"The Story of Craig County, Its People and Places"
C142 by H. Merle Woods

Welch, second largest town in Craig County, was settled about 1888 by D.B. Nigh who leased the town site from Frank Craig.  A switch was built on the Missouri-Kansas & Texas Railroad in 1891 and the town became a hay and grain center for the north end of the county.

A post office was established in 1892 in the town which had been named for A.L. Welch, a railroad official for the MK & T. Benjamin Brank Brookshire was the first postmaster.

The Katy Railroad had actually designated a town site farther north, about halfway between the Welch location and the Russell Creek switch, but it was the Welch site that grew into a town.  Its population reached 300 people in 1901.  By 1940 the U.S. Census listed 598 inhabitants, and the 1980 Census shows 697.

Edward H. Brady was an early resident of the area.  He leased and farmed the 800-acre place which had belonged to the Cherokee, E.C. Boudinot from 1894 to 1896.  Brady studied law and returned to Welch as owner and editor of the Welch Watchman newspaper from 1902 to 1907.  He became the first county attorney in 1907.  Scott Thompson became editor of the paper and remained for many years.

Ben Durall arrived in Welch on August 6, 1894.  He found two stores, a post office and a blacksmith shop.  "There were good crops the year I arrived," Durall wrote in a letter to Cassie Newman in 1949, "of wheat, oats, flax and hay.  However, the season turned out very dry after June and the corn crop was light.

"There were about nine or ten grain and hay buyers who came down from Chetopa and Oswego, Kansas, and up from Vinita, I.T. in the mornings and stayed all day.  By winter, only two buyers were left.  Offices and warehouses were constructed that year.  Will Hazen and Will Glass, brothers-in-law, occupied one representing C.E. Benedict of Erie and Chanute, Kansas.  The other office and warehouse was owned by Busby and Smith of Parsons, Kansas, with Durall the buyer.

"The Dowell store, owned by Frank and W.S. Dowell, had the only wagon scale in town until one was installed at the Busby & Smith warehouse," Durall wrote, "I helped Clarence Alden make up lists of carloads shipped from Welch during the years from 1894 through 1898.  My own shipments ranged from 200 cars of wheat, oats, corn, hay and coal in 1894, to about 500 cars in 1897, and not so many in 1898.  Other shippers probably had a like amount, making a sizeable business for the little town in those years.  There was no railroad agent at Welch when I first went there, but soon a Mr. Hampton came and acted as agent until later in the summer when Alden became agent and stayed for some years.  He followed by W. L. Marker and others."

Durall recalled that Charlie (Frog) Williams came in from Nebraska in 1894, opened a blacksmith shop and livery stable and built a place to live.  "All of the early houses were just shacks," he said.  "George Dixon built the first substantial store building, an old stone building of two stories and all the lodges held meetings on the second floor.  W.S. Dowell was the first occupant of this building with a general store.  He later sold to Huffacre, who was the renter when the building burned.  The building had been sold by Dixon to A.H. McKelvey."

Dr. James N. Illiff was the town's first doctor, according to Durall.  He had come from Melrose, Kansas, in 1895, erected a small native lumber building and stocked a small amount of drugs, mostly for use in a malarial country.  There was also a Dr. Clark.
"Soon afterward, J. Ed Brookshire came from North Carolina, looking for a place where he could work on watches," wrote Durall.  "Dr.  Illiff provided space for him in the drug department.  Then Lon Dowell and his son, Will, came from Vinita and took charge of the store that W.S. Dowell had been operating for him, bought Illiff's drugs and installed the stock in a shed room at the back.  Later Brookshire put in a stock of drugs of his own in another building, so by 1907 he was a druggist.  Later he went to medical school and became a doctor.

"Jim Dudley was the first barber.  Others followed including Caesar Wilson, a black, who came down from Chetopa in 1896, then Charlie Bullard who constructed a barber's chair.

"The first restaurant was started in a small lean-to built by Will Rowland on the south side of his store.  A man named Alvord built a raw-hide building of one and a half stories and operated what he called a hotel.  Jim Simms later acquired the building and ran a good hotel.  Then came the Duvall Hotel and in 1901 the Wasson House owned by Mrs. F.A. Wasson.  There followed many restaurants, the best of which was operated by Pearl Dixon.

"Financed by C.P. Jones, a Mr. Elliott installed the first harness shop in 1897.  William Weitz acquired the business a year later and continued to work at the trade until his death.  Scott Rice came down from the Anthracite district and built a livery barn about 1900 or 1901."

