Warwick to Arcadia – Historic Stretch of Route 66

Warwick, Wellston, Luther and Arcadia, once vibrant communities along Route 66, still share a taste of yesteryear for travelers along the mother road.

Warwick, Oklahoma Has Seen Better Days

No more gas in Warwick Oklahoma, May, 2004, Kathy Weiser.

Eight miles beyond ChandlerRoute 66 winds through the ghost town of Warwick, Oklahoma. Once a thriving town with several grocery stores, filling stations, two hotels, a cotton gin, a bank, and a newspaper, Warwick died a slow death from the abandonment of its railroad depot, annexing by nearby Wellston, and super highway, I-44.

The first settlers of the area were David and Norah High who homesteaded the land in 1891 that would soon become Warwick. A post office began in October, 1892 with J.A. Ramsey as its first postmaster. Mail was received by stagecoach from Guthrie at a time that traveling those 50 miles took an entire day.

In September, 1896, the St. Louis & San Francisco Railway purchased a right-of-way from Hugh for the building of the railroad. In 1903, another right-of-way was deeded to the Fort Smith & Western Railway Company and by 1903, lots were platted for the town.

Primarily an agricultural community, businesses began to be built and the first school was held in a log building that also combined as a church. By 1909 a solid block building was constructed for the children’s education.

In addition to those businesses aforementioned, Warwick also boasted a saloon, a blacksmith shop, a drug store, a saw mill, and a veterinarian.

Warwick School

In 1940, a brand new stone school was built by the WPA (Workman’s Progress Administration.) However, it was also during this decade that the Frisco Railway Company and the Fort Smith & Western Railway were both abandoned due to  financial problems. Soon taken over by Burlington Northern, passenger service was discontinued, although freight service continued until 1986.

In 1963, when nearby Wellston wanted to annex Warwick, its citizens didn’t see the benefit. But, just five years later the Warwick School was consolidated with the Wellston School and the WPA School was closed. The building now serves as the area’s voting district.

In December, 1972, Warwick’s post office was closed forever. Today, all that remains of Warwick are scattered homes and empty businesses. However, that being said, you will very quickly come to the Seaba Station just one mile beyond the intersection of Route 66 and US-177.

Seaba Station near Warwick

This historic station has been in operation since 1924, two years before the Mother Road was built. The business was first built by John and Alice Seaba, operating a garage and NevrNox garage and service station. In the 1930s, Seaba installed the machinery need to repair automobile connecting rods, a business that became so successful, he soon turned the station into the Seaba Manufacturing Company. In 1951, the Seaba’s sold the business.

Sonny and Sue Preston in 1995 restored the building and reopened it as the Seaba Station Antiques, Gifts and Collectibles. After another change in ownership and more renovations, the building reopened as the Seaba Station Motorcycle Museum in 2010 and still welcomes travelers on the Mother Road. The Seaba Station is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

Wellston, Oklahoma

Main Street (Route 66) in Wellston, OK

Soon, you’ll come to the small town of Wellston, which was cut off from the main route in 1933. Located north of old Highway 66, the town got its start in about 1880 when a man named Christian T. Wells established a trading post in the northern part of the Kickapoo Reservation. Several years later, Wells established a post office on September 19, 1884 and served as the first postmaster.

When the Kickapoo lands were opened by a land run on May 23, 1895, Thomas Craddock staked a claim near the trading post and deeded land for a town to be established. The plat was laid out by pharmacist J. L. Ross, who was serving as town clerk at the time.

In the early 1890s a hotel accommodated travelers on the Ozark Trail, which passed through Wellston. In 1898 the Arkansas and Oklahoma Railroad {sold to St. Louis and San Francisco Railway on June 21, 1901} was built north of town. The 1900 census counted 383 inhabitants. In October 1907 the town charter was signed, and Wellston had 669 residents. Early establishments included a school, three churches, general stores, two lumberyards, two hotels, cotton gins, a bank, and a brickyard. The population declined to 590 in 1910. A subscription library was started in 1918, and a brick schoolhouse was built in 1922. The town served as a trade center for a surrounding agricultural area. The Wellston News served the residents from 1899.

In 1932 State Highway 66 was constructed one mile south of Wellston, threatening the town’s survival. After a dispute with the state highway department, “Wellston Gap” {a bypass} was paved through town. From 1920 to 1960 the population numbers remained steady in the 600 range. During the 1960s and the 1980s rejuvenation projects improved the school and the downtown area. In 1963 Delbert Davis of Wellston was named Oklahoma’s poet laureate. By 1970 the census reported 789 citizens, and in 1990 Wellston reached a peak population of 912. At the turn of the twenty-first century Wellston had 825 residents.

Pioneer BBQ in Wellston

Though the town fought hard to keep itself on the popular highway, taking it all the way to the Supreme Court, they lost the fight. Here, you can still see some remnants of the vintage era at the Pioneer Camp BBQ a long time Route 66 fixture with one remaining unit of an old motor court.  Also look for the two pony truss bridges, one at State Highway 66B, and the other right on old Route 66.

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