Given that Oklahoma is one of the youngest states in the union, along with a consistent ‘flyover state’ status via brains living on the left and right coasts, it’s easy to forget how rich and often strange the story is. here in the state earlier.
This land belonged to four different countries. Home to five indigenous tribes long before the Spanish conquistadors claimed and then abandoned it. They were looking for the legendary City of Gold. They even left behind some gold that remains to be found.
England claimed it as part of its seizure of the Carolinas. The French halfway colonized it soon after through their trapping and later fur trade. Spain reclaimed Louisiana to prevent the English from taking it by force and then returning it to the French. Then the United States bought it in the Louisiana Purchase. Oklahoma’s history is just as old and interesting as that of any other New England state.
Of course, you should be somewhat familiar with general knowledge of Oklahoma after the Louisiana Purchase, how it became Indian Territory, Trail of Tears, Native American relocations, etc. and this is where the story of Oklahoma’s Indian Cemetery parking lot begins. .
West of Tulsa is a small town called Sand Springs. It’s literally nothing to look at in the grand scheme of things. A small town comparable to, well, if Lawton was Tulsa, Sand Springs would be Indiahoma…but the origin story is unique.
In the early 19th century (i.e. the 1800s), the first recorded “settlement” was that of a small band of Cherokee. The only reason this recording exists is because it caused quite the controversy. While these few Cherokee resided there, the land technically belonged to the Creek Nation via a US treaty. It took about 40 years to crush the dispute, but the treaty was finally upheld at the federal level and once again became unequivocally creek land.
Seeking to protect the land, a Confederate Army lieutenant and Creek Tribal Nation member named Thomas Adams was blessed to colonize the land for himself in order to grow and raise a family. Because of the clear stream that provided drinking water to the settlement area, he named it Oktain Eukiwa – AKA – Sand Springs.
Thomas Adams farmed the land and raised a huge family before he died in 1886. His extended family, for the most part, settled their own little corners of the sprawling claim. It was normal life on the frontier until Oklahoma became a state.
With the influx of settlers through Oklahoma’s Seven Land Routes, the creation of Oklahoma as a state, and the discovery and instant success of the oil industry, all of Northeastern Oklahoma was wealthy beyond the average wildest dream.
One day an oil baron named Charles Page was looking for a place to build with his riches and the area we now know as Sand Springs is where he started building his charity empire.
Born poor in Wisconsin, self-made millionaire Charles Page grew rich in the oil fields of Tulsa. Remembering how his mother had struggled to raise her family in poverty, the self-proclaimed philanthropist sought land to establish his own orphanage to share his wealth and give back to the people.
As he purchased land in the area, he eventually acquired Adams’ original claim. The family named only one condition of the purchase and Page agreed… The Adams family cemetery could never be disturbed.
Shortly after Page purchased the land, he quickly delivered on his promises. He built a sprawling fully funded orphanage and named it The Sand Springs Home in honor of the Adams family. Someone donated a few small herds of deer, antelope, and bison which soon became a park open to the public free of charge as Sand Springs Park.
Charles Page even built a free amusement park with a carousel, Ferris wheel, roller coaster and other attractions, including a real zoo that remained free and open to the public throughout its life. Page even built a free rail line between his park and the city of Tulsa so more people could enjoy his charitable vision.
Although there are a few subtly different versions of the story at this point, the gist and common story is…as Charles Page grew older and began to see his life end, suffering from cancer, the question quickly became “Who will end up with my land and what will they do with it?”
Not wanting it to fall into the hands of anyone who would see it destroyed or spoiled by the search for oil and gas or any other mineral, Charles Page decided to incorporate a town around his orphanage and park.
Taking inspiration from Oklahoma’s seven historic pitches, he offered everyone their own free pitch if they moved in and settled there. As people moved in, Sand Springs became a city with a concrete condition in the charter… The Adams family cemetery was not to be disturbed.
While Adams and Page are long gone in the pages of history, Sand Springs remains to this day, as does the Adams family cemetery.
While it’s hard to believe these days that a century-old deal would stand in the face of affecting progress, the city kept its original promise.
If you were to enter the Atwoods Mall at the corner of Adams Road and Charles Page Boulevard, in the middle of the parking lot is still the Tullahassee Creek Indian Cemetery – the final resting place of most Adams of the era.
For all intents and purposes, it’s the only known mall cemetery in America and one of the oldest known in Oklahoma.
While there is more to the finer details of this story, including more about the Adams family before the statehood of Oklahoma, the story of this cemetery stands out beyond the various documents. . I think you’ll agree, that’s quite a tale of one of America’s “historically unimportant and unimportant flyover states,” isn’t it?
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