Broken Arrow – A Foothold in Oklahoma’s History

Traveling the Trail of Tears from Creek Alabama to Oklahoma’s Indian Territory during the 1830’s, the tribe would settle in what is now downtown Broken Arrow. They named their new community after the one they came from, Rekackv. The name is pronounced “thlee-Kawtch- kuh” which means broken arrow.

A railroad was planned to go through this area by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad in 1902. They were granted town site privileges to follow the route and would sell three sites to Arkansas Valley Town Site Company. The company secretary, William S. Fears, was given permission to choose one of the locations and name it.

Eighteen miles southeast of Tulsa, he chose the area that is now Broken Arrow, naming it after the Creek settlement of thlee-Kawtch-kuh. What is now the railroad owned by Union Pacific, would run through the center of the MKT railroad in 1903. That track is still in place today and still used to run freight.

The first few decades of Broken Arrow, the economy was mostly agriculture based with some coal industry as well with some strip coal mines nearby. Within the early years of the city’s founding, the Broken Arrow Ledger was started as the first newspaper. In 1904, the first school for Broken Arrow was built. The growth for the city would slow down the first part of the 1900’s with the main commercial center being along Main Street. The majority of the churches were located along Main Street, too, and the population was counted just less than 1400 according to the government census in 1907.

In 1911, the Haskell State School of Agriculture was built and opened. It would be closed by 1917 when funding was no longer available and in 1987, the remnants of that building were demolished. In 1909, the Broken Arrow, Oklahoma Opera House opened.

By the 1960s things were starting to grow again in Broken Arrow and it went from being a small town outside of Tulsa to a suburban city. The Oklahoma State Highway 51 was built, aka the Broken Arrow Expressway, in the mid-60’s. That roadway connected Broken Arrow with downtown Tulsa, which fueled more growth for it, and the population grew to just over 11,000 by 1970.

By the 2000 census, the population was over 74,000 and the city government put a focus on changing Broken Arrow from a bedroom community to one where residents could live, shop and work all right here.