Organization of the Cherokee Nation towns, to form town governments and map out the sites, came with the passage of the Curtis Act soon after 1895.  Welch planned an 80-acre town site, all on the west side of the Katy railroad tracks.  Part of the plan, proposed by Durall, was for the two main streets, east and west, north and south, to be 100 feet wide.

"The town site was fully approved about 1901 or 1902," reported Durall.  "Town lots were sold at public sale and any person in peaceable possession of any town lot, as evidenced by his ownership of a building thereon, or materials for building, had the right to purchase the lot at the appraised value, except that Cherokee citizens were required to pay only half of the appraised value."

Persons connected with the early days of Welch included J.A. Campbell, farmer and grain buyer; J.N. Headlee, farmer; Jim Dudley, farmer and later Katy station master; Will Rowland and Bill Law, cafe owners; J.A. Mills, farmer and stockman; A.M. Wier, William Coats, J.S. Dobkins, W.D. Highsmith, A.J. Gwinn, Lee Shouse, Eli Walker, Parker Phillips, Bart Nigh, R.L. Jackson, Jim and Charlie Pool, C.P. and Frank Dale, J.H. Warner, F.M. Roselle, George Ogden, W. Getty, Frank Mills, Z.C. Payton, Omer Stroud, and others.

T.A. Jadon is believed to have had the first meat market in Welch, which people called "butcher shops".  Silas Payne was a later meat market operator, and also Bill Warwark.

Tom Hancock built the first mill and the ice house.  Later George W. Thornton bought the mill.

Stock feeders started their firms in 1900 or 1901.  C.P. Jones and Lee Jackson, M.D. Proctor and H.B. Campbell were feeders at is time.  Then the Welch Cattle Company organized by J.A. Dobkins, C.M. Newman, C.L. Coppers, J.H. Witcham and possibly others, who began feeding, buying and shipping all kinds of livestock.

Dobkins had the first sale barn, located across from where the old Maxson barn was; Darr & Vanover were blacksmiths; there was Wilkerson Ford Motor Company, Pete Flat had a locker plant and chicken hatchery.

Living in the Welch area in 1900 were Ulysses G. Dotson, school teacher; Henry W. Key, general merchandiser; Charles R. Rice, Henry King and Charles Waters, blacksmith; James Simms, hotel keeper; Robert H. Ragan, telegraph operator; Wm.  Stephens, dentist; James Grover worked at the livery barn; Wm. Carter, blacksmith; Wm.  Weitz, harness maker; Ace P. Bullard was city marshall; Jesse Illingsworth had a restaurant; Dewitt Blackwell was a barber; Albert Crigler, Robert Lonia, and John B. Johnson, all doctors.

In 1915 the Welch Watchman published an dustrial edition which included brief articles about some of the businessmen.  They cluded the following: T.S. Ellis, jeweler ... Mr. Ellis' establishment gives his patrons the best there is in his line.  He also handles all kinds of school books and school pplies.  He is an expert workman.  Mr. Ellis came to Welch a number of years ago.  He is here to stay ... William Pee's Racket Store: His line is complete in the notion line.  Mr. Pee began business in Welch only a few years ago, putting in a small stock, but constantly adding to it... J.A. Pierce & Son: conduct an up-to-date livery business and also maintain some stock for breeding purposes.  Their livery business includes teams and rigs that are good.  The elder Mr. Pierce has served Welch as trustee ... Talley Brothers: This firm, composed of Ed and Jim, is doing a fine cash business with their stock of groceries, shoes, flour and feed, furnishing goods, onions, etc.  They have been in Welch since town first started... C.H. Jennings conducts a poultry and egg buying establishment. He also handles flour and feed.  For a number of years he was postmaster of this city... J.A. Stroud & Son occupies a modern brick structure of its own, and these gentlemen have erected two other brick buildings.  They handle a large stock of groceries, shelf and heavy hardware, farm implements, notions, etc ... Dr. Benj Dobkins, a graduate of Ontario Veterinary College of Toronto, Canada, as well as three dentistry colleges, has been practicing his profession in Welch the past eight years.  During this time he served as state veterinarian ... Star Drug Store owned and operated by L. Matthews handles a complete line of drugs and sundries, and prescriptions are compounded... W.P. Eddy, Justice of Peace, familiar with law questions and fair and impartial judge... Jas H. Van Ausdal, Druggist: He is an expert pharmacist, compounds prescriptions, carries a complete line of drugs and sundries... Smith & Cooper: W.W. Smith and John Cooper, Propietors, handle groceries, dry goods, shoes, furnishing goods, etc ... Woods Lumber Yard: W. J. Woods, manager.  Lumber in wagon loads is daily being hauled to the rural sections.  The yard handles a complete stock of building material, paints, etc ... W.S. Dowell, a pioneer merchant who came here when the town was almost too small to support a name.  A few years ago Mr. Dowell concluded he would get out of the mercantile business so he traded his large stock for eight hundred acres of land lying just west of town, and which is managed by his son, Harry.  Mr. Dowell could not remain out of business long. He carries a large stock consisting of dry goods, groceries, shoes, ladies and gents' furnishing goods, hardware... H.B. Campbell, the man known as the heaviest shipper of hay and grain on the Katy railroad.  He does not confine his business to Welch alone, but has buyers all along the line.  He is president of the Oklahoma State Bank of Welch ... Mrs. Josuha Oatts is now enlarging her quarters and has a large stock of millinery and millinery supplies as well as a general stock of ladies furnishing goods-. Frank L. Keener is in the hardware and furniture business ... W.C. Eddy, our utility man-whenever we want anything fixed we call for "Curt".  He has one of the most complete workshops and has it fitted out with all modern machinery.  He is prepared to handle any case of repair work as well as plumbing... .W.H. Leake has been here since the town started . . . is now engaged in the meat market and grocery business.

