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Guthrie City

Guthrie City Hall is located at 212 West Oklahoma Avenue, Guthrie, OK 73044; phone: 405-282-1947.

Beginnings [1]

The Oklahoma Territory land run of 1889 and subsequent land openings brought tens of thousands of people to carve out their destinies on new ground. At odds with the impression of the horny-handed homesteader, a large number of these entering settlers focused their hopes not on new farmlands but, rather upon attractive potential townsites. The future town was the magnet that repeatedly drew the surprisingly large proportion of the first population, as land claimants registered their preference for property in or near a growing town.

The townsite of Guthrie proved very attractive for thousands of these settlers. On the morning of April 22, 1889, the townsite only consisted of 320 acres as established by federal law, a railroad line and a small depot, and a land office (one of two used in the 1889 land run, the other being located at the townsite of Kingfisher thirty miles west). The only residents of the townsite were a few railroad employees and federal officials. By the end of the day, Guthrie had as many as 12,000 to 20,000 residents, "anywhere from a fifth to a third of the territory's total." In fact, so many people came to Guthrie that the original 320-acre townsite was too small to accommodate the crowd. In response, three neighboring townsites were established so that for a time, Guthrie was composed of four separate towns. Running west to east, these were West Guthrie, Guthrie, East Guthrie, and Capital Hill.

Besides the limit on the size of a townsite, two other oversights added to the confusion of the settlement of the territory. No provisions were made for the platting of townsites prior to the run. Surveys could only be conducted after noon on April 22, 1889. This meant that many claimants found their hopes for a lucrative location lost when the actual survey placed their claims in the middle of a street or they found that another party claimed the lot. The actual law that opened the territory to settlement, the Springer Amendment to the Indian Appropriation Act (H.R. 1874), made no provisions for the establishment of any kind of government, be it at the territorial level, township, county or town. The day after the opening, the citizens of Guthrie began the process of forming a local government and soon elected a mayor and created a city council from volunteers. Ordinances were passed in efforts to bring law and order to the townsite. Ordinance 10 created an Arbitration Board whose duty was to settle lot disputes. A volunteer fire department was formed. The three neighboring townsites of West Guthrie, East Guthrie, and Capital Hill were organized with their own officials and ordinances. These remained in place until the four townsites were consolidated on July 29, 1890.

The popular image of the land run towns consisting of rows of tents was not quite true. Although by the end of that first day there were many rows of tents, there were also a few makeshift wood frame buildings. As the weeks and months passed, more of the tents were replaced with wood buildings, some of which consisted of second stories. Within two months a water works system had been established and electric lights were in operation within four months. Guthrie began to take on the form of a real city. As noted in Lloyd C. Lentz's book Guthrie: A History of the Capital City, 1889-1910:

"The official city directory, published in August [1889], listed, among other things: fifty-four real estate dealers, sixteen barbers, sixteen blacksmiths and wagon makers, two cigar manufacturers, seven hardware companies, fifteen hotels, eighty-one lawyers, nineteen druggists, five photographers, thirty-nine physicians, forty restaurants, six banks, five newspapers, one artist and one telegraph office."

  1. Susan Allen Kline and Patty Henry, National Historic Landmarks Survey, Guthrie Historic District, Logan County, OK, nomination document, 1998, National Park Service, National Historic Landmark Survey, Washington, D.C.
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