History of Mustang
(All content was created by the Mustang Historical Society)
Early History of Mustang
Mustang is a mirror of Sooner State history. A review of the passing century reveals a responsive government, prosperous farms and ranches dotting the landscape, and the capacity to thrive in an often fickle economy. Located in central Oklahoma, the community grows today at a boom-town pace.
In 2001 Mustang celebrated a milestone, its Centennial birthday. What follows are highlights of those 100 years, some more interesting than others, but all important in the context of achievement. And while the facts are presented under auspices of the Mustang Historical Society, no claim is made to origination. As is said, history is written by the survivors. Their effort to be accurate and fair is notable. Readers are welcome to let us know if we get it right...or not.
Location: Mustang, in the southeast corner of Canadian County, about 17 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. Both towns were established during Oklahoma’s first Land Run, a historic homestead stampede on April 22, 1889. Mustang was officially founded on Nov. 22, 1901. It is bordered by Frisco Road on the west, SW 59th on the north, County Line Road on the east, and SW 89th on the south. Today, it's population is approaching 20,000 people.
Prehistory: The Oklahoma Archeological Survey identifies about 70 prehistoric sites in Canadian County. Along the waterways, the Caddoan Wichita Indians lived in grass houses and thrived as sedentary farmers and hunter-gatherers. Although they did not live in the area, the Comanche and Kiowa often hunted here. For thousands of years the burly bison served as the Native Americans' walking grocery store.
Exploration: In 1803 present-day Oklahoma was included in the Louisiana Purchase. Explorers and traders soon traversed the area, curious about the land, wood, water and inhabitants. Among the early explorers of the Mustang area was American topographer Stephen Long in a trek along the Canadian River in 1820; merchant Thomas James on the North Canadian River in 1823; and trader Josiah Gregg carrying trade goods on the Canadian River to New Mexico in 1839. Several of the intrepid explorers mentioned difficulty penetrating central Oklahoma’s Cross Timbers, a formidable jungle barrier also know as the Forest of Cast Iron. Most of it is gone today.
Historic Trails: In 1865, plains merchant, Jesse Chisholm mapped a north-south route along Indian and animal trails from Texas to Kansas. In his footsteps the Chisholm Trail was used by Texas cattle herders from 1867 to 1884. While a Chisholm Trail historic marker is at SW 59th and Frisco Road in Mustang, old timers say cattle drives crisscrossed most of the township. Especially in periods of rough water on the Canadian River, cowboys drove their herds farther east to Pikey's Crossing. There they found solid footing on river gravel between Mustang and its southern neighbor Tuttle.
Settlement: The Oklahoma Land Run of 1889 established Mustang overnight, as it did most of central Oklahoma. On April 22, 1889, claimants filled every available tract in Mustang Township, all 142. Boomers promoted opening the Unassigned Lands as a promise land. Sooners crept in early and illegally, causing many disputes with those who waited for the starting gun. Many Mustang area immigrants came from Germany, Poland, and Czechoslovakia.
Ethnic base: East-central Europeans dominated the area's early settlement, especially in the southeast portion of the county. By the century's turn Mustang was in the heart of farmland largely populated by migrating Czechs. However, at least a dozen African American families homesteaded a settlement at what is now Sara Road and SH-152.
Size: Mustang is 12 miles square. Until rapid growth in recent years, the town population rose and fell with the fortune of times usually dictated by weather. Although early sentiment looked favorably on a larger urban footprint, hesitation to expand allowed the town to be engulfed by Oklahoma City.
Important founders: Arriving about 1893, Dr. Jonas B. Spitler was the town’s first doctor. Banker, railroad and land developer Charles G. Jones, an ex-mayor of Oklahoma City, filed the Musang township plat in 1901. In short order a prosperous pioneer farmer and entrepreneur, Fred Mohr, sold Jones a tract to start the business section. Mustang conceived: In 1901 farmer and entrepreneur Fred Mohr sold 60 acres along what is today Mustang Road to businessman Charles G. Jones. The stretch quickly developed into the Mustang business district. After Jones filed a township plat for Mustang, he spent two years developing a railroad stop and 28 businesses.
Railroad: Starting in 1901, the Oklahoma City and Western Railroad built a line passing through Mustang between Oklahoma City and Chickasha. A depot with regularly scheduled stops was soon errected at Mustang Road. The train ownership changed to the Saint Louis and San Francisco Railroad in 1907. Popularly known as the Frisco Railroad, the line carried as many as eight passenger trains and freights through Mustang every day. That lasted until 1952. Today the rail remains active as a freight line.
Post Office: Mustang derived its name from the post office. Postmistress Annie Maxwell opened doors on Feb. 4, 1895. The tow likely took its name from nearby Mustang Creek.
Early business: Developer Charles Jones opened Mustang State Bank on Feb. 1, 1902. His two-story building also housed the E.W. Shupe grocery, Rickett and Co. general merchandise, and the Dr. W.S. Nichol office and home. The Commercial Club got busy and soon the town sported the Commercial Hotel, J.H. Grigsby’s Lumberyard, grocery stores, a grain elevator, meat market, livery stable and stockyards
Early settlers: On the east side of Mustang, Morgan Road was named for George W. Morgan, an Illinois pioneer who staked 160 acres in the Run of ’89. The site of present day Wal-Mart near Sara Road and SH-152 was settled by Czech natives Matthew and Theresa Smrcka. Homesteader Thomas Addington was a delegate to the Republican Territorial Convention in 1900, later served as a county commissioner, and ran and lost a close race for the Territorial Legislature. Karl Hermann, born in Prussia, bought a farm and in 1909 errected the largest barn in Oklahoma. Today the area comprises Wild Horse Park. For his family, Scotsman James Grant built a one-room rock house; his bride, Margaret, a midwife was commandeered south of the Canadian River to deliver a babby for a fugitive's wife. Granville Rector, a former Arkansas county judge, senator and state representative, bought a farm on Mustang Road, opened a grocery store in 1910, and became a Canadian County Commissioner in 1914.
