I’ve been researching towns in Oklahoma for my next series. I’ve discovered some interesting and amusing Oklahoma town names. There’s Disney, a town in northeastern Mayes County named for Wesley, not Walt. As far as I know, they’re not related. Ten years ago on our RV trip, we drove through Cement, Oklahoma, in Caddo County, named by workers at the nearby cement mill.
I’ve also found Prague, founded and named by Czech immigrants. But it’s not pronounced the way you’d expect; it’s “Prayge” or “preɪɡ” in the International Phonetic Alphabet. Miami, in Ottawa County, is the same way; it’s “Miam-uh” locally. NPR had an interesting little piece about what they called “phonological adaptation” – be sure to listen to it for the best effect.
I also found Devol, in Cotton County. It brought to mind Devola, a place not far from where I grew up in Ohio. As far as I know, the Devols the two places are named for weren’t related.
There’s a place out in Carter County that was originally named Lou. Then it was named Dresden, then four years later it became Berwyn. It stayed Berwyn for 54 years until a well-known singing cowboy bought a 1,200-acre ranch just outside of town. An estimated 35,000 people attended the ceremony in November 1941 as the town was renamed Gene Autry.
The town of Wild Horse, in Garfield County, gained a flood of settlers during the 1889 Cherokee Outlet opening, including a group of Germans descended from Russia. Wild Horse was renamed to Kremlin in their honor.
One of the most interesting town names I found was IXL. It’s a town of 51 in Okfuskee County (though there are two other towns with the same name, in Kay and Tillman counties). Officially incorporated in 2001, IXL’s roots go back to at least 1900. The area is considered a freedmen’s town, and there’s no clear consensus on the origins of the name.
There’s also Gay and Straight, located on opposite sides of the state, of course.
There are somehow two places named Arnett. One is the county seat of Ellis County; the other, an unincorporated place, is in Harmon County. The counties are separated by Roger Mills County.
I also found a surprising number of towns that aren’t in their namesake counties. McCurtain, OK, is not in McCurtain County, for example, it’s in Haskell County. And Haskell is in Muskogee County, not Haskell County.
Choctaw is in Oklahoma County, not Choctaw. Canadian is not in Canadian County, it’s in Pittsburg County.
Comanche, OK, is not located in Comanche County; it’s in Stephens County.
Cleveland, Oklahoma, is in…Pawnee County, not Cleveland County
And Cherokee is in Alfafa County, not Cherokee County. And it’s not even part of the Cherokee Nation.
Marshall, Oklahoma is in Logan County, not Marshall, of course.
And while Seminole is indeed in Seminole County, it’s not the county seat. That honor goes to Wewoka.
Noble is in Cleveland County, not its namesake county. The town and the county are named for the same person, though: Secretary of the Interior John Noble.
Jefferson is in Grant County. Adair isn’t in Adair County. It’s two counties west, over in Mayes County.
Dewey is in Washington County, on the other side of the state. Washington is in McClain County, though.
And Pittsburg? Where else would it be? Pittsburg County, of course. Woodward is in Woodward County, too, and is even the county seat! Likewise, Nowata is the county seat of its namesake county. Pawnee, too.
There are almost 600 incorporated municipalities in the state. I bet I’ll have fun with some of the names.
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