Centralia, OK

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City/Town: Centralia
Location Class: Disappearing Town
Year Built: 1899
Year Abandoned: N/A
Status: AbandonedDisappearing Town
Photojournalist: Johnny Fletcher

J.H. Hargrove is said to have been the father of Centralia. In 1898 he first ascended Blue Mound, made a survey, then located the town on prairie land with the only elevations in the region, Blue Mound, Potato Hill, Leforce, and Notch Mounds surrounding the town. Hargrove lived about one half mile northwest of the town site. He was from Missouri and was believed to have named the town after Centralia, Missouri.

Hargrove started a post office at the new town site. Sam Bradfield and his son-in-law, Adam Holden, came from Bluejacket the same year and built a livery barn. Mont McGee came from Edna, Kansas, and started a grocery store, while the Mowry Hardware was started by another Edna man and managed by Bob Allen. A little later Henry Hyman opened a grocery store and Joe Lehman started a grocery, as did Messrs. Shinn and Rogers.

The first house built in town was a block north of the park, and Adam Holden’s house was built across the street in 1899.

The old Coffeyville, Kansas, to Vinita road was located about two miles northeast of Centralia. That road angled southeast across the flat prairie land. Plans called for a railroad to be built from Vinita to Centralia to Coffeyville, to be called the “Vinita and Western”. It was staked out and part of the grade built about nine miles northwest of Vinita as far as Woodley. 1906 and 1907 maps showed the line which was never completed.

The town’s height of prosperity was 1907-1915. By the latter year, it had grown in size to 750 people. There were two banks: the Farmers & Merchants headed by Frank Conkright, and the First State Bank which had originally been organized by the T.R. Montgomery family as a national bank. People who were associated with the banks in Centralia other than the above mentioned included Fred Hartley who went to a Grove bank, Bill Reynolds who later was an officer in the Vinita First National Bank, Howard Nix who was president of Vinita Production Credit Association for many years, Caney Spence who later became a Craig County official. By 1930, both Centralia banks had closed.




Over a period of prosperous years, businesses in Centralia included grocery stores operated by Henry Hyman, Joe Lehman, George B. Parks, J.F. McCoy, Everett Christian, and J.F. Clawson. There were Ben Pennington’s and Comstock’s Groceries across the street south of the park and Mrs. May’s grocery west of the park. Livery stables were operated by Sam Bradfield, Adam Holden, J.H. Hargrove, and Frank Nix. Blacksmiths included John Mowry, Mr. Haskett, and Mr. Jackson. Other businesses during the prosperous years included John Rich’s General Machine and Wagon Work, C.E. Vanbibber well driller, White’s Hardware and Undertaking, Day’s Variety Store, Tolliver’s Dry Goods, Johnston’s Millinery and General Store, and Dry Goods, Noah Harrison’s Dry Goods, C.W. Miller’s General Store. A newspaper, the Centralia Standard was established in 1902 by T.F. McCain and continued publication for several years. People who stopped overnight or for meals had the facilities of O.H. Johnson’s Hotel, Carpenter’s Hotel, and Hyman’s Hotel. “Mall Daniel had a boarding house which was a popular eating place in the 1920s”.

Early settlers were always concerned about having a good water supply. There was a well in the Centralia town square which continued to be used for many years to water stock in a trough. In 1912, it is told that Les White switched” a well in a street northeast of the center of the town which became known as the “town well”. A pump was put on it and later an engine to pump the water. It was used by all of the towns people. John Mowry had a motor at his blacksmith shop which ran an electric light plant providing power for home lights and streets. It was owned by the town and operated by Mowry.

The business district was built around a square; the only such one in Craig County. The central park contained a court house and there was a jail house behind it. Mr. Bowsman was the town marshal. The community had a library for the residents.

The town sponsored annual fall festivals which included a carnival with a merry-go-round priced at five cents a ride. The fair was held in the town square, and there was a large display of buggies and other vehicles. Luanna Mabery Monroe told that the fair festivities included horse races “in the middle of Centralia’s street”.

The first school building was a four-room frame structure in the north section of town. Early teachers included Mrs. Grace Anderson and Miss Clara Haggerman. In 1910, a four-room brick building was constructed in the southeast part of town and the early frame school was torn down. Tom W. Smith was Centralia superintendent at the time. He later became Craig County Superintendent of Schools.

