Becoming Tulsa: Cultivating City Life from a Prairie Town

Becoming Tulsa: Cultivating City Life from a Prairie Town, 1878-1900

March 2011 – November 2012

The place we now call Tulsa was a wilderness when the United States purchased the Louisiana Territory from France in 1803.  Otters, bears, and elk roamed freely throughout the region.  This area changed in the following decades from a territory of rough country to a thriving town populated by Native Americans, Whites, and African Americans.

The native people of the region were the Osage Indians, who moved across the tall grass prairie with the buffalo.  The Creek Indians built the first permanent settlements in the Tulsa area in the late 1830s. Settlements dotted the Creek Nation after they arrived in the area with other tribes on the Trail of Tears.

Many Creeks became cattle ranchers and farmers on their nation’s land.  The railroad arrived in 1882, bringing more and more pioneers who established businesses such as general stores, hotels, and newspapers.  The Indian and non-Indian settlers would create a vital, flourishing community.  By the time Tulsa incorporated in 1898, a foundation had been laid for an impressive and diverse city.