A HISTORY OF                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                  MURRAY COUNTY



After Oklahoma became part of the United States with the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it was included in the Indiana Territory. In 1812 it was  combined with the Missouri Territory, and in 1819 with the Arkansas Territory. 

For several years, most of Oklahoma was included in what was called the Indian Territory, which continued until about 1893 when the section was divided into Indian Territory and the Oklahoma Territory, the latter being thrown open to white settlements in the Unassigned Lands in 1889. 

On May 2, 1890 the Territorial Government was established with Guthrie as its first Capital, an island of whites surrounded by Indians. This situation could not last long. Three small reservations nearby were opened to whites by the "run" in 1891. 

The vast Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation to the west were similarly opened April 1892, and the Cherokee Outlet on Sep. 16, 1893. The Kickapoo land was opened in 1895. And from July 9 to August 6, 1901, a giant lottery threw open to settlement the Kiowa, Comanche, and the Apache Reservation to the southwest. 

The days of Indian Territory to the east (which were told they would become a separate state) were numbered. A Supreme Court decision and an act of Congress awarded Greer County to Oklahoma in 1896. Prior to that time it had been claimed by both Oklahoma and Texas. The state of Oklahoma created by the enabling act of June 16, 1906. All Indian Nations perished. Oklahoma became the 46 state to enter the Union when it was admitted November 16, 1907. The Capital was moved from Guthrie to Oklahoma City on June 12, 1910.


Murray County did not exist until it was decided to name a county after "Alfalfa" Bill Murray, the president of the constitutional convention for the new state of Oklahoma and later governor.  The counties of Johnston, Pontotoc, Garvin and Carter did exist in the proposed State of Sequoyah.  To honor Murray, it was decided to take the corners of the four counties and make a new county named for Bill Murray.  The corners of Garvin, Pontotoc, Johnston, & Carter Counties created Murray County.  Alfalfa County, OK is also named after him.

Murray County became the third smallest County on 16th Nov. 1907 from the CHICKASAW NATION,  Indian  Territory,  became  the  46th State.  The  County seat is Sulphur, located in the south-central section of the State, in the 1,000 square mile Arbuckle Mountains, and Platt National Park / Chickasaw National Recreation Area. It is bounded by Garvin & Pontotoc Counties on the North; Johnson County on the Southeast; and Carter County to the Southwest.


Sulphur, Oklahoma is located at the foot of the Arbuckle Mountains, on both the Santa Fe and the Frisco railroad lines. Many Indian legends and traditions are recounted in connection with the springs, that surround the county. The Indians knew of "Medicine Springs." Kickapoo Chiefs had taken their sick to the springs for 500 years. This would have been 41 years before Coronado, the Spaniard who arrived in the Oklahoma area in 1541.  During the Civil War, there were at least two refugee camps around the Springs.  One tribe was the Cherokee and the other was the Kickapoo.

The first Civilized Indians to be relocated west of the Mississippi was a band of Cherokees. They and the United States made the Hopewell Treaty in 1785 which forced them to relocate between the St. Francis and White Rivers in what now is known as Arkansas. At that time Oklahoma was known for its abundance of wild life. The south central part was tagged "Field of Eden." Many tribes hunted and fought there.

The Cherokees tangled with the Osages, coming down form Missouri; the Caddoes battled the Choctaws coming in from Mississippi. Near present-day Caddo, Oklahoma, the Choctaws won a battle, keeping the game they had killed.

The earliest date mentioning Sulphur was about 1867. In a report by George Conover, a member of the 6th United States Infantry, was going from Ft. Smith to Ft. Arbuckle when the group camped between present-day Sulphur and Davis. Cholera broke out and 28 men died. They were buried in shallow graves without coffins. He said there was not a house between Stonewall and Ft. Arbuckle.

In 1878, a White rancher named Noah LAEL built his ranch house near the present park headquarters. Another rancher, Perry FROMAN, purchased Lael's ranch house in the future park area in 1881.

Fame of the curative powers of the mineral springs spread and people came as the influx of white settlers in the Chickasaw Nation mounted in the 1880's and 1890's.

The first store was established about 1891 and the town, named Sulphur Springs, began to develop. The U.S. Post Office was established on Oct.2, 1895.

In 1902 the government secured about 629 acres from the Chickasaws and called the area "Sulphur Springs Reservation." The town had to move, with the government paying for the abandoned houses.  Some moved out of the park area to the north on a hill on east side of Rock Creek. Others moved to the west side of the new "reservation" area, which proved to be a useless effort. Others moved south to where South Town is today.

The government add over 213 acres to the north and south sides of the park, and that part of the town was moved northward to a hill on the west side of Rock Creek.

Thus, there was West Sulphur and East Sulphur on either side of Rock Creek, and there was no bridge between. There was rivalry and threats of violence as the town sections vied for prominence. Then the federal government built a bridge (1909) across the creek and citizens buried a hatchet for peace and a horse shoe for good luck in the concrete.

In 1906, the Sulphur Springs Reservation was name changed to Platt National Park, named for U.S. Senator Orville H. Platt who was active in Indian affairs. The population of Sulphur Springs was 1198 in 1900.  The town boasted over 4,000 population at time of statehood in 1907.

In 1908, the Oklahoma School for the Deaf was established in East Sulphur.   In 1922, the Oklahoma Veteran's Hospital was established at the southwest corner of Platt National Park.

During 1871-1872, a freight and mail line ran from Boggy Depot to Caddo to Fort Sill, crossing Blue River at Nail's Crossing, Sulphur Springs, Cherokee Town, Pauls Valley, White Bead Hill, Beef Creek (Maysville), Erin Springs, Rush Springs, and Fort Sill.

