History of Bartlesville & Washington County, Oklahoma

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Washington County, OK


Population: 733 in 2010; 796 in 2000; 809 in 1990
(formerly Lawton & Weldon)

This community was originally known as Lawton, with a post office under that name from January 6, 1900 to July 10, 1901. At that time the name was changed to Weldon, which lasted until February 27, 1904. The final name of Copan came from the town's Santa Fe railroad depot which had been named after the ancient city in Honduras. (Oklahomans pronounce the name differently, however.) After its incorporation in 1906, Copan's entire business district burned. A bootlegger feud led to arson on New Year's Eve in 1911 and again on January 12, 1912 which burned up half the town.

The Copan oil field was discovered in 1907, with nearly 2,200 producing wells by 1915. That lead to it boasting the second largest oil tank farm in the nation at one time; the largest was also in Washington County, at Ramona. Both farms were built by the Prairie Oil and Gas Company controlled by Rockefeller. The Copan farm boasted 107 tanks with a total capacity approaching 4 million barrels.

The tax revenues from the farm were crucial to Copan and its school system, making it relatively wealthy at the time. The district boasted the first school bus in Oklahoma, a horse-drawn affair built by Fletcher Pomeroy. Eventually the district had a fleet of four horse-drawn buses.

Copan Schools and Buses

To attract teachers, in 1918 there were four teacher cottages. One was named for Helen Dunaway, the County Superintendent of Schools. The others were named for the wives of school board members: Millicent Sheets, LaVassa Thomas, and Vada Houston.

Until 1924, the Delaware Indians had their "Big House Church" about four miles west of Copan. This log building was about 40 feet long and had twelve "Messingw" faces inside, representing the guardian of game animals.

By the 1940s the tanks sat empty. They were dismantled for local building supplies, and the sheet steel sides and bottoms were shipped to Japan, a transaction made regrettable by World War II. The old dikes of the farm are visible north of town.

Copan Area

In the post-oil era, Copan's economy has been dependent on tourism and recreation revenue. Lake Hulah was built nine miles northwest of town in 1951, and Lake Copan directly west of town was opened in 1983.


Photo courtesy of and © Ian Swart of Fletcher, OK; Link

Washington County Carrel