Owasso began as a settlement in 1881, located in the Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory, near what is now 66th Street North and North 129th East Avenue. It was called Elm Creek, and was named for Elm Creek, a tributary of Bird Creek. The first settler was H.T. (Tole) Richardson.
In June of 1893 plans began to be made for a rail line to be extended south from Bartlesville to the cattle ranches in the vicinity of Bird Creek. At that time there were already several residences, a blacksmith shop, and a general store in the Elm Creek Settlement. Preston Ballard, owner of the general store, established a post office in the general store on February 10, 1898 and was appointed the first postmaster. The Joseph T. Barnes family moved to the settlement in 1897, Joseph and Luther Barnes bought the blacksmith shop in 1898.
In 1897, the Kansas, Oklahoma Central and Southwestern Railway Company acquired right of way approximately 3 miles northwest of the Elm Creek Settlement, dammed a natural spring to form a lake as a water supply for the rail line, and built a depot about a mile south of the lake. The depot was torn down in 1942. Late in 1898, Joseph and Luther Barnes moved their blacksmith shop to the new community. The shop became a temporary home for the Joseph Barnes family and was the 1st residence officially moved to the new depot community.
During 1898, many of the residents and businesses moved from the Elm Creek Settlement to the new community. Preston Ballard moved his post office and general store during that time, and the new community became know as Elm Creek, since the post office retained its name.
The railroad completed its line in 1899, its parent company, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company, took over the line and property. The 1st train came into Elm Creek on November 1, 1899. As the land around the end of this railroad developed, the Osage Indian word Owasso, meaning the end or turn around, was adopted to identify the area because the rail line ended in a turnaround “Y” near the depot. The name of the Elm Creek post office was officially changed to Owasso on January 24, 1900. The rail line was not extended into Tulsa until 1905.
The Original Town Site
A plat of the original town site of Owasso, Cherokee Nation, I.T. was signed by the Secretary of the Interior on March 26, 1904, in connection with the town’s incorporation. That plat shows 3 streets running North and South and 8 streets running East and West. The North / South streets were named Oklahoma, Kansas and Missouri, and the East / West streets North of what is now Broadway were named for Union generals, while the East / West streets to the South were named for Confederate generals. The original street names were changed to their present names in about 1960.
Becoming a State
By the time Oklahoma became a state on November 16, 1907, Owasso had a population of 379 within the town limits. The first newspaper was The Owasso Ledger, and was first published on August 7, 1903 by U. P. Wardrip. The subscription price was $1 per year, paid in advance. The Pioneer Telephone and Telegraph Company was granted a franchise on February 6, 1905 for the town’s first telephone exchange. Until the first water tower was erected in 1924, with Spavinaw as the water source, water was brought into town in barrels from the Owasso Lake and sold for $0.50 a barrel.
Information taken from old newspaper articles, visits with residents, and a pamphlet entitled Highlights From An Illustrated History of Owasso by David J. McDonough