (Ben's) and amazing pork butt and beef brisket (Johnnie Mae's). Hundred-mile "Barbecue-runs" to Wewoka were a regular occurrence during those decades; Wewoka barbecue was the declared favorite of many high-ranking state officials. Both businesses have closed.

Events[edit]

Wewoka is home to an annual Sorghum Days celebration in the fall. Sorghum molasses is prepared on-site at the Seminole National Museum grounds. The sorghum is cooked from cane juice pressed in an authentic mule-driven cane press, a rarity today. Sorghum is sold on fry-bread on the museum grounds for visitors to enjoy. Sorghum is not an agricultural crop of the Wewoka area; a small patch is grown for this celebration. Past Sorghum Day parade marshals include the late actor Ken Curtis, best known for his portrayal of Festus Haggen on the long-running CBS western television series Gunsmoke.

Notable natives and residents[edit]

  • James Coody Johnson was a prominent African-American lawyer practicing in or near Wewoka in the early 20th century. He testified before the U.S. Supreme court. As a Creek speaker, he served as an interpreter for the noted Judge Isaac Parker.[10] For a time, he lived about 5 miles north of Wewoka. He sponsored an annual circus near his house. The J. Coody Johnson office building in Wewoka is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.[11]
  • Juanita Kidd Stout, the first African-American woman elected as judge in the United States, was born in Wewoka. She graduated from a segregated high school in Wewoka at the age of 16. She spent a significant part of her career as a judge in Philadelphia. She regularly returned to Oklahoma, spending time in Tulsa for summer breaks. In addition, she was the first black woman to serve on any state's supreme court. She is buried at the Westwood Cemetery in Wewoka.
  • Gil Morgan, professional golfer and current member of the Champions Tour was born in Wewoka. He joined the professional tour in 1972 and won seven events between 1977 and 1990. His more prominent success has been in the Champions Tour where he has won 24 events, including the Tradition title in 1997 and 1998, and the Senior Players Championship in 1998.

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  4. ^ a b c May, Jon D. "HORSE, JOHN (ca. 1812-1882)," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (accessed July 30, 2013)
  5. ^ a b Wilson, Linda D. "WEWOKA," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (accessed July 30, 2013)
  6. ^ Wilson, Linda D. [WEWOKA TRADING COMPANY], Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. (accessed July 30, 2013)
  7. ^ Vallandingham, Michael (2008). The Restructuring of First Baptist Church of Wewoka, Oklahoma, to More Efficiently Accomplish Its Purpose. Kansas City: Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. pp. 1–5. 
  8. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2011-02-12. Retrieved 2011-04-23. 
  9. ^ a b c Search of Wewoka, Oklahoma at http://factfinder2.census.gov (accessed July 30, 2013)
  10. ^ "James Coody Johnson", Black Past
  11. ^ [1]
  12. ^ Golf Channel web site

External links[edit]