(This information was obtained with permission from the Grove-Discovering Spirits Past history book published by the Grove Area Chamber of Commerce, July 1, 1992)
Grove’s rich heritage has created a thriving town that has prospered due to many resources and attractions. From horse-drawn carriages to cabin cruisers on Grand Lake, the Grove area definitely has seen it all. Many people are unaware of the resources and opportunities this small city claims however; these assets have not always been here. It has taken time to develop the beautiful Grove area and the waters of Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees surrounding it. Grove was and remains today a welcoming place for both residents and travelers. Since 1817, it has continued to be a well-known trading center with fertile valleys and clear streams. The blanketing woods that cover the hills of the countryside are the sites of many struggles and battles that molded Grove into what it is today.
Federal troops in the Civil War referred to the Grove area as “Round Grove” in their official reports. Some other earlier names for the areas included: Monroe Grove, named for a Cherokee family that owned the land before the Civil War; and Tablor’s Grove, named for Dr. Tablor, an early settler. This area was most frequently referred to as Grove Springs, since it was a small settlement near a freshwater spring that served as a resting place for travelers along the Texas Road.
Businesses Open in Grove
George Ward built and owned the first house in the Grove Springs area. The earliest businesses were near the spring itself: two general stores owned by a German named August Safer and a Confederate Captain named Tredwell Remsen. “Springs” was dropped from the town name in 1888, when Captain Remsen applied for a post office, bringing about the town name “Grove”. Another early business was the Old Mill, which was built by a man name Dahl.
In 1898 the first issue of the Grove Sun was printed. The issue listed Grove as having four doctors, two druggists, three blacksmiths, a livery feed store, a hotel, a lawyer who drove back and forth between Grove and Fairland, and one barber.
Around 1899, there were a few restaurants that were in Grove. The included, the City Restaurant owned by J.C. Ferree, the Whiteway Café, Little George Thomas Chili Joint, and Lacy’s Café that later became a candy store.
One early business that demonstrated the home-style atmosphere was Aunt Jane Longmire’s Boarding House. She had no menu; however, her meals were known for miles around. The food was set out on the long tables in bowls and on platters. There was a wash pan and a bucket of water in the back for washing hands.
Other businesses included the Hotel Hazel, the first hotel in Grove. The sixteen-room hotel, also known as “Hotel Mayes”, was located on the corner of Second and Hazel. The hotel’s business ended in October of 1933, when it was struck by lightning and burned.
Another business was Grove’s first movie house, which was located on the corner of Third and Broadway. The movie projector was known as the “Magic Lantern”. The move house moved to Shupert’s Ben Franklin on 17 West Third Street. Today a six-screen movie theatre is located at 110 N. 3rd.
Other improvements began to enhance the Grove district such as the establishment of the fire department in 1911, which consisted of a hose cart, and the addition of the Grove community center, which was built in the town square in 1938.
In 1944, the only bank in Grove was the State Bank of Grove. In 1975, the Grand Lake Bank was built. Grove currently has seven banks with a new one to open in October of 2006.
As the years passed, Grove continued to thrive. New businesses were sprouting up everywhere. In addition to the many businesses already present, Dr. N.A. Cotner founded the hospital in 1963, and the public library was established in 1964.
Town Government formed in Grove
In the early years, the arrival of many new settlers promoted to community to organize. Even before the laying of the town site and the creation of Grove, there had been an elected board of trustees or town council. This council governed the town and made the crucial decisions for Grove. Today Grove has a council-manager form of government with five elected officials including four officials elected by ward and one elected at-large, the council elects the mayor.
Some of the early mayors from 1900 to 1916 were: Simps Melton – 1900, William A. Walton – 1902-1903, James P. Butler – 1903-1904, W.N. Morgan – 1905-1906, William Thomas – 1906, John H. Gibson – 1899 and 1907, J.M. Wood – 1908-1910, William P. Mayes – 1912 and 1916, W.D. Gibson – 1913.
The first president of the board was Mayor J.C. Starr. The original council authorized the building of the first town jail in September of 1897. The first town marshal Thomas Calfee (February 1914-1916) received $10.00 per month. His job included removal of dead animals and the responsibility of all street repairs. Some of the laws enforced were no biking, no loud talking and no playing loud music on Sunday. The sale of liquor, cigarette paper and cigarettes was not allowed in the city limits in 1905. In 1909, it was unlawful to spit on the sidewalk. These ordinances were not only enforced by the town sheriff, but also by the people.
