Picher, OK

105
City/Town: Picher
Location Class: Ghost Town
Year Built: 1918
Year Abandoned: 2009
Status: Abandoned
Photojournalist: Billy DixonDavid LindeJohnny Fletcher

Located eight miles north of Miami on U.S. Highway 69 in Ottawa County, Picher is Oklahoma’s most northeastern incorporated city. Its city limits adjoin the Kansas state line. In late 1913 the town developed around the lead and zinc ore strike on Harry Crawfish’s allotment. Picher’s name honored O. S. Picher, owner of the Picher Lead Company. Statewide newspapers reported that the town was born overnight. Picher incorporated in March 1918. It had a population of 9,726 in 1920, which peaked at 14,252 in 1926, at the height of mining. As mining activity decreased, the population dropped steadily to 5,848 in 1940 and to 2,553 in 1960.

Picher was the most productive mining field in the Tri-State Lead and Zinc District (Oklahoma, Kansas, and Missouri) and produced more than $20 billion in ore from 1917 to 1947. Over 50 percent of the lead and zinc metal consumed in World War I came from the Picher Field. During the mining boom years more than fourteen thousand men worked in its mines, and another four thousand worked in approximately fifteen hundred mining service businesses. Many of these workers commuted to work using an extensive trolley car system that ran all the way to Carthage, Missouri. In the subsequent years Picher could not attract new industry, because a majority of the real estate belonged to restricted Quapaw heirs and because the town had many mines distributed underneath the surface.

O. S. Picher provided the city’s first deep water well, thereby providing the beginning of a municipal water system. The leasing system employed for mining dictated that an ore reduction mill be built on each forty-acre tract. In 1927 there were 248 mills operating in the Picher Field, and this continued until the late 1930s when centralized milling resulted in mill consolidation. When lead and zinc mining finally ceased in 1967, pumping water from the mines ceased and they began to fill with water, accumulating 76,800 acre-feet of mine water under ground. This contaminated water began to seep from the mines in 1973. In 1983 the Picher area became part of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Superfund Site program. With 1,400 mine shafts in the Picher area, 70 million tons of waste tailings, and 36 million tons of mill sand and sludge, environmental clean up was a monumental task.

In 2008, The EPA finished the clean up of the Superfund site. This was done by a mixture of buyouts, chat sales, on-site disposals, rural residential yard contamination cleanup, soil cleansing, and rural residential well sanitization. Overall totaling over one hundred and sixty million dollars before it was completed. Those who were willing to be bought out did so. Those who stayed behind were supplied with alternative ways to utilizing the wells that were contaminated. Additionally, “chat” that had once been piled on top of the soil was put back into the mines to support the land and reduce human exposure to lead dust.

After all of the work that was completed to make the town livable again, an F4 tornado came through the town of Picher on May 10, 2008. The tornado tragically took the lives of six people and injured at least one-hundred and fifty others.

In May of 2009 The Picher-Cardin school systems hosted its final graduating class & on July 1st the 90 year old district closed its doors forever.

Today, all that can be seen in the town is overgrown house foundations, and a few remaining buildings, which are now crudely spray painted as government property.

Other Links:

Fredas Cook, a long time resident, has put together a great database of history and pictures. For a lot of great information about Picher and Cardin, visit his siteHere.

105
Leave a Reply

avatar
78 Comment threads
27 Thread replies
0 Followers
 
Most reacted comment
Hottest comment thread
  Subscribe  
Notify of
Stephanie
Guest
Stephanie

We drove the Picher today. I was absolutely shocked at all the homes and buildings still standing!! The media I remembered was all about the tornado destroying it and the fact it was contaminated. So sad to see all those buildings vacant. I come from a small town in Oklahoma with those close ties and can't imagine losing our beloved town no matter how small it is. I so want to take my son back who is 11 for a quote "field trip" he loves photography and I think this could be a great learning experience. As sad as it… Read more »

Amber
Guest
Amber

Is it safe to visit?