Also featured were The Wasson Hotel: This popular hotel, conducted by Mrs. F.H. Wasson, is one of the best in this section. . . . The hospitality rendered as well as the service would be hard to excel.  Mrs. Wasson has conducted this business for a number of years in Welch... The meals and the beds are good and worth more money than is asked.... Hotel Duvall, under the management of Mrs. J.N. Duvall, is giving absolute satisfaction to its patrons.  This hotel has been in Welch for a number of years, maintains an excellent reputation, and is a fine place to stop.  The meals, served family style, are of the best and the beds clean and comfortable.

Welch churches were established early.  The Methodists built a church in 1901; a Holiness Church was there in 1907, preaching being done at the lumber yard.  Christian Church in 1911; Baptist in 1901; Catholic in 1909; and the Assembly of God Church was built in 1942.

A number of organizations have been active in Welch from the early years.  Literary societies provided about the only form of entertainment in the early years and were held at the schools.  Brooks Campbell was president of one of the societies at that time.  In 1905, an Anti-Horse Thief Association lodge was organized.

Other Welch organizations have included the Masons, Order of Eastern Star, Odd Fellows, Rebekahs, Modern Woodmen of America, Lions Club, Veterans of Foreign Wars, Businessmen's Club, Welch Extension Homemakers, Rose Garden Club, Redbud Garden Club, in addition to several Church organizations.

Welch is one of the three towns in Craig County which continues to have a bank.  The Welch State Bank resulted from the establishment of the first bank in 1910, later the organization of another, and a merger of the two in 1923.

Welch progressed from a hay and grain region to a center for livestock production and strip coal mining.  The residents get their water from a 5,868 foot well drilled in 1911 by Luke Harris and Johnny Handon.

The town is located on U.S. Highway 59 and State Highways 2 and 10.

Welch, 1907-1912

As a printer's devil who served under the reformed tramp printer, Scott Thompson, during a pioneer 5-year period, I would like to present a panoramic picture of the active young municipality.

First off, I will introduce my old dad, who acquired half interest in the old O.E. Woods lumberyard early in 1907 and moved our family from Dennis, Kans.  A few weeks later I was sticking type for Scotty and inking the old Washington hand press, a weekly arduous performance, and in between operating the foot-power job press.  Other workers on the paper were Gladys Johnson and Marietta Yadon, and later came Elmer Brown, Elmer Armstrong, Hulda Springer, May Farmer, and others.

Scotty sold the paper around 1912 to Carl Howell of Bluejacket, and the latter a year or so later to P.B. Vandament.

Welch during that period had a wide trade territory, especially to the west, and as a part of the Cherokee Nation, had an extensive Indian population.  At Dad's old lumber yard, farmers came in from 20 or 30 miles to the west to load up lumber.  My brother, Roscoe, was bookkeeper.

There were the Weitz harness shop, Eddy repair shop and later auto repairs, and Art Horn real estate and insurance businesses, Tom Hancock flour mill and Tom Ellis, jeweler.  There was also a photo studio and the phone central office with a big bell overhead to be rung to warn of fires or that the "hello" girl was being disturbed by some drunken yahoo.

Then we would like to list some of the incidents and other relevant affairs of the thriving young village.  For instance, the shennagins when Scotty and Art Horn would stage imitation street fights, Scotty with a huge old revolver (unloaded) and Art with a big butcher knife, scaring strangers out of their wits. . . . Granville Craig and family (Craig county was named for him) living in retirement at the top of the hill in southwest Welch. . . . Welch Band, made up of 30 members (including a few from Bluejacket) which played all over northeastern Oklahoma.

