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Pottawatomie County, Oklahoma

Main Street Earlsboro, 1928, looking west

Earlsboro was established June 12, 1895.  It first was named "Bomber Ray and then Loftus.  J.A. Melton and Tom B. Fessenger platted out sections of their farm, and that year filed for the Earlsboro townsite.  The town has existed under several names.  When the first store was opened, before the town was actually established, it was called Boom-De-Ay, as in the famous song.  Shortly after the opening Lum Turner, who had staked near the Seminole line, south of the present Earlsboro site, filed application for a postoffice.  He named it Lum, but the post office department couldn't read his writing, and so called it Tum.  Turner carried the mail from Tecumseh on foot until Earlsboro itself was started when the Choctaw Railroad was built.  It was later known as Loftus.  The town was eventually named Earlsboro after a black barber, James Earls, who had been the personal orderly for Confederate General Joe B. Wheeler during the Civil War.  Mr. Earls’ barber shop was as popular as he was well-known. 

Earlsboro grew from a population of about one hundred in its first year of existence to about 400 by the turn of the century.  It had several stores and saloons, cotton gins, and a two story hotel.  After statehood, population began to decrease until 1926 when the Earlsboro Sand started flowing with two hundred barrels of oil daily.  In three months, population estimates ranged from five to ten thousand.  Main street was lengthened from one block to five blocks with numerous side and parallel streets. Doctors, lawyers, engineers, and geologists sought office space.  Shotgun houses and tents occupied almost every available space from areas once used for gardens and lawns, to backyards that rented for as much as $25.00 per month.  The post office was so inadequate to handle the sudden population increase that it was said that people would form a line up to a block long to wait for the mail.

In his 1936 book entitled "Pott Country and What Has Come Of It,"* John Fortson wrote the following about the establishment of the town of Earlsboro in Pottawatomie county:

"First thing settlers in the Earlsboro district thought about doing after they had thrown up shelter on their quarter sections was to get a road through to the county seat.  H. Barrett and his neighbors got together, started chunking rocks into the low places and dragging trees out with their oxen.  (This became the first "bridge" over Briar creek)...

The first bale of cotton raised in this part of the county was an accident.  Barrett had bought too much cottonseed for his cattle, and his wife began to nag him about the pile in the yard.  Finally one day he could stand it no longer and so took the seeds out in the field and broadcast them.  With no cultivation, these seeds sprouted into 2,800 pounds of cotton that fall.  The next year the people who were undecided about whether to grow cotton or wheat, followed Barrett's lead in the cotton business.

Early merchants in Earlsboro included Eugene Arnett, Homer Knight and Scott Barker in the saloon business, and W.H. Starks.  Mr. and Mrs.DeVault had kept a store at the Tum postoffice.

Another early settler in this district was Robert R. Hendon, who came here in 1892 from Ardmore.  The family settled three and a half miles southwest of Earlsboro and built the stone house on one of the highest spots in the county.  It was a landmark for years.  Hendon was elected to the legislature in 1912, then in 1914 moved to Earlsboro..."

*John Fortson, Pott Country: And What Has Come Of It; USA: Eakin Press, 1936; pp. 69.
Originally published under auspices of the Pottawatomie County Historical Society.
Parts extracted from THE SHAWNEE CENTENNIAL CELEBRATION program September 2007.  The source for the program was the POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY HISTORY BOOK and the LOCALIZED HISTORY OF POTTAWATOMIE COUNTY, OKLAHOMA TO 1907, by Charles W. Mooney.