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  • Purcell, Oklahoma

    Named after Edward B. Purcell, a vice president of the Santa Fe railroad, Purcell, the seat of McClain County, Oklahoma, came into existence upon the completion of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway project in spring 1887. Purcell is situated thirteen miles south of Norman on Interstate 35. The railroad companies surveyed the Purcell townsite. Proprietor Robert J. Love began selling lots on April 5, 1887, and the post office charter was granted sixteen days later. Before the Land Run of 1889 Purcell was the only community located on the border of the Unassigned Lands, and the town's population surged in the months preceding that event. James Taylor Bradley was elected Purcell's first mayor on August 13, 1895, and incorporation followed on October 3, 1898.

    In 1895 Purcell was selected as a location for one of the Chickasaw Nation's five district courts, and sessions began November 18, 1895. The next morning, a fire devastated the town's mostly wooden business district, but spared the courthouse. Damages of $175,000 were reported. When Purcell was rebuilt, most of the buildings were constructed of brick or stone.

    With its location on the South Canadian River, Purcell, "the Queen City of the Chickasaw Nation," became a traveling and shipping hub and the second-largest cotton distribution point in Indian Territory. Among Purcell's leading products in 1901 were cotton, wheat, corn, hogs, and cattle. Businesses included cotton gins, a cottonseed oil mill, and a flour mill. Purcell also possessed a public school system, an American Indian school, a convent, and churches. There were numerous newspapers in Purcell, but the Purcell Register, established in 1887, is the oldest and still operated at the beginning of the twenty-first century.

    Purcell became a commercial crossroads when construction on the Oklahoma Central Railway reached the community in March 1907. The Oklahoma Central ran from the coal mines in Lehigh to Chickasha, but the railroad's main yards, barns, and equipment were located in Purcell. The company went into receivership in 1908, and its tracks were leased, and eventually purchased, by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

    Purcell had a population of 2,277 in 1900, and a count of 2,553 was reported at 1907 statehood. Despite the relocation of the Santa Fe yards to Oklahoma City, Purcell's population grew from 2,817 in 1930 to 3,546 in 1950 and 4,638 in 1980. In 2000 Purcell had 5,571 residents, and in 2010, 5,884. The discovery of oil and the development of Thoroughbred horse ranching added to the community's small-business and agricultural base.

    Joyce A. Rex


    Stan Hoig, The Oklahoma Land Rush of 1889 (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1984).

    Hunter James, "Purcell, Seat of McClain County," Sturm's Oklahoma Magazine 7 (October 1908).

    "Purcell, I. T., the Leading Railroad Town of the Indian Territory," McMaster's Oklahoma Magazine 3 (May 1895).

    Joyce Rex, ed., McClain County, Oklahoma: History and Heritage, 3 vols. (Purcell, Okla.: McClain County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1986).


    The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
    Joyce A. Rex, "Purcell," The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry.php?entry=PU004.


    Located in the Heart of Oklahoma, Purcell is a charming community providing a relaxed lifestyle and a quality home for business and industry.

    The growing city of 6100 is ideally situated along Interstate 35, just ten minutes south of Norman and the Greater Oklahoma City metro (pop 1.2 million). It is the county seat of McClain County ; is at the center of a micropolitan trade area, including the communities of Washington, Goldsby, Lexington and Wayne; and just 175 miles from the Dallas/Ft. Worth metroplex.

    -Business Advantages-
    Purcell is ideal for light manufacturing, distribution and commercial/retail development. The town and its surrounding communities are both suburban and agricultural, with much employment in agriculture and other non-farm major employers in the area including Tinker Air Force Base – the nation’s largest jet engine maintenance facility. There are also strong ties to nearby Norman and The University of Oklahoma – home to 20,000 students and an extensive research park.

    Key location advantages include an available, productive labor force (60,000 in 30 mile radius), low cost of doing business, AMTRAK service to Fort Worth and Oklahoma City, and premier industrial and technology training programs at nearby Lexington and Mid-America Career Techs. The newly announced 830-acre Gateway Business Park development also offers several choice sites for commercial, manufacturing and warehouse/distribution along Interstate 35.

    -Quality of Life-
    Nestled in the bluffs overlooking the South Canadian River, Purcell has a unique and rich history. Founded as a railroad town in 1887, Purcell has served as a major agribusiness area and the center for the state's equestrian industry. The Chickasaw Nation also is located within the region, and is a major supporter of business and industry.

    Purcell offers a cost of living that is 18% below the US avg., has little congestion, and is home to one of the state’s top public school systems (including a new $14 million high school campus).

    Purcell’s historic main street hosts thriving businesses, including several great restaurants, antique dealers, bed and breakfasts, and gift shops. Recreational opportunities abound, including: championship golf, horse ranch tours, fishing and boating on Purcell Lake, nearby winery and NHRA track. Major NCAA and professional sports are accessible in nearby Norman and Oklahoma City.

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