TexasGirl
Guest
TexasGirl

Yeah. Spending one day, or even a week there, you'll be fine. It's the exposure over many many years. I was just there today. We were driving back from my grandparents house in Missouri to Texas and we stopped by cause they used to live there. The government it starting to tear everything down now. Not much is left. We've heard that the plan is their gonna flood the whole town. I mean if you wanna go visit, it's fine, but nothing's really there anymore sadly. Just a few houses, a factory or two, and the the main road which… Read more »

Tom Red Oak
Guest
Tom Red Oak

I know of a native plant thats in the bamboo family it dies out every winter but comes back. Several homes around Carden had it growing in there yard. It's more of a landscaping plant and not worth in building anything. There are also Hollies left behind that looks nice. Lot of water pools around that would be nice to see filled with horsetails, cattails or water lilies. Weeping willows might survive there along with bamboo. If I had land in those towns, wouldn't sell out either, if Big Brother didn't pay enough. Even they cut off my power and… Read more »

Annie Lou
Guest
Annie Lou

Driving thru Picher seen the chat piles are still there. Lot of dust. Like to idea of planting bamboo aroud town. Fire hydrants can be seen sinking into ground. Growing up along river, I know about native river cane, (bamboo family). The roots intertwine, and impossible to dig up without hatchet. Bamboo is similar, but can grow away from river. Indians claim this is their area. Geremino, Crazy Horse, and a few others fought to preserve their way of life. In Miami, there casinos is making money and leaders are lining their pockets. The creek can be filtered with horsetails… Read more »

Billy Bob
Guest
Billy Bob

We drove in Galena yesterday. It was discusting, didn't see the people living beside Historic 66 Galena sign. White Trash comes in all colors. House beside sign had a barbque grill and Chevy Truck. The trash for garbage truck is just all over ground. Guess they rather buy beer than rent trash bin. I tried to get photo of sign and leave trash out of photo.
Town Hall has a Hewy Helicopter where some idiot's threw rocks into windows. Towns people had to put fence around it.

Tim
Guest
Tim

For the gentleman that got arrested. Would want someone just stopped by your house and just walk in and when and, if you had them arrested they let them go because they said I thought they were abandoned. I think not! Not all buildings were bought out and US citizens still own and dont forget about the GREAT oklahoma law "MAKE MY DAY LAW"

blendene
Guest
blendene

For so many of the people who got arrested have been criminals in ottowa county for years they have been allowed to carry on and charges continue to get dropped

Jason Argonaut
Guest
Jason Argonaut

A study came out in 1996 that showed 37% of the children had unhealthy levels of lead in their blood. Almost nobody left, and the town mayor publicly stated it was a lie by the Washington bureaucrats to "steal their mineral rights". Should tell you something. NPR did a story on Pitcher/Cardin and reported that the town's been a hotbed of meth labs for years and never more so since the buyout began; the story said 12 meth labs were shut down in abandoned buildings in Picher alone in 2009. One of the last businesses to leave the town was… Read more »

Nunya
Guest
Nunya

Ain't it a beautiful thing… the west is still the west. The "Make My Day" law will someday be replaced with showdowns on main street at high noon…. gotta love it!

dave smith
Guest
dave smith

wow

Pissed Off
Guest
Pissed Off

So i saw all of these cool things about Picher, and decided to go. after a LONG night and a $7000 bailout i just got home from ottowa county jail charged for burglary II abbeding a minor and obstructing an officer. My advice…DO NOT GO TO PICHER. We went to take pictures and have a nice day, and got arrested for entering the abandoned buildings. I now face 2 State Felony charges, and time in prison for trying to have a nice weekend! If i don't go to prison i will post the results of the case. P.S. If anyone… Read more »

betty
Guest
betty

WOW!! that is insane! hope things go well for you? and btw was it "posted"? no trespassing?

travis
Guest
travis

Hopefully the charges get dropped! how did the court date go? i wonder how much money each person got to leave? who paid them to leave? my hometown blackwell is going through this.

David
Guest
David

The buildings belong to the Federal government now, so they likely have told the local cops to arrest and prosecute any trespassers. Ottawa County is not the most….progressive part of OK, and the local PD are probably pretty suspicious and hostile towards outsiders poking around in the town at all, since Picher is rightly seen as an embarrassment by most of the locals now in Miami, who've been called "chat-rats" for decades. Let's hope kyleberries@yahoo.com didn't end up getting actually prosecuted for Burglary in the 2nd Degree as they threatened to, because under OK law all you need to do… Read more »

David
Guest
David

David, I'm a retired cop so I'll give you my 2 cents worth. Ever watched the TV show "Pickers"? It's a couple of guys "buying" stuff across the country for their "antique" shop. They stop at old Ghost towns and abandoned buildings and take things for their shop without paying anyone. That property may not have anyone present their but it is owned by someone. Taking things like that IS Burglary and Theft. Their was a guy in my town that ran an Antique shop and was arrested for Burglary for going into a home like in Picher and stealing… Read more »

David
Guest
David

Also, to answer your question, the EPA bought everybody out under the Tar Creek Superfund project. The amount they got was based on their home's assessed value. About a dozen people claimed to have gotten screwed on their assessment because the inspector was lazy and rushed through the job, and at least two others apparently got significantly over market value for their houses because they had a family member who was on the board for the Trust and thus knew the inspector. I'm not sure how the rest fared.