The schools in those early days were heated with large coal-burning pot-bellied stoves for which the teacher was responsible. The youngsters brought half-gallon syrup buckets filled with lunches of ham, homemade light bread or biscuits left from breakfast, some-times baked sweet potatoes and fruit. They either walked to school, sometimes for miles, or some came by horseback or buggy and stabled the horses for the day at the livery barn.

In 1925 after consolidation of several outlying districts, the four-room brick school was remodeled into a ten-room building with a large gymnasium. While the new school was being constructed, classes were held in houses, churches, and in the lodge hall over the First State Bank. It was largely through the efforts of J.W. McCollum, superintendent, that consolidation was accomplished. The Centralia schools closed in 1968-69 when the district was annexed by Bluejacket and White Oak.

A fire January 11, 1907 destroyed much of the business district, including the two-story hotel run by Mrs. Ollie Carpenter. The volunteer fire department was unsuccessful in saving it. One-third of the business district of Centralia was destroyed by fire on July 22, 1917. The buildings were frame except for the two-story brick bank, and the southwest corner of the business district on the square was demolished by the blaze.

The church was the center of community social life. For some years, the congregations shared a building which the Methodists owned. By 1915, the Church of Christ, Missionary Baptist, and Primitive Baptists had their own buildings. There was also a Holiness Congregation. Members of the Primitive Baptist Church included the O.E. Odells, Charlie Christians, and the Chaney families. The Methodist congregation included the Montgomery’s: T.R., T.C. Howard and Jack, the Andy Martins, Jim Armors, Judge F.L. Haymes. The Church of Christ members included the George B. Parks, James 0. Nix, and, Legg families.

Mrs. Lizzie (Gleason) Oskison recalled that two of the first automobiles in Craig County were owned in 1910 by Centralia men: Richard Oskison, her brother-in-law, and T.C. Montgomery. “They about scared the horses to death coming down the road. The cars didn’t have doors.” There was a Camp Fire Girls organization in the town in the 1920s, with Miss Mary Bragg, teacher, as the leader. Girls included Margarite and Ruby Lee Parks, Jewell Carlock, Bernice and Opal Webb, and Leona Chaney.

The fires in downtown Centralia, the 1929 depression and the resulting closing of the banks in the town, the abandonment of the promised railroad spur from Vinita to Coffeyville which was planned to go to Centralia, and the re-routing of the Ozark Trail all contributed to the demise of Centralia.
A photograph of the Centralia City Council taken between 1897 and 1904. James Washington Lafayette Blair is in the picture, and he lived in Centralia during that period. According to a later newspaper he was city clerk and postmaster while at Centralia. Others in the photo are: J.H. Van Ausdal, Rob Allen, Les White, W.E. Ware, W.W. Clapper, and Henry Heiman. However, the photo does not identify who goes with which name.

There were 43 residents in the 1980 census, as of 2010 those numbers have dwindled quite considerably to about 7 or 8 homesteads & the only original buildings left are the ones featured in the gallery.

Liked it? Help AOK take action to save some of these places on Patreon! Donations will help fund clean ups, securing of buildings and hopeful restorations as we work with the owners who want to bring them back to life.
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sarah gurley
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sarah gurley

Trying to find obituary of JW white who owned a hardware and funeral home.

Heidi Hacker
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Heidi Hacker

Hello there…okay…so in doing my family history…have found out…that my great grandfather was and his brothers were born in Centralia!! My grandfather Leslie Arthur Griffeth was born in 1892 and his brother Lewis in 1889 and he also had a brother Ross…Their fathers' name was/is Arthur Preston Griffeth who was married to Lucy C. Dobelbower…do you by any chance have any information or stories…or hell family that is still there?

