Shawnee’s History

Shawnee is a thriving city and an excellent example of many Main Street communities that emerged in the late 19th century as part of the westward movement.

The area surrounding Shawnee was settled after the Civil War by a number of Native American Tribes including the Sac and Fox, Shawnee, Kickapoo, and Potawatomi. During the 1870s, Texas cattle drivers pushed their herds through Indian Territory along four major trails. One, the West Shawnee Trail, which crossed where the present day Kickapoo and Main Streets are located.

With the cattle drives, came the railroads and pressure to establish a permanent white settlement in Indian Territory. Consequently, in 1871, a Quaker Mission was established near the current Mission Hill Hospital. A small structure, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, remains in place as a reminder. The first missionary, John Newsome, opened a school at the Mission in 1872. By 1876, a Post Office and Trading Post were established a quarter mile west of the mission at what later became known as Shawnee Town.

Succumbing to pressure from white settlers, the United States government opened Indian lands to settlement. The first white settlers to claim land were Etta B. Ray, John and Lola Beard, J.T. Farrall and Elijah Ally. The Beard cabin, listed on the National Register of Historic Places and now located at the Santa Fe Depot Museum, is a wonderful example of a pioneer home.

By December of 1891, John Beard determined that railroads would be crucial to Shawnee’s success. With the help of other settlers, Beard made overtures to various railroads, and by the fall of 1894, the Choctaw Railroad committed to travel through Shawnee. Tracks were completed from Oklahoma City to Shawnee on July 4, 1895. By February of 1896, terminal facilities and the main repair shops for the Choctaw Railroad were built in Shawnee.