Bob
Guest
Bob

Wondering why bamboo couldn't be planted around those piles for wind break. Goverment clean up is a joke, they'll just haul the mess somewhere else. Wildlife loves bamboo, deer and other critters make homes in it.

Billy Ray
Guest
Billy Ray

I live near a creek that is loaded with horse tails. Couldn't Horsetails be planted in Tar creek to catch polluti

Red Cheif
Guest
Red Cheif

Bamboo roots could hold ground together. The poles make great tomato plant braces. Home Depot sells truck loads of them from China. I'm part Cherokee, my ancestors were sold out while John Ross was in Washington trying to keep their land in Georgia. That is the problem with Native Americans selling each other out letting Europeans take over. Columbas was an idiot returning to Europe and die in prison. He could have been cool with the Natives and cruised the Gulf of Mexico.

Chris
Guest
Chris

WOAH! I want that sulfuric acid in picture 72! I just want to go into that school in general. Was it just unlocked or did someone let you in?

Dan
Guest

There are tons of great pictures of Picher in the Picher, Oklahoma Flickr group: http://www.flickriver.com/groups/picheroklahoma/p

One of my pics from Picher (of the church) is appearing on the cover of a soon-to-be-published book.

sUrD
Guest
sUrD

That's good stuff guys. Funny how i shot some of the same things that you guys did.

R. Lafferty
Guest
R. Lafferty

In 1944 I was born there,on "C" st.
Remember playing on the piles, and taking
my Dad's lunch to him at Eagle#9.
sad to see the town die

Aaron
Guest
Aaron

Hi R. Lafferty, Did you know the Carlin family? They owned Carlin Hardware on the main street (Connell?)in Pitcher. Ken Carlin Sr. was my grandfather. Ken Jr. is my dad. Ken Sr. was married to Moselle Wise and they also had two daughters, Shirley and Karen. My dad id about your age. It was odd to read about the man who was arrested exploring the buildings. My wife and I were there about the same time doing the same thing! -Aaron Carlin southlandappraisal@yahoo.com

B.Pants
Guest
B.Pants
Sharada
Guest
Sharada

I lived in Picher from birth to almost 9 yrs of age. I remember walking and playing on the chat piles. My sisters and I would walk from our house on 601 South Cherokee Street to town for our mom and get a few groceries. We would also pick wild asparagus growing in small wooded areas near the chat piles. We went to church at Mrs. Brown's house. Joe Don Rooney also went there, I used to sit with him. We were so young. I really hate it for everyone that has lost their homes. I pray they will soon… Read more »

Billy Bob
Guest
Billy Bob

Why didn't they use the chat for roads before they got so big? Least planted Silver Maples around them or something to hide or protect from dust.

Jeff
Guest
Jeff

Excellent site with gorgeous pictures expertly documenting the death of an American small town. Should be a lesson to all of us. Some one should make a book about it.

Matt
Guest

Excelent Post! I got to go up there the weekend Pitcher was officially to be closed. People were moving things out of buildings and houses and the fire station was packing up their equipment. It was more crowded then I expected and everyone knew right off I wasn't from there so I didn't get a chance to explore many buildings with the cops near by overseeing the move. I did get to talk to Hoppy though at his Museum. He was great to talk to and was still pretty bitter about the whole thing. He said he thinks they are… Read more »

SnIpEr
Guest
SnIpEr

I may go to visit this place in a few weeks. It's quite sad. The entire population just left just a few months ago

Dr Steve Abernathy
Guest
Dr Steve Abernathy

Kinda sad for someone who has been in the mines as a kid, swam in the millponds, played pool at Hoppe Ray's. Picher was a sad place though due to all the contamination of the land and the bloodstreams of its youth.

dee
Guest
dee

is this the same thing that is going on in blackwell ok. the contamination i mean

Billy!
Guest
Billy!

This place was pretty cool and pretty far I must admit. Haha.

1 2 3 4

Copyright 2008-2020 by AbandonedOK.com - info@AbandonedOK.com.com - Designed By Michael Schwarz - Disclaimer