Mary Shelton
Guest
Mary Shelton

Our father, Jesse Emerson Rice Shelton, was born in Centralia in September 1907. His parents, Harvey W.C. Shelton and Mary Anne Elizabeth Duncan (Mae) Shelton, taught at the Cherokee Female Seminary. In the summer of 1968, the family drove around for hours looking for Centralia and gave up without finding it. I have a strong memory of standing on the side of the highway, watching my father walk around in the brush, asking my mother how much longer we'd have to wait. At the time, we were all just hot (no car air conditioning) and exhausted, but since then that… Read more »

Bree
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Bree

I have been reading the abstracts of the property I own here in Centralia, OK and it is awesome what you find out.

joe foreman
Guest
joe foreman

i just found this on internet sure lookes good to me i was born in centralia in 1931 `brings back a lot

Charles
Guest
Charles

My great grand parents by the last name Straw had a small farm there long ago. My grandfather died and was buried there,Later my grandmother had him dug up and reburied in Pratt Kansas, when she moved back there.

Amanda
Guest
Amanda

I am working on my family genealogy and see that my great grandfather, Samuel S. Cox lived in Centralia, OK in the 1920 census and died there in 1933. Any information is appreciated.
AmandaRHall@yahoo.com

Mike White
Guest
Mike White

My mother was born in Centralia 1920, and graduated from high school there, class of 1935, there were a wopping '8' in her graduating class picture, I can only identify her from the group. They were the Wagnon Family, of Marshall J Wagnon, and Elizabeth [Osborn] Wagnon, many buried in the Centralia Cemetery, with the parents. Marshall was Cherokee, their history in the territory began in 1817. I have visited Centralia once, in late 1990's, I had family living in the Vinita area, and was able to get a cousin to take me on a tour of Centralia. My mother… Read more »

Rozanne Churchill
Guest
Rozanne Churchill

I am researching Jess Carman Shaver who taught English in the Centralia High School in 1935. He was a recent graduate of Northeastern State College (1934) so this was one of his first teaching jobs. I was surprised when I read your post that 1n 1935 the graduating class was only 8. If your mother is living, it would be so interesting to find out if she remembers her English teacher. Jess went on to earn a EdE from OU and become a college professor, lastly at Cal. State University, Long Beach, CA. I would love to have a picture… Read more »

Bobby L Wagnon
Guest
Bobby L Wagnon

Hi
My Dad was Richard Howard Wagnon. He is a son of Marshall and Elizabeth. He is buried in the Centralia Cemetery. (1908-1957). He had a sister named Mary that married a White I think. They lived in N California.. Mrs. Watson was the principal when my dad graduated. She later was my eighth grade teacher in Vinita.

Laura Davenport
Guest
Laura Davenport

What is your mom’s name?

Brad
Guest
Brad

Hi,

I was wondering if it would be possible to tell me if there would be anyone who would be willing to let me come up and use a metal detector to hunt for coins and relics etc around some of the buildings that remain. I have been doing this hobby for several years now and have always wanted to come up to Centralia as I find it an interesting town. Thank you in advance.

Brad

Debbie
Guest
Debbie

Brad ,my dads mother was from centralia she had property there my dad was 3 when they left we still family that has land there in town his last name is Chaney

Kim
Guest
Kim

I believe I am a decendent of J.H. Hargrove….My fathers family is from the south he was named Jeremiah Hargrove and my initials are K.A. Hargrove

Jessi
Guest
Jessi

My great grandmother, Marie Miller, was a school cook for many years in Centralia. My great grandfather, Otis Miller, drove the school bus. My grandmother, Inez Miller, tells us of her many stories of Centralia basketball and how good they were. I have few memories of Centralia, but I have a story that my father wrote on his experiences there visiting every Sunday for family dinners and the many times he stayed there with his grandparents. I hold his stories very dear to me and the town has built many great people. I enjoyed reading this site. I wish I… Read more »

guest
Guest
guest

otis miller was a bus driver and was a driver for bluejacket schools.
his wife marie was a cook but also for bluejacket not centralia
however they both lived in centralia. they lived on the far south side of town in a 2 story houes. it may no longer be standing.

i hope this info helps you in some way.

caleb
Guest
caleb

They were my great grandparents, both have passed away in the past 10 years.

