Teddy Brings His Big Stick to the Sooner State
April 2, 2003
In his various writings Theodore Roosevelt expressed numerous times of his love of Oklahoma. To him,
I think it represented the ideals and toughness that he tried to carry with him throughout his adult life.
I've had some concern with this episode that it implies Roosevelt visited Vinita during an election year
which of course is not the case.
Information for this episode came from newspapers found at the Oklahoma Historical Society.
Many papers covered the story, however, and if you have access to papers of that period there is a
good chance that they also will have some coverage of the event.
Teddy brings his big stick to the Sooner state this week on the Oklahoma Audio
Hello, I’m Steven Knoche Kite.
The fact that Theodore Roosevelt admired the area land that would become the state of Oklahoma was
common knowledge for the residents of the area. Roosevelt recognized Oklahoma as one of the last real
frontiers of the United States and visiting the area allowed for the rigorous outdoor activities of which
he so approved. Roosevelt made numerous trips to Oklahoma stopping in to see old Rough Rider companions,
to catch a wolf or two, participate in rodeos and just to say hello. After Roosevelt won the presidential
election of 1904 one of the first places he visited was Oklahoma.
In April of 1905 Roosevelt and his entourage arrived in Oklahoma stopping along the way to a Rough
Rider reunion in San Antonio. The first stop for Roosevelt’s train was Vinita, and a large crowd arrived
to welcome the new President. Over ten thousand people mobbed the depot which itself was covered with
flags, banners and bunting. A twenty-one gun salute signaled the President's appearance on the speaker’s
stand and Roosevelt proceeded with his welcoming speech to the people of Oklahoma. Most of Roosevelt’s
first speech in Oklahoma as president centered on the issues and benefits of single statehood for Oklahoma
rather than the double-state of Oklahoma and Sequoyah proposed by some. Roosevelt reminisced about his
Rough Rider days and recognized and honored those men in the crowd who had ridden along with him in the
Spanish American War.
Following his speech and after the applause and hoopla had died down, the Roosevelt train headed on
to other stops along the way. Muskogee, Oklahoma City, Caddo, Durant, Frederick and other towns throughout
the state were stopping points for Roosevelt as he made his way south. Whether it was journalistic enthusiasm
or not is unknown, but almost every paper covering the visits remarked upon how genuine was the president's
love of Oklahoma and its citizens and how eager and pleased the president was to see Oklahoma become a
state. At one of his stops Roosevelt exclaimed to the delight of the crowd that, “You of Oklahoma formed
this state, because you came here not seeking a life of ease but out of labor to rest in splendor and
in triumph.” At a later stop commenting on how much hard work was required to live in Oklahoma, Teddy
Roosevelt stated, “I thought I knew what a strenuous life was, but I see I must come to Oklahoma to learn
the real meaning of the word.” It was in this week of 1905 that Roosevelt stepped off of the train at
Vinita beginning yet again another visit to one of his favorite places.
I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a joint production of the Oklahoma State University
Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.