horizontal banner with Preserve America logo and images of a historic downtown, farm, courthouse, and mountain

Preserve America is a national initiative in cooperation with the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation; the U.S. Departments of Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Commerce, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Education; the National Endowment for the Humanities; the President's Committee on the Arts and Humanities; and the President's Council on Environmental Quality.

Preserve America Community:
Muskogee, Oklahoma

Muskogee (population 40,015) was established in 1872, but its history reaches back to the Native Americans who inhabited the region around the three rivers—the Arkansas, Grand, and Verdigris—which meet just north of the city. In the 1820s the Indian Removals brought the "Five Civilized Tribes" of the southeast into the area. After the Civil War, the Tribes were required to allow railroads to pass through their lands. On January 1, 1872, tracklayers reached a point a few miles south of the three rivers, and Muskogee was born.

Azalea Festival Parade Historic theatre and cars, Muskogee, OKThe U.S. made Muskogee the seat of government in Indian Territory, with a federal court and Union Agency to the Five Tribes. In 1894, Muskogee was the headquarters for the Dawes Commission, which negotiated new treaties with the tribes for individual land ownership. This brought so many Native Americans into the area that the city became known as "The Indian Capital." Soon a building boom began as the town became a major railroad hub in Indian Territory.

In 1905, the Five Tribes attempted to join the Union as the State of Sequoyah, proposing Muskogee as the state capital. Instead, Congress had Indian Territory combine with Oklahoma Territory to form the State of Oklahoma.

Once a major cotton producing area, Muskogee's economy was devastated when cotton prices plummeted in the late 1920s. The city's agriculture shifted to truck farming and ranching. After World War II, Muskogee followed much of the rest of the nation into a time of growth and transition. Small manufacturing companies moved into the city, bringing new jobs and prosperity.

In April 1967, Muskogee held its first annual Azalea Festival, which celebrates the thousands of azaleas blooming in its historic Honor Heights Park. The park dates to 1909, when the Muscogee (Creek) Nation ceded the land to the city of Muskogee. The City and the local garden club developed the park, and it was officially named in 1921 to honor the veterans of World War I. Today, the festival includes a Native American art market, a trolley tour of the downtown, and a parade, among other events.

Muskogee is a Main Street Community working to refurbish its downtown core, has four historic districts, and is home to several museums of local history. These include the Three Rivers Museum, housed in a rehabilitated depot, and the Five Civilized Tribes Museum, located in the historic Union Agency.

For more information

City of Muskogee: http://www.cityofmuskogee.com/index.asp

Three Rivers Museum: http://www.3riversmuseum.com/index.html

Five Civilized Tribes Museum: http://www.fivetribes.org/index.html

Posted August 5, 2010

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