.. . The artesian well in south Welch which provided water for folks all over town.  A drayman pumped the water by hand into barrels and delivered these at 15 cents per barrel all over town. . . .

Street carnivals, political rallies and medicine shows brought entertainment.  Scotty ran an editorial suggesting it was time to hold another political rally as the weeds on the vacant lots were growing high. . . . State-hood day on Nov. 16, 1907, when the school was dismissed and the students flocked downtown to watch Blacksmith McCleary fire 47 anvils. . . . Main festivities were lodge meetings, church socials and revivals, oyster suppers, skating parties and home talent plays . . .  In 1907 the school system consisted of two old frame buildings, with my cousin, Allen Piatt, as superintendent.   In 1908 a new superintendent arrived, J.B. Rogers, and a fine new brick schoolhouse was built.  The first graduate was Marion Dudley in 1910, who went to the University of Oklahoma and after receiving his law degree became an Oklahoma City attorney.  The first class to graduate was in 1911 with Bess Trolinger, Mattie Brown and Clifford T. Woods.

The first airplane to pass over Welch was in 1910 when Cal Rogers, first to fly the continent from New York to Los Angeles, following the Katy railroad, flew over to land and spent the night at Vinita. . . . The first gas light to bring that modern fuel to the town came in 1908 or 1909 when it was celebrated with an oyster supper at the school basement. . . . The first auto in Welch was a Brush (one-lunger).  Scotty was one of the first to get a motorcycle which he drove all over the county soliciting subscriptions for the Vinita Leader. . . . Scotty later became a preacher and served several of the county's communities. . . . No blacks were permitted to remain in Welch overnight but there were many in the county.  They held a big celebration of Emancipation Day (Aug. 4) every year out on the Jack Mills farm on Big Cabin Creek, four miles west, and also held revivals in brush arbors at the same place. . . . Installation of the waterworks around 1912 or 1913. . . . The strip coal operations out west of Big Cabin Creek and the red-streaked coal which was excellent for cook stoves.

More Early Stores in Welch by Emma (Hood) Webb

There was a Lige Dugger's grocery store; Cook Duvall ran the poultry house where you could sell eggs and cream.  Garland Talley was the postmaster.

James Talley ran a grocery.  Mr. and Mrs. (Anna) Tyson had a gas station.  Clarence Wilkerson ran a garage.

Doc Woolard was killed in Welch then Dr. J.0. Bradshaw was the doctor and built the only hospital.

Uncle Garl Harrow ran a blacksmith shop.

Some Welch City Officials by Retha Miller

City Clerk: John Fallon, Beulah Bray, Leota Dugger, Jewell McAffrey, Jo Huxtable, Naomi Morgan, Wynema Thrasher, and Billye Flanders.
Mayors: John Patch, Dr. J.0. Bradshaw, Warren Hartsock, Put Fansler, Lewis Addington, Doyal James, Jennie Kenworthy, Bill Bluejacket, Charles Stoner, Joe Neill, Jim Lawson.
City Councilmen: Chet.  Parkhurst, Garriet B. Garrison, Tom Peak, Bob Litle, Homer Headlee, Irvie Ledbetter, Jack Bell, Jim Ward, Bill Bluejacket, Hugh Green, Joe Neill, Larry Able, Charles Horner, Buddy Swango, Joe Rice, Shirley Thomas, and Ronnie Armstrong.
Law Officers: Mike Linihan, Mike Harper, Ted Wynn, Ed Bray, Earl Cravens, Mr. Powell, Ace P. Bullard.
Justice of the Peace: Josh Hendrix, Eli Leake, John Robert McQuitty, and Mr. Goldsbury.

Welch Postal Service

The Welch post office was established July 13, 1892 with Benjamin Frank Brookshire appointed to be the first postmaster.

Postmasters and their appointment dates have included: Benjamin F. Brookshire, July 13, 1892, Walter S. Dowell, October 31, 1893, James F. Dowell, March 1, 1895, Laura Marker, August 9,1897, Charles H. Jennings, February 1, 1906, George H. Hancock, July 23, 1917, Porter Z. Newman, June 30, 1922.

Also Garland C. Talley, May 28, 1935 (confirmed), Mrs. Pearl E. Talley, May 1, 1943 (assumed charge) May 11, 1943 (acting), Joe E. Ewers, February 28, 1946 (acting) March 1,1946 (assumed charge) July 26,1947 (confirmed), George A. Rhinehart, May 26, 1961 (assumed charge) May 29,1961 (acting), Charles M. Horner, August 30, 1963 (acting) December 20, 1963 (confirmed), Carrie Evonne Shorter, February 9, 1980, and Charles M. Horner, February 10, 1984 (officer in charge).

