Civil War in Oklahoma / The First Rail Road
June 7, 2000
Because Oklahoma, at the time of the U.S. Civil War, was made up of numerous independent nations, the impact of the war was especially complicated and violent. Each tribe had Southern and Northern factions with many members remaining neutral. The entrance of Albert Pike into Indian Territory was the beginning of the official effort by the Confederate States of America to organize territorial residents into pro-Southern factions.
Railroads played an enormous role in each of the frontier areas of the United States; Oklahoma was no different. Residents anxious for rail service and rail companies anxious for profits both eagerly awaited the opening of the territory to railroad construction.
Material for this edition was taken from a perusal of various Oklahoma history survey texts.
Hello, I'm Steven Kite welcoming you to Oklahoma Audio Almanac where we turn the pages of history to bring you the stories from our state's past.
In the first week of June 1861 as the early salvos of the Civil War were being heard across the country, Albert Pike entered Indian Territory. Pike, an Arkansas Lawyer and later Confederate Brigadier General, was here to recruit Native American tribes for the Southern cause. Most tribes, feeling abused and abandoned by the Unite States, were initially eager to sign treaties with the Confederate Government. As the war continued on for much longer than expected loyalties divided and pro-Northern and pro-Southern groups developed among tribes of Indian Territory effectively splitting most groups into two separate entities. Regardless of whose side they chose, the Civil War proved disastrous for citizens of Indian Territory. Caught between the opposing forces of the United States and the Confederacy, the tribes of Oklahoma experienced an incredible loss of property, land and life.
It was on June 6th, 1870 that the first rail road made its way to the Indian Territory border. Because of their cooperation with the Confederacy during the Civil War, tribes of Indian Territory were forced to allow the construction of a north-south railroad through the area. At the time, however, there were three railroads heading south through Kansas towards the territory. The U.S. Government, either in a move of incredible brilliance or bad judgment, deemed a race to be a fitting way of deciding the matter and stated that the first railroad to reach the border would be the one to serve Indian Territory. The race was on and the high stakes involved led to a large amount of sabotage, kickbacks, extortion and violence including several bloody gun battles between construction crews. When the smoke and turmoil cleared, the Katy Railroad tracks were sitting on the territory border and as winner of the contest, it became the first railroad to cross what is now the state of Oklahoma...and that's what happened this week in Oklahoma history.
I'm Steven Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is a production of the OSU Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.