Craig County is located in the northern part of the state, adjoining Ottawa, County on the west and the State of Kansas on the south. In Territorial days this section of the state was an important part of the Cherokee Nation and many of its officials and prominent citizens still reside here. Upon the abolition of tribal government and the adoption of statehood, these Cherokees quickly adjusted themselves to their new environment and their new political relations, many of them being successful farmers, business men and political leaders.
Craig County has an area of 775 square miles of land, mostly level prairie land, nearly all of it being of first class agricultural soil. During the years gone by, great quantities of prairie hay were cut each year and much of it shipped to northern markets. Some of the largest and most prosperous cattle ranches were formerly located in this section of the state, but when lands were allotted to the Indians and cut up into small farms, a much greater portion of the land was put into cultivation, and, as a result, the immense pastures disappeared and the shipment of prairie hay became a less important industry.
In those pioneer days it was customary for the "cow
men" to drive thousands of long horn cattle, each year, from Texas to
this section, to be fattened for market on the succulent grasses which
grew so abundantly on these broad prairie pastures.
There are no large towns in this county outside of Vinita, but there are a number of excellent shipping points and good trade centers. Welch, located eighteen miles north of Vinita, on the M. K. & T., has a population of 800; Bluejacket, also on the M. K. & T., is twelve miles north of Vinita, and has a population of nearly six hundred ; Big Cabin is six miles south of Vinita on the M. K. & T. and has a population of something like four hundred; White Oak is located eight miles west of Vinita on the Frisco and has a population of 200; Centralia is an inland town twenty miles northwest of Vinita and has a population of some 300 happy and progressive people. All of these towns are located in fine agricultural sections and furnish the people who make them their trade centers with all the necessities and many of the luxuries of life.
Vinita, the county seat of
Craig County, is located southeast of the center of the county at the
intersection of the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railway with the Frisco.
"A generation ago, or to be more explicit, in the fall of 1869, there might have been seen struggling through the rank underbrush, or toiling through the tall prairie grass, a party of men locating a route for a railroad along the line now traversed by the Missouri, Kansas and Texas, south of the Kansas line, and headed southward toward Texas and the Gulf. It was a fine autumn day in the early part of October. The green and gold and purple of the leaves of the timber that scantily skirted the streams made a pretty picture in-the soft, hazy sunshine. The party scrambled up the south bank of Cabin Creek and -strolled leisurely out onto the more elevated prairie and struck camp, or rather came up with the wagon outfit which had preceded them, though by a circular route, and had gone into camp earlier in the afternoon. The gang of men were under instructions to locate a station thirty-miles or thereabout from the state line ; and their record of chain lengths told them that they had about reached the place. The circumambient line of timber on the north and east, following the undulation of the stream, and stretching away to the southward, the long line of Indian summer clouds that melted away before the evening sunset, the magnificent adjacent country, all tended to fix the conviction upon those interested that a finer location could not be found for a station and by-and-by a thriving town.
"Such were some of the preliminaries to the birth of Vinita, but the fates deemed it not wise to locate the town on the spot first decided on by the advance agents of a great railroad. The survey of the Atlantic and Pacific by mutual agreement crossed the "Katy" at this point and everything ran along smoothly till the former roadbed was built to within a mile and a half east of this present townsite. Then a very remarkable thing happened and the townsite was removed between two suns, very much to the disgust, and even armed resistance, of the "Katy."
"The elder E. C. Boudinot, Dr. Poison, Johnson Thompson and Col. J. M. Bell arranged with the Atlantic and Pacific people to turn their line abandoning the old survey and cross the "Katy" where the crossing now is. In the meantime Boudinot and his friends fenced something like two miles square with posts and lumber and undertook to `own' the entire townsite and more. The Atlantic and Pacific came with camps and baggage in the night time with the huge iron railroad crossing loaded on a wagon and proceeded to place it across the track of the other line. The `Katy' people, aroused and indignant, came with an armed force and tore up the crossing and stood guard day and night, slowly dragging trains back and forth to prevent the other road from making headway. The courts were finally appealed to and an injunction granted, and the road pushed westward to the crossing of Big Cabin.
"Boudinot's scheme to hold the townsite did not succeed. His fencing was torn down and destroyed, and the Cherokee authorities, through the town commissioners, surveyed and platted the present town site and named it Downingville, but Boudinot had the satisfaction of giving it a name which superseded Downingville, and from the start was the popular one, and had the advantage of the sanction of both railroads. Boudinot named the town Vinita, in honor of Vinnie Ream the sculptress, whom he had known and loved in Washington City, while an exile from his home and people on account of, his premature notions as to allotment of Cherokee lands.
"The town was platted and the first lots sold in February, 1872. Martin Thompson was the first to bid on and purchase a lot in the town. At first, after the coming of the Frisco, the town was built principally of tents and board shanties, occupied for the most part by whisky peddlers and toughs. Brawls and fights were frequent and now and then a man would be killed.
"There were no section lines in the Cherokee country in those days and the town was surveyed parallel with the Katy railroad which runs through the town at an angle of 43 degrees east. That accounts for the streets not running square with the points of the compass.
Source: Muskogee and Northeastern Oklahoma, 1922