The Choctaw Road

Stop 24: 102 Robert S Kerr Ave

Promising future prosperity, another railroad crosses downtown.

In August, 1889, an issue surfaced with settlers that would reverberate for years to come. The Choctaw Coal and Railway Company wanted to build a railroad (the "Choctaw Road") through Oklahoma City to carry coal from McAlester in Indian Territory. The company had been granted a right-of-way by Congress in 1888 which was ignored by the Seminole survey and settlers were now occupying all the lots where the railroad wanted to build. Would the settlers in the way relinquish their claims? It wouldn't be easy.

After Congress authorized territorial government in 1890 and W. J. Gault was elected the first mayor under territorial law, a compromise was negotiated to reduce the Choctaw right-of-way to 100 feet, use the east-west alley between First and Second Streets, and buy 40 feet on either side from lot holders for about $20,000. A committee selected by the mayor and Board of Trade asked citizens and businesses to contribute the required funds. When the committee came up short, the city decided to raise the fees for saloon licenses and sell scrip backed up by the increase. The saloon keepers bought the scrip at a discount, effectively funding the rail line. The right of way was acquired and the first Choctaw train arrived on May 10, 1891.