Okmulgee is a Muscogee Creek Nation word meaning "bubbling water". This term originated in Macon, Georgia, where the tribe was relocated from, following the Trail of Tears. Okmulgee began as Indian Territory in the 1800s.
Okmulgee was founded after the Civil War in 1868 when the Creek Nation began restoring order to their devastated homeland and came together in a general council to establish a capital building. In 1878, fire destroyed the original timber building. A new stone Council House was built where it still stands today at 6th Street and Morton Avenue, in the center of the Okmulgee town square.
Following completion of the St. Louis, Oklahoma and Southern Railway in 1900, Okmulgee entered into a progressive era of expansion. An influx of investors and home seekers prompted platting of housing additions. Extensive water, natural gas, telephone, and electrical services were installed. At 1907 statehood the town had 2,322 residents and was designated as the county seat of Okmulgee County. Construction on the present county courthouse began in 1916.
The local economy was based on the production of coal in nearby mines as well as agriculture. By 1910 the population had reached 4,176. Okmulgee became a manufacturing center in the 1910s and by 1918 there were three foundry and machine shops, three glass factories, and a bottle factory.
Following the discovery of Morris and Lucky oil pools in 1907, the town expanded into a twenty-block square around the Council House. Five local refineries were operational by the early 1920s. Streetcars provided transportation to and from businesses and government offices, ballrooms, oil company offices, and homes of the finest architecture in a town that had grown to 35,000. During the 1930s the Great Depression hit and oil production decreased and Okmulgee fell into the boom to bust category.
Today, Okmulgee continues as the county seat for Okmulgee County. The current city population is 12,321 with a county population of 38,930. For a small community, Okmulgee enjoys a strong manufacturing base with nine manufacturing plants, five of which ship their products globally from Okmulgee.
1878 Creek Nation Council House
Okmulgee is also the capital of the Muscogee Creek Nation. From losing possession of the Council House to the U.S. Department of Interior in 1906; then purchasing the building and regaining ownership from the City of Okmulgee in 2010; to acquiring its collections back into possession in 2013; the Nation has worked tirelessly to preserve the Mvskoke history.
Still standing today, the 1878 sand-stone structure has been restored to its original state through funding of an MCNNC (Muscogee Creek Nation National Council) appropriation which covered 60 percent of renovation costs and the remaining 40 percent of funds provided in Historic Tax Credits.
The building renovations began in March 2017 following the Nation’s longstanding efforts to regain ownership of its history, dating back to the forced removal of Muscogee people from their Southeastern homelands. The public is invited to visit the Council House.
Focus Magazine, 2020
Uncover some of Okmulgee County's 'treasures' and helpful information by reading through the latest edition of the FOCUS Magazine.