Agriculture: So bountiful was early day Mustang that is was variously called “A Garden of Eden” and “Down in Egypt.” The weekly Oklahoma Farmer newspaper described it as one of the most prosperous regions in Oklahoma. People grew an abundance of wheat, oats, corn, peaches, sweet potatoes, cantaloupes, apples, pears, grapes, blackberries, cherries and plums. Watermelons were shipped by the trainload. The Farmer Farmer bragged in 1904 that Mustang peaches were selling for $3 each in Liverpool, England.
Education: Mustang established its schools in July 1902. Miss Etta Fisher was the first teacher, a salaried position paying $40 per month. In her first year she taught 45 students. Within two years a ninth grade was added with courses in Latin, algebra, geography, English and classical literature.
Churches: Westminster Presbyterian Church of Pleasant Hill was Mustang’s first congregation. It graciously shared its building with the Methodist Episcopal Church until Methodists erected their own building in 1903.
Sports: Just a year after Mustang’s founding, baseball players and fans were agitating for a town baseball team. Small communities and large families called on their sons. Soon on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, games were played against teams from Wheatland, Union City and Yukon. Baseball became the first organized sport in Mustang.
Early day social life: After the town founding, the Commercial Club, farm groups, churches, schools and residents entertained themselves with picnics, socials, fishing parties and dances. B.J. Shewey organized the first concert band, a source of many pleasurable performances.
Devastating Fire: With little beyond water buckets and tubs to help with, pioneers lived in constant threat of fire. In 1906, train sparks ignited grass on the tracks beside the Mohr farm at SW 89 and Mustang Road. Flames fanned by high winds swept northwest as far as Council Road, consumed over 3,000 peach and apple trees, five barns, farm implements, 1,500 bushels of corn, and much hay. It was a black day for Mustang's farm economy.
Weather: Several destructive tornados have torn through Mustang, earning it the dubious distinction of being the buckle on the tornado belt,” Churches and homes were destroyed by a 1927 twister. Crops, livestock and farm buildings were lost in to a tornado in 1937. A tornado damaged homes, businesses and the high school roof in 1956. City Hall and a nearby shopping center, an elementary school and several houses took the brunt of a 1970 tornado.
The Great Depression: Starting in the 1920s, hard times took a toll in Mustang. After World War I or "the Great War", commodity prices fell. Even though jobs and cash were hard to come by, Mustang farmers fared better than most urban dwellers. While you might not be able to find a buyer for corn and potatoes, but you could trade with your neighbor for apples, beef and other edibles. More people were working and fewer people on relief in Canadian County, on average, than in four-fifths of Oklahoma's counties.
The Dust Bowl: More calamity followed Armeric'a stock market crash of 1929. The weather turned dry, crops failed, the money supply dried up, and in Mustang the good life was gone. Many people borrowed, worked and prayed for their farms in the face of relentless drought and fierce windstorms. The deep topsoil that once made Mustang a Garden ofo Eden blew away. It is said storms sent dust out of Oklahoma as far southeast as the Atlantic Ocean.
World War I: When Congress declared war on Germany in 1917,many American men desperate for jobs joined the military as draftees and volunteers. At least three from the Mustang community were listed as war casualties in Europe: Pfc. Carl Thomas Medford, Sgt. Elmer New, and Pfc. Robert J. Smith. New and Smith were buried in the Mustang Cemetery, Medford in Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia.
After World War I: Soldiers and civilians found work at the Federal Aviation Aeronautical Center in west Oklahoma City and Tinker Air Force Base in far east Oklahoma City. Penal Corrections, another area of significant employment, expanded at the El Reno Federal Prison. Yet Mustang Public Schools became the largest employer in Canadian County. Big factors in post-war growth were good schools, friendly banks and builders, and space to grow. Now Mustang shares enviable status with Tuttle, Blanchard and Piedmont among Oklahoma's fastest growing communities.
City government: A Board of Trustees governed Mustang the city incorporated. The late Ross Duckett, considered the father of modern Mustang, led the effort. Elected to the town Trustees in 1965, Duckett pushed for incorporation. The State of Oklahoma recognized the town's legal status on Oct. 17, 1969. At that time, bout 65 Mustang residents gathered into the Oklahoma Capitol’s Blue Room to witness Gov. Dewey Bartlett signing the Mustang city charter. Duckett went on to serve 16 years in the Oklahoma House of Representatives.
Kendall Cross, a Mustang High School wrestler and three-time All American at Oklahoma State University, won the gold medal at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta, Ga.
Mustang native Shane Hamman, sometimes called the strongest man in America, is a two-time Olympic weightlifter who holds several world and American records, including lifting 1,008 pounds in a standing squat, a feat yet unmatched in any weightlifting competition.
Mustang High School graduate Dennis Byrd, a former defensive end and tackle for the New York Jets, is co-author of an inspirational autobiographical work and TV film titled “Rise and Walk.”
Dan Bailey grew up in Mustang, where he was an All-State and All-Conference kicker, became an American football placekicker for the Dallas Cowboys.
Colorado attorney Dan Slater followed high school in Mustang with graduation at the University of Oklahoma and a law degree at American University. In 2005 he was elected Vice Chairman of the Colorado Democratic Party and a superdelegate to the 2008 Democratic National Convention.