Jessi
Guest
Jessi

I knew that they both worked for Bluejacket schools but I thought that they started out in centralia schools. If I remember correctly. I would have to ask my dad. Do you know of a site where I can find old photos of the town other then what is posted up here. I want to see photos of the town when it was populated. I have gone there in the past couple years and taken lots of pictures of both Centralia as well as Big Creek. The house that my grandparents occupied is no longer standing. I remember visiting that… Read more »

Beverly (Fair) Galyean
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Beverly (Fair) Galyean

I’ve just come upon this site. My name is Beverly (Fair) Galyean. My dad, Alfred Fair (and all of his siblings, 13 children in all) were born and raised there. My dad remained living there after all other Fair families left. I went Centralia Elementary school for 8 years and to Bluejacket for high school. Otis Miller was my bus driver and Marie Miller fed me lunch for all 12 years of schooling, both Centralia and Bluejacket. I’ve ne ER known better people in my life and remember them fondly. So ye, Marie Miller worked in the Centralia school cafeteria… Read more »

Barbara Lou
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Barbara Lou

Hi, my cousin Donna was married to Charles Miller. Charlie was a great story teller, too. I wish I had recorded the family when they all got together because they loved to talk about Centralia. It was like they were on one big happy family there.

Christy
Guest
Christy

I am Christy Miller Best my grandparents were Johnnie and Yvonne Miller. Charles and Donna were very special to us Chetopa nieces. From the stories the family had a great time together!

Christy
Guest
Christy

I am Christy, my grandparents were Johnnie and Yvonne Miller. I enjoyed reading your post and the article. Otis and Marie were very special to all of us Chetopa nieces and nephews! Amy and I spent a lot of time at Omer and Sam's! We were lucky to come from such a neat and very close family!

Christy
Guest
Christy

I am Christy Miller Best my grandparents were Johnnie and Yvonne Miller. Charles and Donna were very special to us Chetopa nieces. From the stories the family had a great time together!

Tony Cordray
Guest
Tony Cordray

Marie was my cook with Mrs Odell and Otis was my bus driver during my first 4 years of grade school at Centralia. I can close my eyes and smell those fresh baked homemade rolls that they made daily. Mr Otis was not blessed with much hair during those days and I can remember attaching a piece of straw to a large horse fly and turning it loose in the back of the bus. The fly soon got to Mr Otis bald spot and began to tickle his head making him swat at the horsefly until he had to stop… Read more »

Jane Deason
Guest
Jane Deason

Otis was my bus driver when I was I. The first and second grade…one time big creek was out of its banks and the bus flooded….he carried each and every one off the bus and thru the water to safety………contact Louis Debo if you want to know anything about centralia…….he is my uncle and has lived in the same place for over 60 years…..he graduated from centralis when they still had a highschool and is a wealth of information about the area….

Cynthia Miller
Guest

I'm Cynthia Miller and Johnnie Miller was my grandfather. I miss him and all his siblings so much and I still enjoy driving around Centralia on occasion to reminisce.

Matt
Guest
Matt

Does anyone know who owns the abonded buildings? I am looking for a place to do a photoshoot for a motorcycle magazine and would liek to try this place out. Just dont want to upset any of the locals or owners.

Jessi
Guest
Jessi

There are several abandoned buildings there. I too did some photos over there. There is also a small area just north of Centralia called Big Creek and it has an awesome old bridge that would be ideal for a shoot.

alice
Guest
alice

I lived in or close to Centralia most of my adult life. No place like it. So much history. Love to hear about it. I have a diner platter that has written on the back "Made especially for our customers. City Grocery, Centralia, Okla. We appreciate your trade" I used to use it all the time and suddenly realized one day to put it up.

Phillip Story
Guest
Phillip Story

I was so glad to find this site I am keeping it as a favorite on my laptop. I am a fourth generation Oklahoman and proud of it. It is nice to connect with others who have ties to Centralia and to see how the stories told to me relate.

Debra
Guest
Debra

I'm descended from Henry Hyman's brother. I believe he's the tall blond man with moustache standing in the back. There is a strong family resemblance between him and my father who is his nephew.

JoshDaniels
Guest
JoshDaniels

Just a reminder to those who may think this. This is not the same Centralia you are thinking of. The Centralia you may be thinking of is in Pennsylvania/

Tom
Guest
Tom

I just googled to your site by chance and what a find! After a conference with another family member we believe the W.W.Clapper mentioned in the photo is William Warwick Clapper who settled in this area after leaving Paris, MO. Warwicks family settled in this area and had a farm for a number of years. We think he is probably the older gent in the front row as he was about 60 years old at the time of the photo and my relative believes there is a resemblance to his father. There is a listing of a grocer J.F. Clawsen… Read more »

lynjo Ruiz
Guest
lynjo Ruiz

I also would like to explore the documentation of the little town.I am a history buff.and love info on undocumented ghost towns I find them very intresting! Would love to hook up and do some research on these ghost towns.