Grove’s Original Townsite established
In 1901 the townsite was laid out. The original boundaries were First Street on the north, Cherokee Street on the east, Center Street on the west, and Tenth Street on the South. At this time the road was slightly narrowed on West 3rd Street. This irregularity is still noticeable today. The reason for this unique appearance is that an influential doctor owned a house near the edge of town. He was asked to move his shed from the edge of the road; however, he refused to do so. Not wanting to upset him, the town workers decided to build the road around the shed, which caused an indentation in the road.
Families in the Grove area
Typically families in the Grove area were hardworking families whose days were filled with many chores. All of the cooking was done on wood cook stoves. They raised their own meat and milked cows for their dairy products. On Saturday evenings, families went to town to sell cream and eggs. With the money they made, they bought clothes, which were washed on a rub board. The water was heated in a kettle before gas washers were brought to popularity.
Since there was no electricity before 1947 and much of the good was grown right on the farms, the cost of living was quite different from the cost of living today. Among the initial homesteaders of Grove was Dr. Wells. The rent for his house was $4.50 per month. He paid his chauffeur, Dee Wilson, fifty centers a day to drive him to his destinations in a horse and buggy.
The early residents had many ways of entertaining. These included picnics, visits to neighbor’s homes, box suppers, ice cream socials, horse races, baseball, steam swings, balloon ascensions, sack races, and fireworks. Grove also had a string band, which gave several concerts. These concerts were usually given in Gibson Hall, a band stage built in 1906 by Captain Walton and located in the city square.
Transportation in Grove
By 1905, Grove’s population had reached twelve hundred. This growing population needed roads. Soon dirt roads were formed and were utilized daily by the townsfolk. The first strip of paved road around Grove was the section of old highway 66 between Afton and Miami. Only one car could drive on it at a time. This piece of pavement can still be seen ½ mile east of Afton towards Buffalo Ranch.
One of the earliest means of transportation was not on land. The Carey Ferry, established in 1840, was located on the east side of Grand River about three or four miles from Grove. In 1903, a toll bridge was built over the river and the ferry was no longer used.
A faster mode of transportation was available when railroads were introduced. In 1900, J.M. Bayless of Cassville, Missouri built the Frisco Railroad, a forty-six mile long railroad that ran from Rogers, Arkansas to Grove. The railroad made it easier for the locals to ship livestock and produce to distant markets. Grove’s depot was located north of Mill creek on the corner of Main and Remsen streets.
The building of the railroad was considered one of the major advances in the community’s industry at that time. However, as cars became more numerous in the area, the railroad suffered a decrease in business. As a result, in August 1940, the State Corporation Commission asked the St. Louis and San Francisco Railways to discontinue service to Grove.
Later, buses were introduced to the area. These buses provided more efficient transportation, making it possible to transport larger groups of people to more destinations. Burnet’s Grey was the name given to the bus stop for Grove’s two daily stops.
Grove holds County Seat
The first site of a county office in Grove was the Wood Brothers’ Real Estate office. When Grove had control of the county seat, it was located in the Wood Brothers’ property. The loss of the county seat has been the source of much rivalry between the towns of Grove and Jay. This rivalry began almost one hundred years ago when the county seat was moved from Grove to Jay. Anyone attending a local football game between Grove and Jay will agree this rivalry still exists in a big way.
In 1907, delegates of the Constitutional Convention originally selected Grove as their choice for the county seat because it was the largest town and the first to have a railroad. Eventually the county’s southern residents complained Grove was too far to travel to conduct business. Voters in this part of the county felt the seat should be in a more centralized location. On December 8, 1908, Jay challenged Grove’s possession of the county seat. The people in Grove did not take voting in this election seriously. The possibility of actually moving the county seat to a woodsy nearly unsettled area seemed too remote. Nevertheless, when the votes were counted, Jay had won by nineteen. However, legal appeals interfered, and the transfer was not until 1911.
Jay remains the county seat today, but Grove is the largest and fastest growing town in Delaware County. In 1980 the growth was so significant that the people of Grove, by a vote of 251 to 196, decided to change Grove from a town to a city. The city limits now encompass an area of about fifteen square miles. In 2006 the City of Grove’s population is approximately 6,000 within the city limits, and an estimated 18,000 within a five-mile radius outside the city limits, plus an estimated 200,000+ tourists visit Grove and Grand Lake on an annual basis.
