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Where Stillwater Began

Stillwater is one of Oklahoma’s most historic communities. It began officially on April 22, 1889, as thousands of homesteaders lined up from nearly as far west as Lake Carl Blackwell to past the present Fairlawn Cemetery on the east and rushed southward into the land know as the Stillwater Valley. Stillwater was one of the first towns settled.

Four and a half years later, on September 16, 1893, thousands more gathered at the same line in Stillwater and rushed northward for homesteads in the Cherokee Strip. Thus, Stillwater was the site of two of the great land runs.

But Stillwater history unofficially began in 1884, nearly five years before the Oklahoma Territory was opened to settlement. On December 8, Capt. William L. Couch led a caravan of homesteaders called Boomers from Wellington, Kansas across the Cherokee Strip and to a stream just inside the Territory. As they settled in tents, cabins, and dugouts, they called the stream the Still Water and their encampment “The Town of Stillwater.”

The Boomer colony did not last long. U.S. Calvary units quickly surrounded it, its supplies were cut off and the settlers were forced to leave by the end of January 1885. But when the land was officially opened in 1889 the homesteaders quickly adopted “Stillwater” as the name of the new town and established a post office on August 28, 1889.

These historic incidents are among the reasons why the city’s motto became “Stillwater-Where Oklahoma Began.”

Stillwater was fortunate in that among the 1889 settlers were brilliant young lawyers, doctors and frontiersmen. Even when Stillwater was a village of 600, they foresaw what it could become a hundred years hence if they could win certain advantages now. They set out to seek the county seat, the land-grant college and townships in the Cherokee Strip.

Their first victory came on May 2, 1890, when Congress passes the Organic Act. It established seven counties in Oklahoma with Stillwater as the seat of the County No. 6. All factions agreed the county should be named for David L. Payne, who founded the Boomer movement in 1879.

Payne made eight attempts to colonize Oklahoma, but each time he was driven out by military. He died on Nov. 28, 1884 in Wellington, Kansas. To honor him, his successor, Capt. William L. Couch, led the Boomers on the excursion to Stillwater Creek. On January 30, 1995, Payne’s remains were brought from Wellington, Kansas, to Stillwater, and on April 20, 1996, they were reinterred at a special ceremony held to dedicate a David L. Payne Memorial at Boomer Park.

The pioneers’ second victory came on Christmas Eve, 1890, as the Territorial legislature voted to make Stillwater the site of the new land-grant college. Oklahoma A&M College held its first enrollment on December 14, 1891.

With the county seat established and the college assured, Stillwater’s leaders began efforts to get Cherokee Strip townships transferred to Payne County. On March 3, 1893, Congress passes a law transferring five Strip townships to Payne County. Eventually Rock and Walnut townships were taken away and given to Noble County, but the Glencoe, Rose and Eden townships helped make Stillwater the center of the county and assured its status as county seat. Meanwhile, Stillwater’s young leaders had been successful in bringing the railroad to town in 1901. With these achievements they believed they had laid the foundation that would make Stillwater a thriving city a hundred years later.

That the village of 600 has grown to a city of 40,000 and the enrollment of the land-grant college exceeds 23,000 is a tribute to their dreams, foresight, and determination.

- D. Earl Newsom, author of “Stillwater – One Hundred Years of Memories” and “The Story of Exciting Payne County”



Article - Stillwater (Oklahoma)

Stillwater (Oklahoma), city, seat of Payne County, north central Oklahoma, at the junction of Boomer and Stillwater creeks; incorporated as a city 1899. It is a research and development center for automated engineering and laser and telecommunications equipment. Marine engines, business forms, wire, and hoses are also manufactured. It is the seat of Oklahoma State University (1890). A wrestling hall of fame is here. In 1884, a short-lived community was established nearby by illegal immigrants (called boomers) from Kansas. Stillwater itself was founded in April 1889, when the region was opened to settlement by the U.S. government; it is named for the slow-flowing Stillwater Creek here. Population 38,268 (1980); 36,676 (1990); 39,065 (2000).2



Boomer lake       Back To Top       Home


Boomer Lake


at Boomer Lake

One of two wooden bridges that were built on the west side of the lake.




Boomer Lake

Boomer Lake is formed by the impoundment of Stillwater Creek which runs into the lake proper from the north end. The body of the lake runs north and south, forming two primary recreational "lakesides" on the east and west. The two sides of the lake are as different as night and day in the facilities available and the demographics of the patrons that utilize the different sides. The West Side seems to be frequented more by the younger set, especially high school and college students although families are often seen there with the small children utilizing the lion's kids park. There are many facilities on the west side to include pick nick shelters, restrooms, cookout grills, fishing fingers into the lake, a Frisbee golf course complete with water traps, and a large wooden deck that extends out over the water. In addition a boat ramp complete with dock is located on the southern end of the west side. Fishing permits as well as a current state fishing license are required. Permits for both fishing and boating may be obtained at the information kiosk next to the boat ramp. The East Side of the lake is dominated by a residential area and has less "recreational sports" facilities. The patrons of this side tend to be more mature and sedate in their recreation. I have observed modelers with both radio controlled sail and powered boats. A large open area suitable for kite flying and game sports such as football and soccer dominates the south end of the east side. Many golfers use this area for practice as well. There are two excellent shelters with cooking grills that were constructed or at least upgraded over this past winter (95-96). The city's Department of Parks and Recreation have done an exceptionally good job in selecting the company to build these shelters, accepting only top quality. I, for one, intend to utilize them this season. Restrooms are also available on this side as well as fishing fingers pushing out into the lake. There are two parking areas that will hold a moderate amount of vehicles6

father of Oklahoma


Captain David L. Payne



Father of Oklahoma

The memorial to the "Father of Oklahoma", Captain David L. Payne, was dedicated on April the 20th of 1996. Payne was a captain in the Civil War and led several groups of settlers from Kansas into the "unclaimed lands" that eventually became the state of Oklahoma. The settlement he founded was called "Stillwater", after the creek that ran nearby. When you see a municipal vehicle with the motto: "Stillwater, where Oklahoma began", it is referring to the settlement that Payne founded. On more than one occasion "Buffalo Soldiers" from their fort near present day Guthrie, drove the settlers from this area. Payne died in Kansas while putting together yet another attempt to settle the Stillwater area with his "Boomers". For more than a century Payne's gravesite has been in the Jay hawk state of Kansas. Now he has come home to the county named for him and the park that reminds us all of the early Boomers that settled present day Stillwater.

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1.   "History - Stillwater Convention and Visitors Bureau." (08/03/04 16:48:08)

2.   © 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.

3. (08/03/04 17:01:35)

4.   "Easter Sunday Ride at Boomer Lake." (08/03/04 17:03:13)

5.   "Easter Sunday Ride at Boomer Lake." (08/03/04 17:03:45)

6.   "Stillwater's Lakes." (08/03/04 17:07:37)

7.   "Stillwater's Lakes." (08/03/04 17:08:53)






"Easter Sunday Ride at Boomer Lake." (08/03/04 17:03:13)

"Easter Sunday Ride at Boomer Lake." (08/03/04 17:03:45)

"History - Stillwater Convention and Visitors Bureau." (08/03/04 16:48:08)

"Stillwater's Lakes." (08/03/04 17:07:37)

"Stillwater's Lakes." (08/03/04 17:08:53) (08/03/04 17:01:35)

© 1993-2003 Microsoft Corporation. All rights reserved.