Barbara Lou
Guest
Barbara Lou

W.W. Clapper's second wife was my g-grandmother, Nancy Catherine Arms Smith. We have a photo of Warwick & he is, indeed, the older gentleman with the beard. My mothers brother, George Frank Newland, was the first soldier from Craig County to be killed in WWI. My Aunt Mona Newland married Omer Hargrove.

I have fond memories of spending vacation time in Centralia during the 50's. It was a great little place & I would love to learn more of it's history. I love this page!

lynjo
Guest
lynjo

Who founded the town before Hargrove? It says he found the town site then named it Centralia,ok.So who there before him?

Bree
Guest
Bree

My abstract says Centralia, Oklahoma was actually founded in 1902, That was also when it was surveyed and divided into 55 blocks with streets, avenues and alleys. Part of what I now own was sold by the U.S. Government to Thomas C. and Pear Montgomery in 1908. He sold it to J. M. and Cynthia A. Armor in 1912. Who sold it to Mrs. K. K. Anderson in 1916. She sold to Mrs. C. M. Preston in 1917. She sold to James M. Armour in 1918. He sold to W. E. Couch in 1918. At that time I think It… Read more »

Dawn
Guest
Dawn

Cherokees.

Kimberley Van Audal
Guest
Kimberley Van Audal

I'm a descendant of James H. Van Ausdal's brother (Arthur Grant Van Ausdal). I can tell you from photographs in my possession that the seated gentleman holding the pen in the above photo of the Centralia City Council is J.H. Van Ausdal.

bree
Guest
bree

I am one of the "ghosts" that still live in this ghost town. At present there are at least 12 families living in "town". Several others live near by. I am currently looking for any information regarding George L. Wood. I have a ring box that states that he was a jeweler and optician in Centralia, Ok.

Brad
Guest
Brad

Hi Bree,

I have always wanted to come up to Centralia. I have a hobby of metal detecting and have done some research on your town and was wondering if it would be possible to get some names of the landowners so I can get permission to search. I am a responsible detectorist and would only do this if permission was granted. Thank you for your time.

Brad

Mary Shelton
Guest
Mary Shelton

My family came to Centralia on the last Saturday in July. I knew that several families live in Centralia, from this site. We actually knocked on a door while we were looking for the cemetery where my father's sisters were buried, but when no one came to the door, we figured maybe somebody's 11 year-old was home alone, and we didn't want to scare anybody. That's kind of my impression of the whole "ghost town" idea–WE felt like ghosts because we didn't have any reason to be there other than to visit the past. The people who live in Centralia… Read more »

Mary Webber Coplen
Guest
Mary Webber Coplen

Very interesting article. The Nix family and the Armor family are some of my relatives. My mother was born in Centralia in 1907.

psychosaw13
Guest
psychosaw13

Thanx Mary, I couldnt find much info on this lil town. Anyone feel free to post your memoris & stories here.

Phillip Story
Guest
Phillip Story

My grandpa was born in Centralia Dec. 18, 1904 his name was Hugh Story, his fathers name was Tobe Story. Tobe was burried at Pheasant Hill way before my time. I am familliar with the Nix name I heard my grandpa mention that name and I worked with a Tom Nix at Carters in Vinita. According to my grandpa Tom used to ride to town with them on their wagon.

Mary Shelton
Guest
Mary Shelton

My father, Jesse Shelton, was born in Centralia in 1907. Fun to think of them toddling around town. All good wishes,, Mary

Barbara Lou
Guest
Barbara Lou

Oh, my this feels like home! Was Gertrude part of you family? She was briefly married to my uncle Bill before his death. I didn't know either one but do recall hearing her name.

Vi LeForce
Guest
Vi LeForce

Could you tell me where the LeForce Mound is located and how is got the name of "LeForce Mound". Thank you.

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