Okmulgee County Poor Farm
|Okmulgee County Poor Farm|
Information on the internet about County Farms in Oklahoma is difficult to find. However, a reference was stumbled upon which stated the farm was located within the SW/4 of Section 16 in Township 13 North, Range 13 East. This describes a ½ mile square, or 160 acres, located on the northeast corner of 36th street and Mission in Okmulgee. It was not stated how many acres were owned by the county within this 160-acre description. Depending upon the size and type of operation, 20 to 160 acres, would certainly not be unreasonable. Less than 20 acres would seem to be insufficient and more than 160 acres seems large by today’s standards. However, the yield per acre was less then, as compared to now, so 160 acres cannot be discounted.
These Poor Farm buildings can be seen in decades old aerial photographs held by the public library. Now gone, the residents and farm buildings were located about 1/3 mile east of Mission on the north side of 36th street. The main buildings set back about 300 feet from the road. After the buildings were demolished, a residence was constructed about 150 feet southwest of their location and is still in use. 
The Okmulgee Cemetery has an area designated for the poor, also known as potter’s field. Other nearby towns have cemeteries with potter’s fields as well. The discovery of a large county-owned potter’s field is not expected based upon what is known, but cannot be ruled out entirely. The Okmulgee Cemetery is only 1.5 miles from the County Farm and could easily have been used for their burials. The Okmulgee Cemetery has been in continuous operation for 111 years. In 1971 the Genealogical Society of Okmulgee produced their book entitled “Cemetery Records of Okmulgee County Oklahoma”. In it they documented what they referred to as Okmulgee County Cemetery – Potter’s Field. Following is an excerpt: "A small cemetery grown up to weeds and brush. It is south of Okmulgee Country Club in the SW1/4 section of the SW1/4 of Section 16 R13E T13N. Only 4 marked graves were found but field stones and rusted funeral home markers identified 25 other locations of burial. Names on the 4 marked graves as follows: Baker, Arthur Nov. 1 1876 - July 29 1935 , Baker, Frank L Jan. 13 1880 - Aug. 15 1938 , Meek, John died 3/8/1919 aged 21 y/o (Mortuary record) , Osborn, Ina Apr. 29 1916 - Aug. 17 1933 , Smith, Austin D. Nov. 22 1941 aged 1 day , Winkler, Charles Samuel E. died 10/23/1918 aged 32 y/o (Mortuary record)." Note that the location given is an area of 40 acres.
In November 2020 an OCGS member noticed a burial card, dating from 1941, which mentioned a man who had been “buried at the Okmulgee county farm”. The name, Frank Grether, led to an obituary which also stated he had lived at the county farm. At 73, he had lived at the farm only 4 months and was ill the entire time. Otherthan being a “transient - sheep farmer from Wyoming”, nothing about him or his family had been mentioned by him prior to his death. Another OCGS member in 2020 launches his own campaign to find the "Potters Field" cemetery of Okmulgee. He explored the grounds and found 2 additional grave markers, both being metal funeral plaques with sliding letters. The plaques read as follows in 2020 (keep in mind letters may have shifted or fallen off through the years): "ULIAA SHIN 1919-1936 , DWAIN SMITH 1941-1941". Although not quite legible both markers appear to be from Buchanan Funeral Home. Interestingly, the 1971 inventory mentioned finding an Austin D. Smith who died in 1941 at age 1 day. Could these be one person named Austin Dwain Smith and the temporary marked grave had a stone added later? No evidence of any stone marker for Austin D Smith was found in 2020.
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