Tahlequah Daily Press

Local News

September 18, 2012

Little burgs have legendary names

TAHLEQUAH — Did you ever wonder how Lost City got its name? After all, if it’s an organized community within a particular geographic region that can be located on a map, how can it be “lost”?

History demonstrates there are a number of ways towns, states and even countries come to be named.

Oklahoma, or “red people,” is derived from the Choctaw words “okla,” meaning “people,” and “humma” or “homm,a” meaning “red.” According to the book “Oklahoma Place Names,” the name would be used to refer to what had been known as Indian Territory in the Choctaw-Chickasaw Treaty of 1866.

Many Oklahoma communities have names reflecting their Indian connections, said Northeastern State University History Professor Dr. Brad Agnew.

“Although the origin of Tahlequah is not clear, it is definitely a Cherokee word,” he said. “It probably was named after an old Cherokee town in the tribe’s homeland, but I prefer the story that claims only two of the three tribal members sent out to select the site for the nation’s western capital city reached the area west of the Illinois River. They decided the rolling area north of Park Hill was an excellent location and proclaimed ‘Tahlequah,’ which some claim means ‘two are enough.’”

In Cherokee County, many communities were named for early habitants or occupants of an area, merchants or postmasters, said Agnew.

The community of Scraper, for example, was named for Captain Archibald Scraper, who was with the 2nd Regiment of the Indian Home Guard. The Indian Home Guard was made of volunteer-infantry regiments recruited from the Five Civilized Tribes of Indian Territory to back the Union efforts during the Civil War.

According to a July 10, 1937, interview between a field worker named Gus Hummingbird and William Scraper, presented in The University of Oklahoma Indian-Pioneer Papers oral history collection, Arch Scraper was not his actual name – though that’s what he was called.

“According to the records kept by Buster Scraper, Arch Scraper’s real name was Scraper Sixkiller,” said William Scraper. “That was his name before he left North Carolina. He came to the Indian Territory when he was 17 years old and settled in the hollow that now bears his name, Scraper Hollow.”

Social prominence and celebrity of an individual or family often determine a community or town’s name. Scraper, who enlisted in the Southern Army before joining the Union’s efforts, was a noted leader among the Cherokee people, according to the Indian-Pioneer Paper interview conducted 75 years ago.

“He was sent to Washington several times as a delegate for the Cherokee people,” said William Scraper. “On one of these missions, he had his picture taken with Abraham Lincoln, and this picture is now kept by Mrs. Josie Hendricks at Christie, Okla.”

And like Abraham Lincoln, Arch Scraper was a man of integrity and looked to practice altruistic principles whenever possible, said William Scraper.

“The customs of the Cherokee people have changed a lot since those times. In those days, everybody was honest,” he said. “The people loaned anything they had to their neighbors without charge. Money was easily borrowed at that time. Everybody had a little money to loan. There was not much to buy with money.  Arch Scraper always loaned money to his neighbors without any security. The people did not know what a Note was then. A man’s word was his bond. If his word was no good, he was not, either.”


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