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  • Writer's pictureCourt Newkirk

Shared History

Here at the OADC office we try our best to dig up and research any company or industry that is interested in Okmulgee. Obvious reason? So we know as much as we can about any company and their executives, if there is the possibility of doing business with them. Okmulgee has a rich history in value added manufacturing. I want to know their stories. Plus I’m also a minor league history buff, especially when it comes to manufacturing and business in general. At one point in my life I read the “History of Standard Oil.” Doesn’t that sound exciting, well it wasn’t, but it sure was educational and interesting. So with this background information it’s not going to surprise any of you that with Okmulgee’s significant history of being a major manufacturing hub starting even before we were a state I started doing some research.

I was surprised to find out, it’s not as easy as you might expect. I’ve been told that at one point in our Town’s history there have been two or maybe possibly three glass plants. I was lucky enough to be working here in Okmulgee when the Ball Brothers Glass Plant was still in operation. I’ve also been told that Okmulgee had three, four or maybe even five refineries. If most of this is true, then at one point, Okmulgee may have been at the top of the list of manufacturing cities in Indian Territory and Oklahoma?

So I’ve been doing some digging. I have not yet made an appointment with the State Historical Society and several other places that will have this type of information. Because first I want to gather the local versions of these stories the flavor of the times and especially the pictures. I’m suspecting that there are several family scrapbooks in closets and attics that may have a more personal look at the (early) glory days of Okmulgee manufacturing.

I’m not going to ask or imply that any of your family memories be donated to an Okmulgee manufacturing museum. What I would like to do is take high quality photos of your pictures of great grandparents going off to work at one of the early plants. Or better yet, actually while he or she was actually working. Family letters, newspaper clippings about the plants and best of all, pictures of the plant and their employees. After taking pictures of the pictures and articles, you would immediately get them returned with a big thank you.

It’s amazing to me that when I worked at the Chamber back in 1991 to 1994, there were no pictures of the development of CP Kelco, PolyVision, Covington, Thompson Pump, Braden Paccar, Coke, Campbell Manf. etc. If they were in storage somewhere in town, I never found them.

I’m working on an agreement with a local organization that will store these archives and pictures for us. We simply do not have room here at the OADC office. We have found resources for additional pictures of the clean up of the old refinery. By the way, The Okmulgee Refining Company was the second refinery ever built in Oklahoma Indian Territory, (1907) Yes, Muskogee beat us by two years (1905).

So over this winter, when you think you don’t have anything to do. Start looking for those old pictures and articles about Okmulgee Companies. Even those that have been long gone such as the American St. Gobain Glass Company. They may be gone, but let’s not let go of our heritage. For more information, ideas, or to make suggestions on where to look, please contact me. Court Newkirk, Executive Director of the Okmulgee Area Development Corp. At one time the Oklahoma Historical Society has microfiche of every local news paper printed in the state dating back to before statehood. Remember I want to start here in Okmulgee, at ground zero and see what’s boxed up in your attic.

Below are some images we found on the internet. What have you found in your attic/basement/archives?

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