History of Mustang, Oklahoma
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Early History of Mustang
Mustang is much like other small towns in Oklahoma. In fact, it’s a mirror of the state with its strong ethnic base, farm and ranch lands dotting the landscape, boom times and busts dominated by weather, and a struggle to recover in today’s economy. The town passed a milestone in 2001, its Centennial birthdate. We will point out highlights, some more interesting than others but all are important if we are to appreciate what people in this central Oklahoma town did over the first hundred years. While they are prepared through auspices of the Mustang Historical Society, no claim is made to origination. As is said, history is written by the survivors. We appreciate their diligence and effort to be accurate and fair. Readers are welcome to let us know if we get it right or not.
Location: Mustang, in the southeast corner of Canadian County, is about 13 miles west of downtown Oklahoma City. Both towns were established during Oklahoma’s first Land Run, a historic homestead stampede on April 22, 1889. Mustang was officially founded on Nov. 22, 1901.
Prehistory: Oklahoma Archeological Survey identifies about 70 prehistoric sites in Canadian County. No doubt thousands more are detectible but unknown. The Caddoan Wichita lived as sedentary farmers and hunter-gatherers in grass houses along the watercourses. Although they did not live there, the Comanche and Kiowa used the area as
Exploration: In 1803 present-day Oklahoma was included in the Louisiana Purchase. Explorers and traders soon traversed the Mustang area. They included Stephen Long along the Canadian River in 1820; Thomas James on the North Canadian River in 1823; and Josiah Gregg carrying trade goods on the Canadian River to New Mexico in 1839. Several mentioned difficulty crossing central Oklahoma’s Cross Timbers, a formidable jungle barrier.
Trails: In 1865, trader Jesse Chisholm blazed the route which bears his name. It was used by Texas cattle herders from 1867 to 1884. The trail crossed the far northwest corner of present day Mustang.
Settlement: The Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 started Mustang, as it did most of central Oklahoma, almost overnight. On April 22, Mustang Township filled each available tract with 142 claimants. Boomers promoted opening the Unassigned Lands where the Run occurred. Sooners crept in early and illegally, causing many disputes with those who waited for the starting gun. While they represented many ethnic backgrounds, most Mustang area immigrants were from Germany, Poland, and especially Czechoslovakia.
Ethnic base: East-central Europeans dominated early settlement, especially in the southeast portion of the county. Mustang is in the heart of farmland largely populated by migrating Czechs at the century’s turn. However, at least a dozen African American families homesteaded a settlement at what is now Sara Road and SH-152.
Size: Tiny Mustang is 12 miles square. Until recent years and rapid growth, it could not be found on maps. Although sentiment was favorable to make the town footprint bigger, it was surrounded by Oklahoma City.
Important founders: Arriving about 1893, Dr. Jonas B. Spitler was the town’s first doctor. Banker, real estate and railroad developer Charles G. Jones, an ex-mayor of Oklahoma City, filed the township plat in 1901. Farmer Fred Mohr sold Jones a tract to start the business section. Mustang conceived: In 1901 farmer and entrepreneur Fred Mohr sold 60 acres to businessman Charles G. Jones. The land ran north and south along present day Mustang Road and quickly became the Mustang business district. After Jones filed a township plat for Mustang, he spent two years developing a railroad stop and 28 businesses. Mustang was on its way.
Railroad: Starting in 1901, the Oklahoma City and Western Railroad built a line passing through Mustang between Oklahoma City and Chickasha. A depot was erected at Mustang Road with regularly scheduled stops. Ownership changed to the Saint Louis and San Francisco Railroad in 1907. Until 1952, when it ended, the Frisco Railroad ran as many as eight passenger trains and freights through Mustang every day. The rail remains active as a freight line.
Post Office: Mustang derived its name from the post office. Postmistress Annie Maxwell opened doors on Feb. 4, 1895. In turn, the facility most likely took its name from nearby Mustang Creek.
Early business: Charles Jones opened Mustang State Bank on Feb. 1, 1902. His two-story building housed the E.W. Shupe grocery, Rickett and Co. general merchandise, and the Dr. W.S. Nichol office and home. The town Commercial Club got busy. Soon the town sported the Commercial Hotel, J.H. Grigsby’s Lumberyard, other grocery stores, a grain elevator, meat market, livery stable and stockyards
Early settlers: Morgan Road was named for George W. Morgan, an Illinois pioneer who staked 160 acres in the Run of ’89. The site of present day Wal-Mart at Sara Road and SH-150 was settled by Czech natives Matthew and Theresa Smrcka. Homesteader Thomas Addington was a delegate to the Republican Territorial Convention in 1900, later served as a county commissioner, and ran and lost a close race for the Territorial Legislature. Karl Hermann, born in Prussia, bought a farm on today’s north end of Wild Horse Park and in 1909 raised the largest barn in Oklahoma. For his family Scotsman James Grant built a one-room rock house where his wife, Margaret Grant, once was summoned to deliver a baby for fugitive’s wife south of the Canadian River. Arkansan Granville Rector, a former Arkansas county judge, senator and state representative, opened a grocery store in 1910, bought a farm on Mustang Road, and became a Canadian County Commissioner in 1914.
