Papers of Oklahoma Territorial Governors
Established by an act of Congress passed on May 2, 1890, the Oklahoma Territory was formed from unassigned lands in the center of Indian Territory.
Between 1890 and 1906, the area was enlarged by the addition of certain lands previously included in Indian Territory. Under terms of an enabling act approved June 16, 1906, Oklahoma and Indian Territories were joined to form the State of Oklahoma, which was admitted to the Union by presidential proclamation on November 16, 1907.
Until the merger, the area known as the Oklahoma Territory was administered by several officials, including Territorial Governors appointed by the President. Between 1890 and 1907, the following persons served as Territorial Governors:
- George Washington Steele (1890-1891)
- Robert Martin (1891-1892)
- Abraham Jefferson Seay (1892-1893)
- William Cary Renfrow (1893-1897)
- Cassius McDonald Barnes (1897-1901)
- William Miller Jenkins (1901)
- William C. Grimes (1901)
- Thompson Benton Ferguson (1901-1906)
- Frank Frantz (1906-1907)
Annual Reports of Oklahoma’s Territorial Governors
The Governors of Oklahoma Territory issued annual reports from 1891 through 1907, when Oklahoma became a state. These reports, submitted to the Secretary of the Department of the Interior, vary from a few pages to many pages, and report on anything and everything that the current Governor believed to be important. A few examples:
- the 1892 report states “There is a growing feeling of unrest among the people of Oklahoma as to whether the policy of allotting the Indians on the choicest lands of our Territory, and making those lands inalienable and nontaxable for twenty-five years, is fair and just to us.”
- the 1892 report notes that there are “…inexhaustible quantities of gypsum in the western part of the Territory.” It also noted that no mines had been opened yet in Oklahoma, a situation that would soon change.
- the 1901 report records the number of fraternal organizations in Oklahoma, which included 2,512 Masons, 1,500 Confederate Veterans, and largest organization in the state, 6,100 Odd Fellows.
- the 1901 report notes that the Chilocco Indian Industrial School in Kay County “…is preeminent as the best equipped institution in the Indian service for imparting a practical knowledge of agriculture so much needed by the majority of Indian boys.”
- the 1901 report also notes that “…the Territorial Library was provided for by legislative enactment. The justices of the supreme court, who have the direction and management of the library, have seen fit up to this time to limit it to strictly a law library. There are upon the shelves of the library at this time about 7,000 volumes.”
- the 1907 report, the last report of its kind before statehood, records the number of votes for Oklahoma’s first governor–Democrat 134,162; Republican 106,507; and Socialist 9,740.
- the 1907 report gives a number of 3,220 schools, with an average teacher’s salary of $40.22 per month to men and $36.61 to women.
Be prepared to find more historical information about the history of Oklahoma than you knew was ever recorded!
Disclaimer: The Oklahoma Department of Libraries presents these documents as part of the record of the past. These primary historical documents reflect the attitudes, perspectives, and beliefs of different times. The Oklahoma Department of Libraries does not endorse the views expressed in these collections, which may contain materials offensive to some readers.