History of El Reno

History of El Reno

Attributing research and compilation too: Carolyn Marquardt Barker (1939 – 2018)

            El Reno had a controversial beginning.  This town began in 1889 and was not legally straightened out until 1892.

            John Foreman located cattle trails for railroads and assisted in running a line from Kansas to El Reno in the 1880s.  in the 1889 land run he homesteaded NW1/4 9 – 12 – 7.  Foreman filed a soldier’s declaratory statement on it.  He also signed a homestead affidavit stating that the entry was “for the purpose of actual settlement for his own benefit and not for other people.”

            On May 13, two days after filing his homestead, Foreman took a four-day trip.  Upon his return he found a group of men surveying and laying out a town.  They advised him to lease a portion of his homestead to the townsite company.  On May 19, he leased 120 acres to the Oklahoma Homestead and Town Company, whole 40 acres were kept for his own to cultivate.

            This company was chartered February 26, 1889 as a private corporation.  Some of the objects of the company were to purchase land, lay out townsites, buy and sell lots, rent buildings, etc.

            After securing the lease the company platted the town.  A charter was adopted on the townsite on May 22nd.  It read: “It was unanimously resolved, that, whereas, there are no means whereby the inhabitants of El Reno can legally enter lands under the laws of the United States, and whereas, in all lands attempted to be occupied as government townsites, there is great strife and uncertainty in regard to titles and the possession of lots, it is expedient that the people of the town of El Reno, adopt the system proposed by the Oklahoma Homestead and Town Company, and take leases for the lots with an agreement for the deeds as soon as the settlers get final receipt or the government provides a law under which the occupants can secure title.”

            Apparently, Foreman and the townsite company were in harmony, as he made more than one trip to Washington to secure appropriate townsite legislation and to enter his homestead for townsite purposes.

            The Territorial Act of May 2, 1890 made provisions for the incorporations of towns.  So, on June 11th a petition was submitted to the county commissioners.  They ordered the 120-acre tract of Foreman and the adjoining 80 acres of Thomas Jensen be incorporated as the “Village of El Reno.”  A. A. Farnham, E. E. Elterman, A. F. Masterman, M. M. Kerfoot and H. T. Graham were appointed as trustees of the village.

            Anson A. Davis, a homesteader near Frisco, charged Foreman was a “sooner” and worked for the townsite company.  The Commissioner of the General Land Office ruled in favor of Foreman.  Davis then appealed the decision to the Secretary of the Interior.  The matter was also taken to the U. S. Congress.

            The town lot holders urged congress to pass a bill for the relief of the inhabitants of El Reno, so they could get clear title to their lots.  On February 6, 1892 John W. Noble, Secretary of the Interior handed down this decision.  He directed that the homestead and cash entries made by Foreman, be cancelled and the land be entered under the townsite law.


            About noon the same day an El Reno citizen received a private message about Mr. Noble’s decision.  The Foreman land was opened for public settlement.  About 9:00 p.m. lot jumpers moved on the land and in about an hour almost every lot was occupied.

            It was reported the sound of hammers were heard all night long.  The next morning shingles, pieces of foundations, dugouts and skeleton frames had been put on these lots.

            On February 15, 1892 several El Reno citizens presented a petition to the U. S. Congress, asking that the land be entered under the townsite law.

            Adjoining homestead entries of Thomas Jensen and James Thompson were cancelled on November 26, 1892.  John Foreman relinquished to the U. S. Government all his right, title and interest in the tract of land he had claimed as a homestead on August 1, 1893.  Thus, the first clear title was secured by the city of El Reno in 1893.


            The promoters of the town, which included several officers from Fort Reno, wanted to name their town after the fort.  So, they decided on the name Reno.  But the post office department refused to establish a post office with that name.  It claimed there would be too much confusion with Fort Reno, Reno City and Reno all within a few miles of each other.

            The town promoters and the Fort Reno officers met several times to choose a new name.  In July 1889 William C. McDonald, R. R. Hickox and Dr. A. H. Jackson were in a wagon on their way to Fort Reno to again discuss a new town name.  when they reached Target Creek, near Fort Reno, the driver, Mr. McDonald, suddenly exclaimed he had a name! “El Reno!”  He explained that “el” in Spanish meant “the.”  He felt sure the post office department would accept that name.  Which it did.

            At first it was spelled as one word.  Elreno.  However, when Reno City faded from existence, the name became the two words “El Reno” as we know it today.


            El Reno’s early history was unique in another way.  It had a part in three different land openings.

            The east part of the town was established in the 1889 land run.  Grand street was on the edge of the 98th Meridian, which was the west boundary of this land run.

            Many people came to El Reno to make the run into the Cheyenne and Arapahoe lands in April 1892.  This opened the land which became the western part of El Reno.

            The 1901 land drawing was held in El Reno.  That summer the town was host to thousands of hopeful people wanting land.   


            The FIRST BANK was established in 1889 by S. W. Sawyer and called the Bank of El Reno.  THE FIRST BRICK BUILDING was the two-story city hall owned by Jake Schweitzer.  THE FIRST HOTEL was the Hotel Del Monte with W. H. Tusten as proprietor.  It was later renamed the Anstine.  The FIRST GENERAL MERCHANDISE STORE was the Eltermen and Company, located at 105 So. Bickford.

            The FIRST DRUG STORE was operated by Dr. J. M. Patterson at 106 So. Bickford.  The FIRST PHYSICIANS were Dr. J. O. Sandercook and Dr. A. H. Jackson.

