Although most people know that Oklahoma City is the state capital for Oklahoma, they may be surprised to learn that wasn’t always the case. Since being added to the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase, Oklahoma has undergone several transformations – including the location of the capital over time. This article will look at the history of Oklahoma’s state capital, potential cities that almost became the capital, and the current state of the capital in Oklahoma City.
The Original Capital is Founded in Guthrie, Oklahoma
Like many other towns in Oklahoma, Guthrie first started with the Land Run of 1889. During this land run, participants could “stake a claim” on unassigned lands. The Land Run of 1889 also determined how much land would be set aside for townsites, often creating competition for town plots among those seeking favorable properties.
As an expansive town formed in 1963, Guthrie drew so many people into its confines that four distinct cities were created to accommodate the rush. These towns included Guthrie, East Guthrie, West Guthrie, and Capital Hill. Unlike the modern form of government that relies on centralized leadership, each section had its own ordinances and mayor.
This method of governance stayed in effect until 1890 with the passage of the Organic Act. Under the Organic Act of 1890, the four designated towns consolidated Guthrie to the official Oklahoma Territory capital. Under the presidential leadership of Theodore Roosevelt, the Oklahoma Enabling Act of 1906 made statehood possible, leading Guthrie to be established at an official state capital until 1910 – making its prominence and newfound status short-lived.
Muskogee Makes an Unsuccessful Run at Becoming Oklahoma’s State Capital
Established nearly a decade after Guthrie, the official founding of Muskogee dates back to 1872. Before this, the United States had already named the region the seat of government in Indian Territory, developing a federal court and Union Agency to the Five Tribes. So many Native American tribes planted their roots in this area that the city quickly became known as “The Indian Capital,” a name that still holds prominence today.
Prior to the Oklahoma Enabling Act of 1906, the Five Tribes had attempted to join the Union by proposing the establishment of the “State of Sequoyah.” At this time, they also suggested that the city of Muskogee be named the official state capital. To counteract this proposal, Congress required Indian Territory to merge with the Oklahoma territory to form what is now known as the State of Oklahoma.
Oklahoma City is Officially Named the New State Capital of Oklahoma
Since the Oklahoma Enabling Act of 1906 required Guthrie to be the state capital, this act became null when the state of Oklahoma became sovereign. This development led to countless cities placing their own bids to become the new capital of Oklahoma, including Shawnee and Oklahoma City, to establish their power and visibility nationwide. To define a clear choice of the people, a vote was held on June 11, 1910, to determine where the new state capital should reside.
After the election, Oklahoma City was deemed the winner with 50,000 votes over the current capital of Guthrie. While it may seem strange for a state capital to move, this was a prime example of federalism that was prominent at the time. As expected, Guthrie officials were unhappy with this vote – leading the Oklahoma Legislature to quickly establish the Oklahoma State Capitol at its present location in Oklahoma City at 2300 N Lincoln Boulevard.
As the division created by this vote continued into 1912, one of the most notable elections in the history of the United States was unfolding. Three candidates, Theodore Roosevelt (Progressive), William Howard Taft (Republican), and Woodrow Wilson (Democrat), were all regarded as serious candidates. However, Wilson became the victor and was named the 28th President of the United States.
During this same election cycle, the state of Oklahoma proposed State Question 40 on the ballot in an attempt to move the state capital back to Guthrie. Suffering yet another blow, the town of Guthrie lost the bid again, with 54% of the electorate voting “no” towards the proposal. This vote established the new permanent location of the capital in Oklahoma City, and no challenges have happened since.