Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

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In My Small Town World

I might have mentioned I absolutely love my small town. People who speak disparagingly about it will get a fight from me because, I LOVE OUR TOWN! It’s not perfect, but it’s darn close!

So I wondered who first established C-Town. Naturally, I turned to Wikipedia. Here’s what I found.

After the Cherokee Outlet opening, a homesteader by the name of Willis H. Herbert established a town named Herbert by opening a post office on the current townsite of Cleveland on October 28, 1893.

Most people from these parts know about the town of Herbert. And we’re all VERY glad they changed the name!

The Post Office department subsequently withdrew the approval of the Herbert post office. The post office was then moved 100 feet, and reestablished under the name C-Town, named in honor of then President Grover Cleveland on April 19, 1894.

By 1900, the town’s population was 211. Before the discovery of oil in the area, the town served as a trade center between the local farmers and the Osage Tribe who lived on the reservation was on the other side of the Arkansas river.

In 1904, a railroad line owned by the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (later known as Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway or Katy) from Oklahoma City reached Cleveland and crossed the Arkansas River into Osage County.

On May 27, 1904, the first oil well was spudded near the community, and it caused an influx of oil workers and other people. At the time of statehood in 1907, Cleveland had 1,441 residents.

I thought the next part was very interesting. It’s “Notable people from C-Town.”

  • David Bivin – author
  • Lincoln Ferguson – President of Beta Upsilon Chi
  • Tony Perkins – president of the Family Research Council and a former Republican member of the Louisiana House of Representatives graduated from Cleveland High School in 1981.
  • 1952 Heisman trophy winner Billy Vessels was born in Cleveland in 1931.

All the men mentioned are wonderful people, but there’s a couple of names missing, and I’m not sure how to get them added.

One is Gulf War hero, Craig Berryman.

This is from Fox 23:

 Gulf War POW Recalls Torture by Iraqis

Marine Maj. Craig Berryman can’t shake the memory  of his 37 days as an Iraqi prisoner of war.

The Cleveland, Okla., native says a day hasn’t  passed in the last 12 years that he hasn’t thought of how Iraqi soldiers  tortured, kicked and starved him in 1991.

Iraqi guards broke Berryman’s left leg, beat him  repeatedly and threatened him with shooting and mutilation. A lighted cigarette  was twisted into an open wound on his neck, and his requests for medical  attention were ignored.

He lost 25 pounds in 37 days and caught a case of  dysentery that lasted two years and is likely to cause him digestive tract  problems the rest of his life.


The other person I’d like to see listed there is U. S. Army Specialist Ashley Jones, who was seriously injured in Afghanistan. Her injuries included the amputation of one foot.

And of course, I’d like to see some people listed who we’ll never see there, because they kept their good deeds to themselves.

Such as the woman I heard about who took a family groceries, just when they were desperate.

And the man who won a drawing for several hundred dollars and passed the winnings along to a family in need.

And the folks who secretly gave Christmas Jars so someone else could have a happy Christmas.

If you have another moment, try googling Christmas Jars. You’ll find a link to Jason Wright’s website and probably a link to Amazon and B & N so you can buy the book. But you’ll also find stories about people who received Christmas Jars from someone who knew about living in a Small Town World.

Did you hear any Christmas Jar stories? If you did, could you share them with me? I’d love to learn more about C-Town’s history, too.

  • W-o-w!!! (


Land-Run Celebrations

I have several faded memories of parades in the Ford. Once I rode on the First Christian Church float (in a big wagon with all the other Sunday School kids, if I remember right) while my cousin rode her cute little kiddie car. (I wonder if her legs hurt from pedalling when it was over?) And another time I rode with my cousin, Randall, on his horse, Randy. Both parades were to celebrate The Rodeo! We loved those rodeos!

When my family moved to C-Town, there wasn’t a rodeo, so no rodeo parade. Instead, C-Town celebrated the opening of the Cherokee Outlet on September 16th of each year. (Or maybe it was the closest Saturday to that date.)

Over six millions acres had been up for grabs that day in 1893.

I’m sure there were people around when I was a kid who’d made the run, but I didn’t know any.

Doesn’t the land run look like it was exciting?

 We’ve all seen the movies, watched the experience through the TV screen. But imagine actually being there for that adrenalin rush. Whoa!

Photographer William S. Prettyman learned that the opening of the Cherokee Strip was going to be the biggest land run of all, so he built a tower at the edge of the run, put three cameras there with three photographers. He took the above picture himself, then ran to get in the race.

I read several accounts of people trying to sign up to be part of the run. Hot, dusty, discouraging days with water costing a nickel a drink and standing in line from can’t see to can’t see and still not getting a certificate to run must have been disheartening. And even when they’d signed up, they weren’t guaranteed to get land.

The people were strong hearted gamblers, for sure!

Back when I was a kid and we had a celebration, but we DIDN’T have a landrun. Not even a pretend one. (Maybe the memories were still too fresh.) Instead we had a parade.

This picture must have been taken at a parade before we moved to C-Town. I don’t remember them calling it Old Settlers Day, but I do remember the Otasco Store and drug store being there.

And I remember Bayouth’s being next door to Ben Franklin. 🙂

We had street dances to celebrate the opening, beard growing contests (for men only) and free (!) delicious (!!) barbecue sandwiches!!! (I remember standing in line for those. YUM! Wonder if they came from Dari Diner?)

Sometimes we had a pet and bicycle parade. I wanted to take our toy Manchester Terrier, Tiny, in the parade one year, but she wouldn’t walk on a leash. I didn’t think it would look very good to drag this little five-pound black dog for six blocks on the end of a chain, so I decided to carry her in a baby’s bath tub.

When I was in the garage finding the tub, I noticed a box of crocheted baby clothes someone had given Mom, so I dressed Tiny in a frilly little pink jacket and bonnet.

That stubborn little mongrel won Best Dressed Pet (could have been ONLY dressed pet) and I won a dollar!

For a while after Keystone Lake was built, C-Town stopped having Pioneer Day and started have Jolly Roger Day. After several years, though, we reverted to PD. A much better way to celebrate our heritage.

Besides, I got tired of walking around in an eye patch and saying, “Arrrrrr!” 😉