Our City's History: From Indian Territory to Today
First explored by Washington Irving in 1832, Edmond was part of the Unassigned Lands, territory that was not assigned to any Native American tribe living in the area. The area was open to exploration, inhabited by herds of buffalo, black bears and wild horses, and used for hunting by nearby tribes.
On July 4, 1884, Congress granted rights to railroad companies to build tracks across the territory. By 1887, railroads were running across the Unassigned Lands. That year the train station, first named Summit for being the highest point of the railway between the Cimarron and North Canadian rivers, was officially renamed Edmond. There are several theories as to why Edmond was chosen, but it is unclear exactly why our city got its name.
One passenger and one freight train arrived from each way daily stopping for water, coal and meals that Mrs. Steen, the wife of construction worker John M. Steen who came from New Mexico to build the well, cooked for the crews. One man said Edmond was the most important stop between Purcell and Arkansas City because crews could eat there.
History of Firsts
At noon on April 22, 1889, the land run began due to a proclamation signed by President Benjamin Harrison to open the Unassigned Lands to settlers. At 12:05 PM, surveyors were laying out the townsite.
The first legal settlers of Edmond were Colonel Eddy B. Townsend, Hardy C. Angelea, and J. Wheeler Turner. They rode their horses from 15 miles east of Edmond, at the west line of the Kickapoo Indian Reservation, to join the land run. It was the determination of settlers like these who put their stamp on Edmond and shaped its personality.
The first settlers lead to many more firsts for our great city:
- First public school house, 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse at 2nd and Boulevard
- First flour mill in 1894, the Eagle Flouring Mill on 1st west of the railroad tracks
- First newspaper, the Edmond Sun at 2nd and Broadway
- First public institution of higher education, the Territorial Normal School, now the University of Central Oklahoma at 2nd and University
In 1907, Edmond saw many monumental achievements. Oklahoma became a state, natural gas lines were built to reach the city, a housing addition was under construction south of 2nd St. between Broadway and Boulevard, and more.
The Great Depression and the Dust Bowl days struck the city in the 1920s. Citizens saw some relief from oil booms in 1922 and 1930. City development continued in the 1930s, with the establishment of Ray Deveraux’s jewelry store in 1932 and the Baggerly Funeral Home’s opening in 1933.
President Franklin Roosevelt’s WPA program employed 93,000 people in Oklahoma in 1936. The WPA brought several projects to Edmond, including:
- Gracelawn Cemetery stone fencing at Danforth and Broadway
- The armory building, which now houses the Edmond Historical Society & Museum, at 5th and Boulevard
- Stephenson Park at 4th and Littler
- “Pre-Settlement Days” Mural at 1st and Littler
These landmarks still stand today and are available for visitation.
In the 1980s, nearly 100 years after the Land Run that started the City of Edmond, Hafer Park opened, the site for Lake Arcadia was dedicated and the Oak Tree Country Club was being built.
Today, Edmond boasts a population of nearly 95,000. Several historic sites built throughout our city’s history remain standing, like the 1889 Territorial Schoolhouse, the Rodkey grain elevator, and the University of Central Oklahoma’s Old North. Edmond has grown exceedingly well in the past 130 years, and we are still growing.