How Stillwater Was Named


There are several accounts of how Stillwater's name evolved over time, but they all have their origins in what is now known as Stillwater Creek.

In 1832, an expedition including the iconic American writer, Washington Irving, traveled deep into Indian Territory. Irving came across what he described as “a deep stream running along the bottom of a thickly wooded ravine.” He was enamored with the vistas surrounding the Valley of the Still Water. Native Americans from the area including the Osage, Ponca, Kiowa and Pawnee people had long referred to the creek as the still water due to its calm currents.

Friends For A Day from Okahoma Senate     Cattle Drive from Oklahoma Senate

Legend has it that cattle drivers passing through were relieved that even in arid years, they found that there was ‘still water’ there when they reached the stream and that is how the moniker was born. Yet another legend says that famous Boomer leader David Payne walked along the banks of the creek where his group was encamped and declared, “This town should be called Still Water.”

          David Payne's Camp on Stillwater Creek

David Payne's Boomer camp on Stillwater Creek


The first recorded use of the name occurred in December 1884 when a cavalry officer sent a telegraph asking for reinforcements to remove a Boomer colony on the banks of the creek and added, “They call this place the town of Stillwater.”

     Troop C, 5th Cavalry in 1888
Troop C of the 5th Cavalry in Oklahoma in 1888 where they evicted Boomers and Sooners prior to the land run


When Oklahoma Territory was officially opened for public settlement in the land run of 1889, this area was claimed and settled by the end of the first day and was designated the Stillwater Township.


Land Run of 1889


Visit the Stillwater History Museum at the Sheerar to explore interesting exhibits, artifacts and in-depth information about the rich history of Stillwater, Oklahoma and browse the historical topics below to discover more.


Explore Stillwater's Rich History!