About the same time, miners began working coal field around McAlester, and Texas began driving cattle herds to Kansas. By 1872, 4000,000 head passed through Indian Territory each year. Sulphur Springs lay between the famous Texas and Chisholm Trails, catching many of their "spillovers."

B. B. HANEY, who became one of Sulphur's first policemen, reported about helping his mother and some cowboys drive a herd through Sulphur in 1877. He was only eight years old, but he remembered the game was plentiful.

That same year, WILLIAM SHANNON followed the stage line from Texas to Tishomingo, Sulphur Springs, Pauls Valley, and Fort Reno, where he and BILL QUINN joined the Army. The road crossed Lowrance Ranch, established in 1877, about four miles southeast of Sulphur.

Other ranches developed in the area; GRANT'S at Fort Arbuckle after it gave birth to Fort Sill in 1869; ROFF Brothers at Roff, and Turner's in the Arbuckle Mountains in 1879. 

In 1878, NOAH LAEL, a former mail carrier from Gainesville, Texas, through Sulphur Springs to Fort Arbuckle, established the Diamond Z Ranch around the "Buffalo Suck" and built a pole house south of Pavilion Springs. The ranch covered much of the current Chickasaw National Recreation Area. 

LAEL, (son-in-law of GOVERNOR CYRUS HARRIS) lived west of Wynnewood, but divided his time between there and the ranch. In 1882, he sold the four-square- mile spread to PERRY FROMAN, husband of a Chickasaw widow, LOVENIA COLBERT PITCHLYNN. PERRY FORMAN grazed up to 15,000 head of cattle a year.

All the while, the United States Government was making treaties with Indian tribes or parts thereof and resettling them in the north and west sections of the Territory. Whites, were entering the Territory by this time, some even with permits, but most illegally. Fees were set up by the Government which ranged from $ 5.00 to $ 25.00 per year to farm the Territory. Fees for marriage to Indian women were $ 50.00 at first, then Governor BYRD increased it to $1,040 the value of each Indian allotment, to curtailed the inter marriages.

In addition Black Freedmen came in. Soon the Territory was overrun with non-Indians. The Indian laws held no jurisdiction over non-Indian citizens, many of whom were rustlers and criminals. From 1875 to 1896, whites were placed under the laws of Arkansas with Judge ISAAC PARKER presiding over the court at Fort Smith. U.S. Marshals policed the Territory. During the later years of that period, the Federal Court of Paris, Texas, was empowered to try cases of whites originating in the Chickasaw Nation. 

The first U.S. Court in Oklahoma was at Muskogee in 1889, then in 1895, three court districts were established in the Indian Territory: Muskogee, McAlester, and Ardmore. The laws of Arkansas were still in effect and the Indians tried their own citizens. Among some of the first U.S. Marshals in the Sulphur area were HECK THOMAS, BOB HUTCHINS, BUD BALLEW, DUTCH SPENCER, BUCK GARRETT, JACK MARTIAN, and Col. J. H. MERSHON from Fort Smith.

There are accounts of Confederate veterans' gathering at Sulphur Springs, church conventions, and cowboys. One specific account stated there were a store, a dwelling, and a blacksmith shop in 1890. Another said in 1894 there were a store and some 30 odd tents. About 1890, some fishermen built a clubhouse at the Springs for a place to eat and keep their gear locked. Soon they enlarged it, hired a cook, and brought their families. The building became too small so they sold it for the 1st. hotel. 

By 1894 -5, there were plenty of hotels for hundreds of people visiting Sulphur ever summer. The 1st. Store has been credited to C.J. WEBSTER and his father, along with J.B. FISHER. A Mr. MULLENBROOK had one in early Sulphur. 

Col. (later General) R. A. SNEED, a lawyer and Pauls Valley merchant-farmer, visited Sulphur and "realized the beauty of the landscape and the benefits of the water", organized the Sulphur Springs Company in 1891-2 (some accounts give later dates, remember Sulphur, was still part of Indian Territory until May 2, 1890. SNEED charted the company under the laws of Texas, using the name "The Sulphur Springs Indian Territory Resort."

Incorporators with SNEED were 49 stockholders, including Col. PAUL, son of the founder of Pauls Valley; CHARLES D. CARTER, later Congressman of Ardmore; Col. TOM GRANT and his son CALVIN GRANT, pioneers in the Chickasaw Nation; S.J. GARVIN and JAMES RENNIE both from Pauls Valley; Dr. J.A. RYAN, Judge W.A. LEDBETTER, H.L. STUART, lawyers of Oklahoma City; SAMUEL KENNEELY, Gainesville, Texas. 

They bought 447 acres from the Froman Ranch for $2,500, platted a town site, and eventually organized a city government. They built a summer home, known as the Sulphur Inn, and spent summers their with their families. Other accounts called the place the "White Sulphur Inn," saying it was the "first pretentious hotel in the town".

Such land titles as the early settlers held were either in the form of leases from the land owners (the Indians) or by virtue of deed from the town site commission, which one member was appointed by the Chief executive of the Choctaws and one by the President of the United States.

Sulphur flourished for more than ten years, becoming famous as a resort and as permanent home sites. Settlers built stores and cold drinks, ice cream and tamale stands around Pavilion Springs. On Oct. 2, 1895, the town secured a post office in a one-room, plank building with W.J. Bloomer as postmaster. It became the focal point of the "East Side," while business houses on the opposite side of the springs became the "West Side" meanwhile, certain businessmen wanted to fence the springs, sell lots, and close the water from the public. 


This Page Was Last Updated Friday, 18-Jun-2010 11:16:28 EDT



of the tornado belt, Murray county has been fortunate not to have more tragedies like the one shown above.  This family of five was killed by a tornado on June 1, 1917
























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Murray County Schools



Murray County Post Offices