            The FIRST MEN’S CLOTHING STORE was J. G. Bierwalter and Company.  It was owned by Joseph Wierwalter and William Esser and located about 205 So. Wade. (need to research further to update address??? tjn 06182019)  The FIRST BAKERY was in a dugout about 507 So. Choctaw and run by William Emms.  The Price’s Market was the FIRST MEAT MARKET and was located about 109 W. Woodson.

            The FIRST ARCHITECT was W. H. Riley.  The FIRST LIQUOR DEALER was Jake Schweitzer.  The FIRST ATTORNEY was William R. Kirkpatrick.  The FIRST BLACKSMITH was Tom Dowell.

            The FIRST DEPARTMENT STORE was Kelso’s owned by James E. Kelso about 109 No. Bickford in a frame building 20 by 60 feet.  The FIRST HARDWARE STORE was operated by J. W. Hughes on the corner of Bickford and Hayes.  The FIRST LIVERY was owned by C. W. Beers, named Bon Ton Livery on No. Barker.  The FIRST BUS AND TRANSFER was located at 101 So. Barker and owned by Felix Willan.

In 1889 El Reno had an opera house.  It had board sides with a canvas roof.  It was used for almost any kind of gathering, such as school, church and political convention.  Most of the seats were boards laid across empty beet kegs to form benches.  Most of the contents had been consumed by the public.

            Tom Jensen had El Reno’s FIRST MILK ROUTE.  He served his patrons from a milk can tied onto his saddle horn.  The FIRST CHILD BORN in El Reno was El Reno Clayton, daughter of W. G. and Lucy Clayton.  She was born in March 1890.  The FIRST BOY born in El Reno was J. Gilbert Tompkins, son of James G. and Lillie Tompkins.  He was born later in the same year.

            The FIRST TINSMITH was A. F. Newell.  In 1891 he used ox teams to transport the first post office building from Reno City to 116 So. Rock Island and used it for his business.  The FIRST WHOLESALE GROCERY was the Greathouse Wholesale Grocery Company in 200 block of So. Rock Island.  The FIRST JEWELER AND WATCHMAKER was Ben Wurm.  The FIRST MILL was the El Reno Mill and Elevator Company with Ed Humphrey as proprietor.


            El Reno was known as the “Newspaper Graveyard of the Southwest.”  Many were started and only a few continued for any length of time.

            Reno Herald was the first paper in El Reno.  It started June 1889.  At different times it was known as the El Reno Herald and the Oklahoma Herald.  The old Washington Hand Press that the “Boomers” used, and thought ruined by a group of cattlemen, who opposed Payne and the settlement of the territory, was repaired and used in the El Reno Herald office.

            The El Reno News began as an 8-page weekly on April 9, 1896.  It was sold on July 4, 1901 to the American Publishing Company and call the American News.  The El Reno Daily American started on the same day.  It changed ownership and was changed from daily to weekly and back again many times.  Finally, on December 24, 1910, the El Reno American became a weekly paper printed on Thursdays.  In August 1958 Merle Woods, owner, leased the American to the El Reno Tribune, while he kept the press for commercial printing.  The “Americanism” column was written by Mr. Woods until his death.  When the lease expired in July 1988, the American Newspaper was discontinued.

            The Courier was moved to El Reno from Frisco about 1890.  It was sold in November 1893 and was consolidated with the Democrat.

            The Eagle started in Reno City and was moved to El Reno.  On November 22, 1894 it absorbed the El Reno Daily News.  Early in 1900 the man who held a mortgage on the equipment took over the plant.

            The Globe started in 1892 and was the first daily on the west side of town.  The Globe absorbed the Supper Bell and was renamed the Globe-Bell.  On December 8, 1905 it was consolidated with the Democrat.

            The Industrial Headlight was a populist paper started in 1894 by J. C. Towsley.  He wanted to run for congress but changed his plans and withdrew.  The paper failed in 1897.

            The People’s Press started in December 1910 as a free daily paper.  In January 1894 the Republican began.  It changed hands several times.  The paper ended with the January 13, 1899 edition.

            Supper Bell was started as a two-column sheet to advertise the owner’s job office.  It was enlarged until it became a six-column, eight-page paper.  It was published everyday for five years and was placed free in every home in El Reno.  A weekly edition of 5,000 copies were mailed to Washita, Blaine, Custer and Canadian Counties.  An extra published in the morning was the Dinner Bell, on Sundays it was the Church Bell and the School Bell pertained to school affairs.  On February 12, 1903 the paper was consolidated with the Globe.

            The El Reno Republic began as a daily and later became a weekly.  The Cyclone was started by a preacher to fight a news editor on another paper.  The Daily Visitor was a free daily started in 1893 or 1894.  It was abandoned when the Supper Bell began.

            The El Reno Minstrel came from Minco on June 2, 1893 and a few weeks later moved back to Minco.  The Saturday Advertiser was a free weekly paper published for 4 or 5 months in 1905.

            The Der Courier, A German newspaper, started on December 23, 1893.  Volksbatt was another German language newspaper published between 1898 and 1910.  The Staatz Zeitung began about 1898.

            Other newspapers printed in El Reno were the Free Press, The Gazette, New Era, Times and the Tribune.

            The El Reno Daily Democrat and the People’s Press were bought in September 1930.  A new daily newspaper The El Reno Daily Tribune was started.  It is the only paper still being published in El Reno.