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The ghost town of Skedee, Oklahoma

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Published on Jul 27, 2012

Skedee was one of many communities that sprang up after the 1893 land run. Originally called Lemert, the name was changed when a post office was established in 1902, as the name Lemert was too similar to another town. The name Skedee was taken from Skidi band of the Pawnee tribe.

As with most of the early communities, it's economy was based on agriculture. Competition for survival of these communities was fierce, and Skedee had the fortune of a viable water supply in nearby Crystal creek, which was key for the steam locomotives of the era, so the railroad was routed through the town. Many residents and businesses in nearby communities relocated to Skedee, which caused a mini boom with the arrival of the railroad. The other communities around it dwindled, reverting to scattered farmsteads.

The town was never larger than about 300 residents, but supported several hundred farmers and ranchers in the surrounding area and boasted a fairly large railroad yard for its size. The locomotive shown at 0:44 was the largest in the world at the time. The photo was taken on it's inaugural run to Iowa when it stopped in Skedee.

In addition to the typical businesses, it had a large cotton gin, which operated up until the 1950's. It's first school was a wooden structure built in 1906, but was replaced by a large brick building in 1916.

The 1920's were good for Skedee, it was an agricultural boom time, and the oil boom was in full swing. Though Skedee wasn't located in the oil rich areas, it did benefit indirectly, primarily through money spent by the Osage tribe, who received vast wealth from the oil boom. This growth resulted in building a stand alone high school in 1924, with the original reverting to a grade school.

Skedee was home to Colonel E. Walters, self billed as the best auctioneer in the world. He did have reason for his boasting and though he auctioned everything from hogs to towns sites, his primary fame came from oil lease auctions during the oil . Most notably, oil leases sold for the Osage tribe under the Million Dollar Elm in Pawhuska, Oklahoma, netting record sales and revenue for the tribe. His home in Skedee still stands.

Colonel E. Walters (his actual first name) erected a statue in the center of the town square in 1926 depicting himself and Osage Indian Chief Baconrind shaking hands. The statue was lambasted in the local papers of the time, partially because it was considered self promoting, but primarily because it was considered hideous.

The "square" around the statue is large, even by modern standards. This was necessary due to the popularity of the Pierce Arrow automobile, which the wealthy Osage Indians bought in large numbers. The extra space was needed to turn these rather large cars. At the time, Skedee was home to the largest concentration of Pierce Arrows in the country.

Skedee's decline was typical of many small towns of the era. The economics of the great depression, dust bowl, and farm consolidations started a steady downward spiral. The bank failed in 1931, and the town struggled on through the 1950s, but shrinking populations and new road projects which bypassed the town hastened the process. The cotton gin closed in the late1950s, followed by the post office on August 2nd, 1963 and finally the school in 1967, consolidating with the nearby towns of Ralston and Pawnee.

Crumbling buildings, abandoned houses, and the lonely statue are all that remain of Skedee. In the end, the statue has had the last laugh. The people and newspapers who mocked it are long gone, yet the statue remains, silently standing vigil.

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