Growth brings many religious denominations to Grove
The growth of Grove was influenced by many factors. Religious denominations – including Methodists, Baptists, Christians, and Presbyterians – were arriving into the Grove area in the early 1900’s. All denominations met in the Old Cherokee Schoolhouse until the First Methodist Church building was completed in 1900. After completion of the church, all denominations held serves there on alternating Sundays. As congregations increased, the building could not serve all the different churches and each began to build separate churches of its own.
The Methodist Church was not only home for all religious services in the community, but also was used as a school during the week until November, 1904, when classes began in the new Grove School.
Grove’s First Schools
Missionaries built the first schools in the area in the 1820’s. These schools were primarily for Indian children. Recognizing the value of educating its young people, the Cherokee Nation provided for their education in the Constitution of 1839. By 1845, the Cherokee National Council had three Indian schools operating in the Delaware District.
White children were permitted to attend these schools, but were required to pay tuition. As more and more white families moved into the area, they built their own schools. Tredwell Remsen established the first subscription school, called Chigger Hill. It was a one-room log house located between West Third and Fourth Street and tuition was $1.00 per month. The students had school for three months in the fall and had a nine-month vacation. The first school bus was built by Bob Conner and carried two- dozen children.
The first public school was built in 1904. To pay for the materials for the schoolhouse, local mill owner W.T. Killman organized the idea of selling bonds. Many community leaders participated in the construction of this two-story, four-room brick building. Its only source of heat was a small coal-burning stove. It had an outside staircase and an outdoor privy. The principal of this school was Lana Wright.
In 1908, another four rooms were added and Grove had its first eighth grade commencement. Records show the graduating class consisted of twelve girls and five boys. W.H. Kilgore was the first Superintendent from 1910-1912.
In 1911, a new two-story building was built on the school site, using bricks, which were made in Grove. A twelfth grade was added to the high school for the 1911-1912 term and in May 1912 the first senior class graduated.
The new Grove School system, which was one of the largest in the county, had a total of eight faculty members. Grove Schools’ estimated expenses for the fiscal year ending June 30, 1911, were $3,890.00. The principal was paid $90 per month, while the average pay for the teachers was $35 to $50 per month.
Grove was still growing and by the 1918-1919 term the school had over 300 students. In 1923, Grove voted $32,000 for a modern school plant to be building during the coming year. In 1927 Grove received $2,500 in state aid, which was the largest amount given to any Delaware county school district. In 1931, due to the growth of the student body and need for student transportation, Grove Schools hired four drivers who built their own bus bodies. By 1939, they had six buses. By 1949, the school system in Grove had twenty-one teachers and 475 students. As the Grove School improved, several community schools were annexed with Grove. These included Stoney Point, Ketcher, Delaware, Peter’s Prairie, Butler, Cayuga, Starr, Olympus, Oak Grove and Zena. Eight-grade students from Turkey Ford also added to the enrollment.
During the next two decades, the Vocational building was completed, the new gymnasium and a football stadium were added, a four-room elementary was built between the old gym and the grade school, and the new high school building was opened in the fall of 1967. In 1976, the school had grown to sixty-six teachers and 1,360 students. The high school, built in 1923, was torn down and a middle school was built in the same location in 1977. In 2000, a new high school was built at the location of Hwy 10 and Ford Road.
The Oklahoma State Department of Education Finance Division recorded Grove School District I-2 term of 1985-1986 with 1412 average daily attendance and a Valuation of $38,826,031.00. Jim Bradford was the superintendent of schools with a 109 member professional staff. In 1991-1992 the school had 118 faculty members, the enrollment from pre-school through 12th grade was 1,631 and the superintendent was Joe Ethridge. The superintendent beginning in July 1992 was De. Herbert Bacon. Tom Steen became the superintendent in 1994 and in 2006 is currently the superintendent.
Industries flourish Grove
Industries played a significant roll in the town’s development. Before statehood, people from Grove found minerals and oil in the Grand River valley and surrounding area. In 1905, J.C. Holland and W.J. Forbes sank a mineshaft near Grand River in which they discovered oil in his well at the Huckins Hotel. It wasn’t long until a crowd had gathered and eventually carried off buckets and bottles full of oil to burn in their lamps. In 1917, citizens drilling for water discovered a large quantity of oil northwest of Grove. However, there was little interest in the oil because this particular excursion they were looking for water.
