Miami, Oklahoma, pronounced "My-am-uh," takes its name from the Miami Indians and became the first chartered town in Indian Territory.
Miami began with the son of a missionary to the Peoria Indians, by the name of Wayland C. Lykins. With visions of becoming a cattle rancher within the broad expanse of the tall prairie, Lykins was determined to buy a piece of the prime grazing land. Traveling to Washington D.C., Lykins was granted the opportunity to buy the acreage for the new town by the Secretary of the Interior on the behalf of the Ottawa Tribe of Indians.
When the sale was approved on March 2, 1891, new settlers were offered the opportunity to purchase lots. Starting out with nothing more than a trading post, the settlement was called Jimtown because there were four men by that name in the emerging community. However, when the post office was established in 1890 by Jim Palmer, the town was renamed in honor of his wife, a Miami Indian.
Miami was destined to develop slowly like so many other small towns in Indian Territory, that all changed with the discovery of lead and zinc in 1905. As the miners flooded the town, it began to boom, with an increase in population of 141% in a brief period
With the completion of Route 66 through
Miami, the community soon gained all manner of road side services. In 1929, zinc and lead-mining millionaire, George L. Coleman, built the Coleman Theatre in an attempt to bring culture to
Miami. Built in a Spanish Revival style, the classic theater soon attracted hundreds of patrons to Vaudeville Shows and the popular Big Screen movies of the past. The theater once played host to the likes of Will Rogers, Tom Mix and the Three Stooges. This beautiful icon has never closed, even though it fell on hard times for a long period of time. In 1989 the theater was given to the City of Miami by the family of George Coleman, and has since undergone extensive restoration.
As the first town in Indian Territory, several Native American tribes still make their home in the area including the Miami, Modoc, Ottawa, Peoria, Seneca-Cayuga, Wyandotte, Quapaw, Eastern Shawnee and Loyal Shawnee.
Miami is also home to the Ottawa County Historical Society's Dobson Museum, where Native American artifacts and other historic items depict the lives of early settlers and the legacy of the great lead and zinc mines.
Just outside of
Miami is the last section of the original nine foot wide "Ribbon Road" that is listed as an Oklahoma National Historic Landmark.