Chandler - Land Rush, Cotton and 66
Nestled among the
rolling hills in the heart of
Oklahoma, Chandler was founded after
the 1891 Land Rush. When almost one million acres of land,
Sac and Fox, Iowa, Pottawatomie and Shawnee
tribes, was opened for homesteading on September 22, 1891, hundreds of
settlers lined the borders of what was then called County A. At a
signal given by the military, the pioneers rushed to stake their
town site of
was surveyed by the government and set aside for public use just six
days after opening of the county. Comprising an area of about
one square mile, the up and coming town was named in honor of
George Chandler, the First Assistant
Secretary of the Interior under President Harrison.
1891 the first county officials were appointed by the governor. In its first general election held on November 8, 1892, the county
received an official name – Lincoln, and elected its own county
officers. Soon a two-story framed courthouse was built on the
town square. The small settlement quickly grew with several
businesses developing along the main street area including hotels,
several saloons, stores and other establishments.
beginning until the mid-1920’s, the production of cotton and related
activities were the most important sources of income for the citizens
of Chandler. Beginning at the age
six, children learned to pick cotton, and many continued this throughout
their lives. Full attendance at school for older children could not be
expected before mid-November, after the entire cotton crop was
oil factory was located at the end of Allison Avenue and 15th Street
where oil was made from the cottonseeds not used for planting the next
year’s crop. The cotton oil mill sounded a loud whistle twice a day;
at the change of the work shifts. The sharp whistle could be heard
throughout the town, at exactly 12 noon and 12 midnight. For many it
was their only clock.
On March 30, 1897, young
would suffer a devastating blow when a tornado completely wiped out
the business area and many of the new homes constructed near it.
a just a few minutes, every building that lay within a four-block-wide
area was leveled. Fourteen people were killed and scores of others
Chandler's other major source of income was the
growing cattle industry which soon prompted the development of railroads.
branch of the Frisco was the first railroad constructed across Lincoln
County. These 103 miles of railroad were completed in December, 1898.
Other railroads built across parts of the county during the years 1902,
1903 and 1904, including the
and Fort Smith-Western.
After surviving decades of tough
Bill Tilghman was
shot and killed by a corrupt Prohibition
Officer in 1924.
Bill Tilghman, one of the
pioneers making the land rush in 1891 and former marshal of
was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in 1900. He would later serve
as United States Marshal and became known as "Two-Gun Bill."
Tilghman was largely
responsible for wiping out organized crime in
Oklahoma and hunting down Bill Doolin and his
In the early 1920’s, less cotton
was being grown in Lincoln County and the "cotton picking" families were
forced to temporarily relocate to earn a living. But, at about the same
time oil was discovered in the area and the
population of Chandler and Lincoln County began to grow. Oil derricks and producing wells quickly began to dot the land of Lincoln
County, providing a further boost to Chandler's
Though the area was quickly advancing into the twentieth
century, it was seemingly not quite finished with its Old West heritage,
as evidenced by the shooting of Chandler's
Bill Tilghman. Though
Tilghman had been persuaded
by the citizens of Cromwell,
Oklahoma, an Oil Boomtown
about 50 miles southeast of Chandler, to become their city
On November 1, 1924
Tilghman was eating in a restaurant when a shot was fired outside by a
drunken Prohibition Officer, by the name of Wiley Lynn. At the sound of
Tilghman immediately left the restaurant and began to lead Lynn toward
the jail. Lynn, who had clashed with
Tilghman on other occasions, pulled out a small automatic pistol and
Tilghman, who died 15 minutes later. The incident is recognized as one
of the last gunfights of the Old West.
Tilghman is buried at the Oak Park Cemetery just west of Chandler.
came through Chandler in 1926
it brought a significant amount
of commercial business as travelers crossed the state and the country.
When the turnpikes began to be built,
Chandler like many
cities suffered another blow. However,
agriculture and livestock have continued to keep this small community of
almost 3,000 alive today.
As you pass through Chandler, be sure to check out the many murals on the
town’s buildings, the Lincoln Motel, which has been in continuous
operation since 1939, and the lovingly restored Phillips 66 Station at 7th
and Manvel on
Chandler, also make sure to
visit the Route 66 Interpretive Center and Gift Shop located at the
crossroads of Route 66 and Mickey Clarkson Avenue. Situated in the old
1930’s-era Armory Building, the interactive experience takes visitors
through a visually entertaining “drive” from the 1920’s through current
As you continue your travels West to Warwick there is
the last remaining Meramec Caverns painted barn on the
Mother Road. However,
you won’t see it westbound as the barn faces travelers headed east in
an attempt to lure them many miles east to
As you watch the road, have your travel partner looking out the back
window to the south side of the old highway.
Chandler is located 48 miles
and 67 miles southwest of
Tulsa. Abundant lakes,
ponds and rivers provide a fishing Mecca for anglers, where bass,
crappie, catfish, and perch are plentiful. Hunters will find an
abundant supply of white tail deer and migrating ducks and geese as
they pass through each fall and spring.
of America, updated May, 2013.
Oklahoma Route 66 Photo Gallery
Meramec Caverns Barn just west of
June, 2010, Kathy Weiser-Alexander.
This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
Oklahoma today, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, June, 2010.
This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads
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