Oil was not the only area industry during the early growth of Grove; agriculture also played an important part in the economy. In 1912, peaches became a very productive crop for many area residents. Later, quite a few apple orchards were started. During the 1920’s strawberries and cotton were tried. As the result of the success of the cotton crop, Reed-Graham-Morton Gin Company of Muskogee built a cotton gin. The gin lowered the cost of cottonseeds to $1.25 a bushel, which at that time was about one half of the regular market price. The cotton gin was later moved to Ketchum.
After the failure of cotton and strawberries due to short growing seasons, farmers tried raising tomatoes. A canning factory was built to process the crop. The cannery operated for two years until farmers lost interest in growing tomatoes, and the boom died.
A major development that contributed to the history of this community was the building of the lake, which brought hydroelectric power to northeastern Oklahoma. The United States government approved twenty million dollars for the construction of a dam across Grand River. It was built by W.P.A. during Franklin D. Roosevelt’s administration and named Pensacola Dam. Although the idea for Pensacola Dam was conceived in 1890, the government didn’t approve the project until 1937.
Pensacola Dam, located between Langley and Disney, is the longest multiple-arch dam in the word. It measures one mile long and reaches ten stories high. The lake has 59,200 surface acres of water, 1,300 miles of shoreline, and stretches approximately sixty-six miles from its headwaters near Miami, Oklahoma to the dam. Ninety percent of the lake lies within the boundaries of Delaware County.
Not everyone was enthusiastic about the building of the lake. For example, Governor Red Phillips sent the state militia to the dam on March 13, 1940, because he thought there were plans to close the gates. Two weeks later the governor was given a restraining order to keep him from interfering with the project. The gates were closed on an April night in 1940. With this new the Governor proclaimed that the engineers “went down like a thief in the night and closed the gates.
Bridges built over Grand Lake
After the lake filled, two main bridges provided access to Grove. On the north, Sailboat Bridge was built at a cost of $369,000. This bridge was 2550 feet long and 120 feet high in the center allowing a sailboat with a 25-foot mast to pass easily under it. Preparation to construct a new four-lane bridge begun in 1991, the new bridge was completed in 2000 at a cost of $25 million dollars.
On the south side of town, Honey Creek Bridge was opened in 1925 before the lake filled. However, when the lake did fill, the bridge was torn down; as a result, Honey Creek Ferry was established in 1942 and used until the Honey Creek Bridge was completed in 1946 at a cost of $188,000. In December 2005 a four-lane bridge was completed at a cost of $11.5 million.
Visitors and Tourists flock to Grove and Grand Lake
Records show visitors came to fish and vacation on Grand River as far back as 1907. Tourist camps charged one dollar a day on Honey Creek and free campgrounds were located at Grove Springs. Thus, the area has always been an attraction for tourists.
Once the lake was created, it opened new possibilities for entertainment. Since the filling of the lake, tourism and recreation have become Grove’s major industries. Grove is home to many tourist attractions: Har-Ber Village, a re-creation of an early frontier town; the Grandiose, a trimaran excursion sailboat, The Cherokee Queen I and II, which provides riverboat tours of the lake; Lendownwood Gardens, a Japanese garden; Kountry Kuzins Jamboree, a music and comedy show; and the annual Pelican Festival, a celebration of the American White Pelican, are only a drew of the tourist attractions. Retirees have also found the Grand Lake area appealing. In 1987 Rand-McNally rated the Grand Lake area as the fourth best place in the United States to retire due to the beautiful scenery of the lake and the low cost of living.
An article from The Grove Sun, August 3, 1939, stated: “Grove’s being located on a high hill overlooking Grand Lake, and having as it does the picturesque mountain stream Elk River only four miles to the north and Honey Creek, another clear water mountain stream only a mile to the west; you be the judge as the great advantage this gives Grove from a fisherman’s and recreation standpoint.” Grove’s growth as a typical small town changed forever when the development of Grand Lake o’the Cherokees vastly influenced the population and wealth of this once-small community, making it one of the foremost recreation and tourist areas of the nation.
Grove has always been a progressive community and is still looking forward to a bright future. In fact, on the nation’s tri-centennial celebration in 2076, the community plans to unearth a time capsule buried in 1976 under the community center flagpole. Another general will look back with pride on the history of their community.