Settlers Claim Land
The first maps of the Bixby area show many hardwood forests and large sections under cultivation. By 1898, four or five non-Indian families already lived in the area. They were lured by fertile land near fresh water and wide open prairie that was ideal for raising cattle and horses.
An active trading center grew up at the Wealaka settlement just south of the Wealaka Mission, in the present day Leonard, Oklahoma area. Wealaka Mission was a Presbyterian mission, established to educate the Creek Indians in the area. The second post office in the Tulsa region was established there in 1880. The post office was located in the W.T. ‘Jeff’ Davis store.
Pleasant Porter, Chief of the Creek Nation, ranched in this area. He called the area Fairview because of the high ground overlooking the valley at the bend in the Arkansas River.
Samuel W. Brown, Chief of the Yuchi Indian Tribe bought the W.T. Davis store. The store was torn down about 1942 to make a landing field for Spartan School of Aeronautics in Tulsa.
Daniel Childers, who was the Creek Light Horseman captain for the district, operated a pole ferry just under the bluff near the location of the Wealaka Mission on the Arkansas River.He charged 50 cents for wagons, 25 cents for people on horseback and 10 cents for foot passengers to cross the river. From the ferry, it was a fair day’s drive by team to Tulsey Town.
Throughout the early settlement years, several ferries operated between Bixby and Leonard. The Shellenbarger ferry operated at a spot near the location of present-day Memorial Drive and the Arkansas River. A ferry operated by Wright Butler ran a little east of the current Riverview Drive. Free ferry tokens were given to people to encourage them to do business in Bixby. Everett’s Mercantile Co. allowed the tokens to be redeemed for five cents in trade. Most of the ferries closed with the building of county bridges in the area between 1910-12. The Arkansas River Bridge was built in 1911.
The Wealaka Mission and Brown’s Trading Post were on the old Sampson Chisholm Trail. Sampson was the foster son of Jesse Chisholm who laid out the famous 220-mile trail from Texas through El Reno, to Dodge City & Wichita, Kansas. In late 1870, Sampson broke a trail from Chisholm, Texas, east of Dallas, through eastern Oklahoma to South Coffeyville, Kansas.
The trail passed near large cattle ranches in the Wealaka area. Ranchers in that area included George Sanger, owner of Spike S Ranch, S.W. Brown, Pleasant Porter, F. B. Severs, Charlie Clinton and Buford Miller. Herders forded the Arkansas River south of Wealaka Mission. They crossed the river by ferry when the water was too high to allow for fording. The trail took them east to old Broken Arrow, Catoosa, Claremore and Alluwe. For three years prior to the railroad extension into Texas, herds of 1,00 to 3,000 cattle were driven to Kansas markets using this route.
W. L. Gilcrease, father of oilman Thomas Gilcrease, platted a town site near the Wealaka Mission, on one of his children’s allotments. He named the town Wealaka. Along with partners J.D. Hall and W. L. Childers, Gilcrease built a store and cotton gin. The Midland Valley Railroad soon followed with a depot. However, Gilcrease, a crusty old coot by all accounts, had trouble with the Midland Valley Railroad. The depot was moved to another site. The town of Wealaka soon died.
After statehood in 1907, the Wealaka Mission and land upon which it was built, passed into private ownership. The mission building burned in 1935. Currently, only the basement and cemetery remain.
The closing or relocation of a post office discouraged would-be settlers as a symbol of permanence. Wealaka post office operated from 1880 until 1892. Posey post office opened west of Bixby in 1895. It was relocated in Mounds in 1898. White City post office was open for a few years. All have disappeared. Bixby post office, established in 1899, was operated from the back of a merchant’s store.