Picher, OK

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City/Town: Picher
Location Class: Disappearing Town
Year Built: 1918 | Year Abandoned: 2009
Status: AbandonedDisappearing Town
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.

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Tammy Downing Butler
Tammy Downing Butler
7 years ago

When i was young i would spend my summer's at my grandmother's house in Picher.she lived right next to the chat piles.This was in the 60's and early 70's.Her name was Mary Seliversmith.I have good memory's of Picher,Oklahoma.

trackback
7 years ago

[…] Picher,OK | Abandoned Oklahoma __________________ If left to itself, the government would remove what the Creator gave you. […]

richard todd
richard todd
7 years ago

i was born in picer in 1942 picher will always be my home town

Elizabeth Garner
Elizabeth Garner
Reply to  richard todd
4 years ago

Same year as my brother Charles Garner! His was May 8, 1942.
^_^

BUD
BUD
7 years ago

grew up in century, also known as douthat.. mom had a grocery store their for a few years. moved to picher in my 7th year of school. graduated in 1948. champion football year for picher high. i hope the spell check warning stays on this note. married the best gal in the area (cardin) and she still puts up with me, after , GREAT SCOTT!!!!! HAS IT BEEN 62 YEARS!!! HAVE 5 GRANDS AND 4 GREAT GRANDS. GUESS WHO
j.e.a. john edgar anderson BUD

Marian Watson
Marian Watson
Reply to  BUD
4 years ago

My great grandfather lived in Douthat and G. grandmaw was blown away in a storm in 1942. My family were the Teague and ran a hotel for miners. Have you heard of the Teague family? Marian Parrish Watson in Texas

Sally
Sally
7 years ago

HI, WE just drove through pitcher on 2/8/13 .not knowing it was pitcher, it was erie in the best of discriptions , i looked at these pictures , i see on our news back when they had the tornado, i guess i didnt see when it became a gost town, they need to route the hwy around the place if its unsafe , my heart gose out to all the people that called pitcher home!!! so sad!!

Johnny L. Arthurs
Johnny L. Arthurs
8 years ago

I know a little on this community, My uncle, who was born in Picher around 1926, and my father with his other brother lived and went to school their. It was desolate times. Not much to eat and very little work for the people who lived there.
My grandfather who worked the mines there barely made ends meat to support the family. They stayed in Picher for a short time, then moved to California, his name was John T. Arthurs. I think the mines killed the community!

trackback
8 years ago

[…] also went offroad in the chat dunes of Picher, […]

Skyler Burkhart
Skyler Burkhart
8 years ago

Born and raised there and i miss it every day

Chuck Heatherly
Chuck Heatherly
8 years ago

Hoppy's son Steve was the first guy I ever met with the courage to come out of the closet when I lived in Picher. Back in the late 70's that was pretty much something you kept to yourself while living in a small town. He really inspired me to not be afraid of who or what I was. I guess if I have one thing in my life to be thankful for it was him.

Kelly Parker
Kelly Parker
8 years ago

I always will remember the good times I had growing up there. My friend Sadie Sexton and I were always together. We shared everything from cloths to boys just like sisters. I miss you Sadie as I will always miss Picher

Mary D.
Mary D.
8 years ago

I'm from Oklahoma and had never heard about Picher until they showed it on the tv show, "Life After People." It is the "Toxic Revenge" episode. I found it to be very interesting.

The Deep Hunter
The Deep Hunter
8 years ago

Seen sycamore trees growing wide spread, don't know if the goverment is smart enough to plant. They shed leaves, bark, and limbs making topsoil. Suppose to give off some chemical that helps the ozone.

Paul
Paul
8 years ago

Hi,My name is Paul and I am into history alot and I like to visit places like that.I mean that are ghost town like.But understandable it is considered private governmental property.and besides with the chances of illness why would anyone want to enter.Considering thats where they were born and raised

Joey Parker
Joey Parker
8 years ago

I grew up in Picher and graduated high school there in the early 70's. I miss my good friends Willard King and Royce Archer and the man who always took care of us and let us play in the back of his yard Mr. Harry Kelso. God Bless and keep you Harry you really taught me about be a man in every way. Other than that I was not to fond of Picher and pretty much was a loner after I ran over and killed a drunk one night.. My sister and parents remained in picher for years. Poor little… Read more »

Janie Neff
Janie Neff
8 years ago

My Grandpa William Evan Witten wa murdered by members of the Ma Barker gang in May 1933 in Picher, OK. I want to know more and where is he buried. Does anyone have any info.?

JD Bohannan
JD Bohannan
Reply to  Janie Neff
6 years ago

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&…

Looks like Fletcher Cemetery in Comanche County,Ok.

Nancy Glass
Nancy Glass
8 years ago

My Mom was born in 1934 (Bonnie Marie Jones) in Picher OK. Her Father and Mother name was Clarence and Pauline Jones. How can I find out any information on the family?

Nancy Glass
nancy_glass@msn.com

Arleta L. Briner
Arleta L. Briner
Reply to  Nancy Glass
8 years ago

Nancy – My grandparents lived in Picher until lhey passed away. My grandfather worked in the bank and so did Pauline. I remember her because she worked with my Grandpa, Albert Brewer. I used to spend all of my out of school times with my grandparents and grandpa always took me with him to work. Not sure I have any pictures of them together or not. What I remember was how kind and how pretty she was. I don't have any specific information other than my memories from 50+ years ago. If you want to contact me please feel free… Read more »

Zeus13
Zeus13
8 years ago

Ive been doin alot of research on the town of picher and i see alot of people saying that the police will not allow anyone into the town, but im not finding anything that indicates that it is condemmed. does anyone know if they would allow people to go there for documenting reasons?

William Conder
William Conder
9 years ago

I am really sorry for anyone who had historical ties to Picher, it is a completely devastating scene. I was driving back home to Texas from Savannah, MO 2 days ago, and I veered off the interstate a little bit onto US 69, and I saw it. I had read about it before, and I didn't know that there were rr tracks there dividing OK and KS. Once there, I immediately realized where I was, the piles of mining waste, and just a couple of dilapidated buildings, it was a scene that nightmares are made of. Stephen King's "The Stand"… Read more »

Ryan Durossette
Ryan Durossette
9 years ago

Crazy. I grew up a lil' ways up the road in Grove, OK and used to play baseball against Picher. My Pops has told me it used to be a fun little town back in the day. Sux 🙁

gemstoneprincess
gemstoneprincess
9 years ago

I just drove by there on 10/26/2011…I had an eerie feeling, but something told me there was love there and life lost. It looked like something had ripped through the town, and that any life left had just ran away. That was my impression. Because of that impression, I am doing research. I want to go back and just walk the streets. I would not disturb anything, but I think life calls up through the ground and I want to hear what it is saying…<3

StephenQ
StephenQ
Reply to  gemstoneprincess
8 years ago

did you ever end up going back?

Kimmie Harrison
Reply to  gemstoneprincess
8 years ago

There was love and lives both lost there. A tornado hit the town. It was said that one would never hit there cause of all the chat piles around. But one went right over the top of it. very sad. I went there for 2 yrs. My Aunt Jean lived there and died there long b4 the tornado hit and I call Picher,OK my home.

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