Agriculture: At various times early day Mustang was called “A Garden of Eden” and “Down in Egypt.” The weekly Oklahoma Farmer called it one of the most prosperous regions in Oklahoma. People grew wheat, oats, corn, peaches, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, apples, pears, grapes, blackberries, cherries and plums. Watermelons were shipped by the trainload. The Farmer’s editor bragged in 1904 that Mustang peaches were selling for $3 each in Liverpool, England.
Education: Mustang established its schools in July 1902. Miss Etta Fisher was the first teacher. The salaried position payed her $40 per month. In her first year she taught 45 students. Two years later a ninth grade was added with courses in Latin, algebra, geography, English and classical literature.
Churches: Westminster Presbyterian Church of Pleasant Hill was Mustang’s first church. It shared its building with the Methodist Episcopal Church until Methodists erected their own building in 1903.
Sports: Baseball was the first established sport in Mustang. Just a year after Mustang’s founding, baseball players and fans were agitating for a town team. Soon on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, games were played against teams from Wheatland to Union City and Yukon. Small communities and large families formed teams.
Early day social life: After the town founding, the Commercial Club, farm groups, churches, schools and residents entertained themselves with picnics, socials, fishing parties and dances. B.J. Shewey organized the first concert band, which gave free community performances.
Devastating Fire: With little beyond water buckets and tubs to fight with, pioneer towns lived in constant threat of fire. In 1906, train sparks ignited grass on the tracks beside the Mohr farm at SW 89 and Mustang Road. Sweeping northeast as far as Council Road, flames fanned by high winds consumed over 3,000 peach and apple trees, five barns, farm implements, 1,500 bushels of corn, and much hay.
Weather: Mustang, sometimes called “the buckle on the tornado belt,” has several destructive tornados in its past. Churches and homes were destroyed by a 1927 twister. Crops, livestock and farm buildings were lost in to a tornado in 1937. A tornado damaged homes, businesses and the high school roof in 1956. City Hall and a nearby shopping center, an elementary school and several houses took the brunt of a 1970 tornado.
The Great Depression: Starting in the 1920s, hard times followed low commodity prices after World War I. However, farming treated citizens better than in the cities where jobs and money was scarce. You might not be able to find a buyer for corn and potatoes, but you could trade with your neighbor for apples and beef. More people were working and fewer people on relief in Canadian County, on average, than in four-fifths of Oklahoma’s counties.
The Dust Bowl: Following the stock market crash of 1929, weather turned dry, crops failed, the money supply dried up, and the good life in Mustang turned sour. Many people borrowed, worked and prayed for good crops in the face of relentless drought and fierce winds. It is said storms blew dust from Oklahoma as far southeast as the Atlantic
Ocean. Mustang’s fertile topsoil was gone forever, along with any talk of the Garden of Eden.
World War I: After Congress declared war on Germany in 1917, men joined as draftees and volunteers. At least three from the Mustang community were killed in Europe: Pfc. Carl Thomas Medford, Sgt. Elmer New, and Pfc. Robert J. Smith. New and Smith were buried in the Mustang Cemetery, Medford in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
After World War I
Today tiny Mustang is 12 miles square. Until recent years, it could not be found on maps. The 2010 Census counts 17,000 citizens in Mustang. It shares enviable status with Tuttle, Blanchard and Piedmont as among Oklahoma’s fastest growing towns. After World War II, soldiers and civilians with war jobs quickly found work at the Federal Aviation Aeronautical Center in west Oklahoma City and Tinker Air Force Base in east Oklahoma City. Corrections, another area of significant employment, expanded at the El Reno Federal Prison. Mustang Public Schools became the largest employer in Canadian County.
City government: Mustang was governed by a Board of Trustees until incorporation in 1969. The late Ross Duckett, elected to the Trustees in 1965, assumed the role of new Mayor on the new City Council. Duckett is considered the father of modern Mustang. He moved to Mustang in 1963, and was elected to the Mustang City Council and chosen the city’s first mayor. He led a push for Mustang to become an incorporated city, recognized by the State of Oklahoma, on Oct. 17, 1969. About 65 Mustang residents gathered into the Oklahoma Capitol’s Blue Room to witness Gov. Dewey Bartlett sign the city’s charter.
Kendall Cross, a Mustang High School wrestler and three-time All American at Oklahoma State University, won the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga.
Mustang native Shane Hamman, sometimes called the strongest man in America, is a two-time Olympic weightlifter who holds several world and American records, including lifting 1,008 pounds in a standing squat, a feat yet unmatched in any weightlifting competition.
Mustang High School graduate Dennis Byrd, a former defensive end and tackle for the New York Jets, is co-author of an inspirational autobiographical work and TV film titled “Rise and Walk.”
Dan Bailey grew up in Mustang, where he was an All-State and All-Conference kicker, became an American football placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys.
Colorado attorney Dan Slater followed high school in Mustang with graduation at the University of Oklahoma and a law degree at American University. In 2005 he was elected Vice Chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party and a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.