Early Chelsea History
Chelsea lies in northeastern Rogers County with both historic U.S. Route 66 and the old St. Louis-San Francisco Railway line running through it. The town would later be founded on land in Arkansas Territory, about 10 miles northeast of the Osage village of Pasuga. In 1817, Cherokee warriors accompanied by white settlers carried out an attack here against the Osage in revenge for attacking their homesteads in what is now western Arkansas. The Cherokee victory and death of over 100 Osage including their leader, Chief Claremont, caused the Osage to vacate this area westward leaving behind the rich land basin formed between the Grand and Verdigris rivers. The Cherokee began filling the void left by the Osage. Game and good bottom land for crops and grazing domestic animals were abundant in the area for this agricultural based people.
The discovery of gold in the 1830’s lead President Jackson to remove the remaining Cherokee from lands east of the Mississippi against their will. Their removal and trek to western Arkansas Territory under the 1835 Treaty of New Echota became known as the Trail of Tears.
The alignment of some Cherokee during the Civil War with the Confederacy caused the rights provided them under the Treaty of 1835 to be forfeited including a significant loss of land and property. The passing of the Cherokee Reconstruction Treaty of 1866 acted to punish the Cherokee for their support of the Confederacy.
The Cherokee Nation reorganized in 1867. The future site of Chelsea would be located in the White Springs precinct of Cooweescoowee District where local area residents gathered to vote at the big spring on a ranch later owned and operated by Mrs. Ann Simpson, widow of the late George Simpson.
The Treaty of 1866 forced the Cherokee to cede land and rights to the railroad lines. Concurrent with this Treaty Congress enacted a law incorporating the Atlantic and Pacific Railroad and providing them land grants along its route through the Cherokee Nation. After the Atlantic and Pacific railway went bankrupt, its owners incorporated the St. Louis-San Francisco Railway from a lease on the line running from Seneca, Missouri to Vinita. An extension of 64 miles beyond Vinita through Chelsea to Tulsey (later Tulsa) was granted the Railroad in 1882.
Some of the old timers tell of a time in 1881, that an official of the railroad by the name of Charles Peach visited the area while surveying the rail route. It was said he named the site nineteen miles southwest of Vinita for his native hometown of Chelsea, England. Proceeding another nineteen miles along the rail line to the southwest now lies the town of Claremore, renamed in English from the original French name of Claremont. The name changed when the Cooweescoowee District Court House was moved to along the rail line. Later, at statehood Claremore, became the county seat.
Chelsea’s first flour mill began operating with the opening of the rail line. A Federal post office was established on November 21, 1882, with James L. Bumgarner appointed as Chelsea’s first postmaster. In 1889, about 5 miles southwest of Chelsea, the United States Oil and Gas Company drilled the first oil well in Indian Territory and coal mining became big business in the area shortly thereafter. The first bank in Indian Territory, the Band of Chelsea, was established under the laws of Arkansas Territory in 1896.
Native American Heritage
Early Chelsea History