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This Week in Sapulpa History – Oklahoma Joins the Highway Numbering System
Rachel Whitney, Curator, Sapulpa Historical Museum
“Nearly every state in the union is now using the number system of marking state highways.” It was announced this week on November 4, 1925 that the Oklahoma Highway Commission decided to number state highways, following as other states began doing. Sapulpa would have two state highways running through town. The highway running east and west would be #7. And the highway stretching north and south would be #12.
“All citizens of Sapulpa should familiarize themselves with this system if they hope to travel the state highways of Oklahoma or direct anyone else.” The Oklahoma Highway Commission had published an Oklahoma Highway Guide, explaining the system in detail. The maps would be up-to-date with the new account.
Highway 7 was described as running through Kansas from Baxter Springs, KS to Picher, Cardin, Commerce, Miami, Afton, Vinita, Chelsea, Claremore, Catoosa, Tulsa, Sapulpa, Kellyville, Bristow, Depew, Stroud, Davenport, Chandler, Wellston, Luther, Arcadia, Edmond, Oklahoma City, Blanchard, Chick-Fletcher, Lawton, Cache, Snyder, Headrick, Altus, Duke, Hollis, and intoTexas toward Wellington, TX.
Highway 12 was stated to be running through Kansas from Caney, KS to Copan, Dewey, Bartlesville, Ochelata, Romona, Vera, Collinsville, Owasso, Tulsa, Sapulpa, Kiefer, Mounds, Beggs, Preston, Okmulgee, Henryetta, Weleetka, Wetumka, Calvin, Atwood, Allen, Ada, Roff, Hickory, Mill Creek, Ravia, Madill, Kingston, Woodville, to the Red River toward Dennison, Texas.
According to the Oklahoma Highway history of ‘Original Oklahoma Route 7’: “Original Oklahoma Route 7 was a unique highway in the original road network; this was the only full crossing of the state that followed a diagonal path, from the far northeast corner of Oklahoma to the far southwest. As such, it formed a direct link between the two largest cities in the state and allowed one to continue directly to the largest city in the southwest quarter of the state and onward to Texas.”
Highway 7 was nicknamed “the Kansas City, Fort Scott, and Tulsa Short Line.” This section would be Oklahoma’s eastern section of the infamous Route 66. The two highways would follow nearly the same route. Eventually, Route 66 took most of Highway 7’s place the following year, late 1926.
Before regulations for most transportation occurred, “narrow, pockmarked, and dangerous roads were normal for the state.” It was said that some ‘highways’ were only nine feet wide, if not smaller. State Highway 7 was especially dangerous, according to reports of the original highway.
“One individual remembered the ‘old slab’ of the road. One curve known officially as Dryden Corner, three miles northeast of Afton, became known as the ‘death corner’ because of the many fatal accidents which occurred there. The road was indeed hazardous, and long after the road was designated as Route 66, there remained stretches which were both dangerous and unpaved.”
Later, “Route 7 would continue with State Highway (SH) 66 through Claremore and Catoosa, then join the modern limited access expressway system for the run through the Tulsa area. While modern SH 66 follows the mid 1950s bypass route through Tulsa, we have chosen to show Route 7 following the crosstown I-244 path, which is closer to where the old Route 7 actually ran. West of the Arkansas River, Route 7 would again join modern SH 66 as the ‘free road’ splits off just before the Turner Turnpike. After passing through Sapulpa, Route 7 and SH 66 would then travel together west-southwest along the classic US 66 route toward Oklahoma City.”
Similarly, Oklahoma Route 12 could be described as an origin story for Oklahoma’s route for State Highway 75. “Route 12 was a major north-south connector.”
According to the Oklahoma Highway history ‘Original History of Route 12’: If original Route 12 existed today, it would begin at the Kansas state line near Caney and travel south on US Route 75 through Bartlesville and on to meet modern State Highway 20, where Route 12 would turn east toward Collinsville.
“Route 12 would join the limited access US 169 outside Collinsville and travel south toward Tulsa, turning west at the I-244 junction to follow the crosstown expressway loop through the city. West of the Arkansas River, Route 12 would join with modern SH 66, leaving the expressway just before the former Tulsa gate of the Turner Turnpike. In Sapulpa, Route 12 turns south onto Alternate US 75, passing through Kiefer and Mounds before turning east at SH 16 in Beggs.”
The original path would continue to intersect SH 16 and US 75. “When the US Highway system arrived in 1927, the north 2/3 of original Route 12 were overlaid by US Route 75, leading to the removal of the state number from that portion of highway in 1930. However, since a new routing was built for US 75 south of Calvin, a diminished Route 12 remained in its original location continuing south for 37 more years before disappearing from the map entirely. The designation of a new SH 1 in 1968 may have removed the last of the original Highway 12 from the map.”
(Sapulpa Herald, November 4, 1925; Oklahoma Historical Society; Oklahoma Highways)
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The information found on this page has been researched through Sapulpa (and area) newspapers, Sapulpa Historical Society archives, books, and photographs, Sapulpa yearbooks, city directories, and other local authors. Any other sources will be labeled and named as the research continues. Any mistakes will be noted and adjusted as needed.