Ben Duvall was the first mail carrier on a route out of Welch in 1906.  He recalled how the idea first started: "I was waiting by a hay stack in Will Pace's field one day waiting for Pace to return from dinner when Jack Mills rode in and brought up the subject of a mail route.  He suggested that he and I get up the route and that when the route was established, I should be come the carrier.

"We went together, for several days, working out what we considered the most feasible route.  The route was established without changes, and on August 16, 1906, mail was carried for the first time in a borrowed buggy.  I borrowed the buggy from my brother, George.

"Within a week, Frank Keener had a buggy for me and I continued to carry the mail until November 1, 1909, when I resigned and my substitute, Larkin Brown received the appointment.  Later Harry Newman, Robert Martin and Jasper Smith were the carriers."

Welch Policemen

The records show Mike Linnihan as one of the first City Marshals.  Then came Powell (Pat) Smith, Miley Summerville and Ed Bray, who served 18 1/2 years using his 4-door Model A Ford car as the official police car.  Others serving were Gordon Williamson, Chuck Cooper, Price Gentry, John Fulcher, Blackie Chase, Tim Smith, Irvy Ledbetter, and Earl Cravens, who was city marshal for two different intervals.  Then there were Curly Williams, Cecil Myers, Jess Walker, Charley Gross, Albert Thrasher, Ted Wynn, Mike Humphry, Jimmy Bozarth, David Moreland, Mike Harper, Ron Fuller, Carl Bullard, Larry Farris, Warren Hartsock, Lonnie Wynn, Roy Vanatta, Roger Pease, Jim Cohron, Scott DeWall, Grey Wooten, David Hickey, and Jack Woodall.  Gary Curlee is City Judge.

Welch Fire Department  by Ruth Miller Rice

The first fire equipment of Welch was a wagon with a tongue, 2 iron wheels shoulder high, and a fire hose that the volunteers
pulled by hand.  Firemen were summoned by a whistle that the telephone operator at the Central would blow.  That whistle was blown at 7 a.m., 12 noon & at 6 p.m. everyday.  It also blew when a tornado was sighted.  For a fire it blew one long continuous sound.

In the 40s a 4-wheel wagon with a hitch that could be hooked onto a car was used.  The hose would have to be fastened to fireplugs to get water.  Members of the city council went to Catoosa, Okla. to buy a used hose from the Tulsa Fire Dept. where they learned about organizing a volunteer fire department.

The first chartered Volunteer Fire Department was organized in 1949 with John Patch, chief-, Homer Headlee, Pete Flatt, Elmer Roy McAffrey, Senior Horner, Charles Horner.  The Welch merchants, and citizens made donations, and John Patch made up the difference to buy a 1950 Ford truck.  Patch put a water tank onto a Model T Chasis.  A new siren was bought; Booge Mills made a tower for it placing it behind the old Welch City Hall and jail.  In June 1977 fund raising began to raise money to build a new fire station and city hall.  Bill Patch, son of John Patch, matched the donations and a new Welch Fire Station (in memory of John Patch) and City Hall were built.

1984 volunteers are Richard Winfrey, Chief, Todd Chenoweth, Tony Chenoweth, Doyle James, Francis James, Ronnie Armstrong, Bob Neill, Leroy Gibson, S.R. Bradshaw, Jack Eden, David Broyles, Gary Curlee.  They meet the 1st Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at the fire station.

No prisoners are held in Welch overnight since the jail was sold to Wallace Allen who uses it for his cattle corrals.

Today Welch has 5 pieces of Fire Equipment vehicles, most recent purchase JAWS of Life, which cost $10,000.

Professionals from Welch

A number of Welch natives have trained for professions.  They include: Jack Bradshaw and Steve Grigsby, D.O.s. . . Joe Bell, J.O. Bradshaw, M.D.s. . . D.V.M.s Vernie R. Walker, Roger Parker, Mark Grigsby, Dexter Reavis, and Larry Swango.
Eugene L. Wagner studies for the dentistry, George Pitcher became a lawyer.

Welch had the hospital of John 0. Bradshaw, M.D., from 1913 until his retirement in 1951.  The Bradshaw hospital served a wide area of the county.  Dr. Bradshaw's son, Jack, practiced for a time in Welch.

Murals of Welch Life

Mural #1

Mural #2 Mural #3 Mural #4

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