I S T O R Y O F P E R R Y
history | Latter day history
OF PERRY, OKLAHOMA
by Rev. Fred R. Belk
At one minute of 12 o'clock noon on September 16, 1893, a
tense silence broken only by the occasional nervous whinny
of a horse or braying of a mule, fell along the line of the
entry of the Cherokee Outlet (Strip). Then, a single pistol
shot rang out and one of the most exciting runs' in the history
of the United States began. The silence of the treeless plains
were suddenly filled with screaming men, thundering wagons,
cracking whips, plunging animals and yapping dogs, and the
tidal wave of humanity, surrounded by a cloud of dust, swept
towards Perry and its adjoining countryside. They came from
all classes, from all directions; afoot, horseback, on lumber
wagons, carriages and by railroad. They were honest men and
thieves, bankers and paupers, adventurers and homesteaders,
all wanting some of the virgin land that made the "outlet"
By nightfall, a city of canvas with well over 40,000 population
had risen. Estimates are that over 100,000 men, women, and
children took part all along the run. The "Strip"
as it was later called was 57 miles wide, stretching from
the Kansas border to Orlando, and 200 miles long extending
to the Texas line and compromising 1/5 of the present state
of Oklahoma. Osage, Pawnee, Kay, Noble, Grant, Alfalfa, Major,
Woods, Woodward, Harper, and Ellis counties were involved
in the "run" and "bread basket" Oklahoma
Those desiring to make the run and stake a claim were required
to register a few days before the deadline. Land in tracts
of 160 acres each became the property of the person who first
laid claim to it. This was accomplished by "staking"
the land, and then filing an official notice of the claim
at the land office. The Cherokee Strip consisted of 5,698,140
acres of what proved to be some of the richest land the U.S.
Government ever offered to ambitious and enterprising settlers.
Some had penetrated the border line before the designated
time and hidden in heavily wooded areas and creek bottoms
until the land run officially started. They were the "Sooners".
(those who made the run were called "Boomers", as
they waited for the sound of the starting gun). Now all residents
of Oklahoma are proudly referred to as "Sooners".
Dust was so thick in the moustaches and beards of the men
that no one could tell the color of a man's skin; for all
races and creeds participated in the "run".
The south boundary of the Cherokee Strip was immediately north
of Orlando. The "record" run was by Jack Tearney,
formerly of Guthrie, who started at the county line and reached
Perry in 31 minutes and had the "Blue Bell" saloon
operating at 4 o'clock! That first day beer sold at $1.00
a bottle, due to the scarcity of water, and 38,000 glasses
The original town was bounded by A & F streets and 1st
and 9th streets and "Hell's Half Acre" with its
many saloons was set up 1/2 block east of the east side of
the now existing square. Some 110 saloons and gambling houses
were in operation.
Wharton, the first name used to refer to Perry, was a train
station located 1 mile south of the present city. Perry received
its name from the J.A. Perry, one of the township location
commissioners. County "P" as Noble County was then
known, was named after the Honorable John W. Noble of St.
Louis, the secretary of the Interior in President Harrisons
Among those within the boundary of the Strip prior to the
opening, were the notorious Bill Doolin gang. A Santa Fe train
was robbed at Wharton before the opening, and the gang escaped
into Osage County. U.S. Marshall E.D. Nix and 100 deputies
were commissioned to police the area and keep order.
Rev. S.P. Meyers, a missionary to Oklahoma Territory, and
the dean of the ministry in Noble County, made the run from
the Orlando line and settled on a good quarter section southwest
of Perry. Meyers delivered the first sermon in Perry, holding
the meeting in an unfinished hardware building of J.O. Young
on the north side of the square. Beer kegs, from the record
consumption of the preceding day, and boards from the building
materials were used for the seating of the congregation. Funds
were raised to buy a tent to be used as a church.
History of Perry
history | Latter day history
HISTORY OF PERRY, OKLAHOMA
Perry is the home of the Charles Machine Works, Inc., maker
of Ditch Witch equipment, the world's largest selling line
of trenchers and other mechanized tools used in underground
construction. The company began in 1902 as a blacksmith shop
located on the downtown courthouse square. The present CEO,
Ed Malzahn, is a grandson of the founder. Today the company's
products are marketed and used throughout the free world.
Annual sales total more than $100 million. Ditch Witch (the
company's popular name) employs some 1,000 people; all live
in Perry or the surrounding area. All marketing employees,
including those who travel abroad, make their home in Perry
and travel out of here. The company has its own in-house travel
agency and two corporate airplanes.
As of 2004, The Perry Maroon wrestling team has won 32 state
championships, a national record. Danny Hodge, OU graduate
from Perry, is generally regarded as one of the greatest (and
strongest) collegiate wrestlers of all time. He was a Sports
Illustrated coverboy. Later he won the U.S. Golden Gloves
boxing heavyweight championship. He still lives in Perry.
Perry is the smallest city in Oklahoma with a daily newspaper,
The Perry Daily Journal.
Perry is the smallest city in the U.S. with a full-service
YMCA, including an indoor heated swimming pool.
Perry Memorial Hospital has just been named one of the top
100 medical care centers in the U.S. by a nationally distributed
professional magazine. The only other Oklahoma hospital chosen
was Mercy Health Center in Oklahoma City.
Perry Carnegie Library was established in 1910 with a $10,000
grant from the late Andrew Carnegie. The original building
is still in use but was expanded and completely renovated
with some $475,000 contributed totally by Perry citizens.
A statue in the Noble county courthouse park in downtown Perry
was created by local sculptor Bill Bennett and placed there
on a massive granite pedestal as a Cherokee Strip Centennial
memorial costing approximately $250,000, all subscribed by
Noble countyans and former residents who contributed all funds
needed for the project. The statue, entitled "Hopes and
Dreams," portrays an early-day couple coming to the newly
opened western frontier.
Henry Bellmon, who lives in the Billings community north of
Perry, is once again a Noble county farmer after retiring
from government service - - two term as governor of Oklahoma
and two terms as a U.S. senator. He was the first republican
elected governor of this state.
His wife, Shirley, operates the "First Lady" doll
factory in Billings. It is a regular stop for tour buses traveling
through this part of the state.
The Perry High School band, directed by PHS alum (Mrs.) Sandy
Hentges, is a consistent trophy winner in marching, concert
playing and sight reading. The band was invited to march in
President Nixon's 1976 inaugural parade.
Perry worshipers can choose from among 23 different churches
each week. All mainline denominations are represented.
Stagecoach Community Theatre, now in its 20th year, provides
Perry area residents with wholesome family stage entertainment.