I’ve heard it said before that Council Grove is unique in that no other town in the United States bears the name. Of course, to defend anything you must first challenge it. So, I had to challenge the statement. It may presently be true that no town bears that name, but there once existed a Council Grove, Oklahoma. It shared some striking similarities with Council Grove, Kansas.
Council Grove Oklahoma was a grove of cottonwood, elm and oaks located approximately 8 miles west of Oklahoma City. The City has since grown and enveloped the old Grove. Initially the land was inhabited by the Creek Nation but many of the Plains Indians gathered there due to the good water and plentiful timber.
The year 1858 finds Jesse Chisholm of the illustrious Trail operating a trading post at Council Grove, Ok. We don’t know for sure how early or often Chisholm traveled the Santa Fe Trail, but it is evident that he was familiar with Council Grove Kansas. He is said to have guided a party in search of buried gold on the Arkansas River in 1836. In May of 1866, Chisholm brought the largest bunch of buffalo robes ever to Council Grove Ks. While here Chisholm purchased $7,000 worth of goods from Ledrick & Robbins. Augustus O. Robbins was an older brother of Kitty Hays, adopted daughter of Seth Hays. Ledrick & Robbins Mercantile was established in 1863 and located on the site of the western most building of Aldrich Apothecary.
Anyway, it is possible that Chisholm had passed through our Council Grove prior to his post in Oklahoma. A number of other early Morris County entrepreneurs made it into the Indian Territory for various business ventures and we may only guess that the Council Grove of Oklahoma was inspired by the one of Kansas.
In 1859 Col. B. L. E. Bonneville escorted Congressman J. S. Phelps and the superintendent of Indian Affairs to meet with the Comanche at this grove to talk of peace and better the relations between the nearby settlers and Plains Indians. It all fell apart before the talks ever began because the Indians were alarmed at the number of soldiers that tagged along. Consequently, the Indians fled to the north to prevent what they thought may have been another attack on their camp like they had experienced the previous year.
A granite marker placed by the D.A.R. at the site of Council Grove states that a council between the Comanche, Kiowa and ‘Confederate Leaders’ was held there. This statement is a bit ambiguous and it took me a great deal of research to find out if it meant the Confederate States of America or confederate bands of Plains Indians. I believe the council referred to on the marker was between the confederate Indian tribes. In late April of 1865, after Lee had surrendered at Appomattox, Confederate Lt. General Kirby Smith was making an effort to maintain an alliance with the Indian Territory. However, the Indian leaders aware of the fall of the Southern Confederacy found it in their best interest to make a confederacy of their own. Their Nation found no protection from either the North or the South, and fighting among themselves had decimated their tribes. They were to meet on May 15th at Council Grove, but rumor of Federal troops coming to break up the meeting forced them to remove to what was called Camp Napoleon on the Washita River, May 24th 1865.
For a time in the 1870s-80s, Montford T. Johnson was operating a ranch at Council Grove. He thought he was in Chickasaw country and therefore, contrary to government wishes, was settled on the ‘Unassigned Lands’. Sometime later Johnson was forced to move and the U.S. Government set aside nine sections of this timber land to provide wood for Fort Reno which was established in 1874. In 1884 William Darlington, who was an engineer and mechanic, moved a steam powered saw mill from the Darlington Indian Agency, near Fort Reno, to Council Grove. I have not confirmed it, but I assume William was a son or some relation to Brinton Darlington who served as Indian Agent for three years before he died in 1872. Barracks were built for the troops detailed to cut timber for the Fort, and an 1895 Rand McNally Oklahoma map shows the section marked as ‘Council Grove Mil. Res.’
In 1889 Oklahoma was opened for settlement; however the timber land around Council Grove was closed to settlers. Folks were allowed to cut fallen timber to use for their fuel, but they soon abused that privilege by felling a tree one day and returning the next to claim it. A few years later the land was finally available to settlers. An advertisement in the New York Times of April 10th 1895 lists various government lands that were being opened for settlement, including ‘the timber reservation known as Council Grove, near Fort Reno, Oklahoma, containing 5,706 acres.’
Morris County may not be able to claim the only Council Grove in the nation, but we might be able to claim the only Beman, Helmick, Latimer, Skiddy and Wilsey in the nation. And that my friends, is something.