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Boley, Oklahoma was established in 1904 as one of the largest and most thriving black towns in the country. Formed after the Great Migration, when thousands of blacks moved up north after slavery, Boley was founded on land that was owned by a black woman, Abigail Burnett McCormick. McCormick had inherited the land from her father, a Creek Freedman.

Abigail McCormick invited blacks far and wide to come and establish a home. She was named mayor of the town. Booker T. Washington referred to Boley as “the most interesting and enterprising negro town in the U.S.”

Six years after being established, Boley, Oklahoma grew to a population of 4,000. The historical town garnered attention for building the first Black-owned electric company and the first Black-owned bank in the country. The people took care of the town, establishing five grocery stores, five hotels, seven restaurants, four cotton gins, three drug stores, a jewelry store, four department stores, two insurance companies, two photographers and an ice plant. It became the place for the annual meetings of many fraternities, including Eastern Stars and Black Masons.

All was positive in the town of Boley until 1932, when the gang led by Pretty Boy Floyd attempted robbery of the Farmers & Merchants Bank. The outlaws consisted of three men, two of them white. They would kill the bank's president, but the quick hands of the Boley officers never allowed the men to flee the scene alive.

In 1975, the town of Boley was declared a historical landmark. Though its popularity and population fell during the Great Depression, Boley, Oklahoma continues to live, with its annual Boley Rodeo and their Founders Day Celebration. It is also the home of Smokarama Incorporated, a manufacturer of pressure smokers for smoking meats.


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28 thoughts on “Little Known Black History Fact: Boley, Oklahoma

  1. Jeffery Wright on said:

    My great great grandfather was SJ KING. My great grandfather was Lee Benton Jeffery. My grandmother was Edna Duncan of Tulsa Oklahoma

  2. MELBA JONES on said:

    In search of my family history. My mother Thelma Annie Bell Ward was adopted by Walter C. Ward and Myrtle Callahan Chilesville/Boley OK around 1934 or 1935 from my biological grandparents Issac and Josie Breakbill. My mom attended Boley Public Schools If you have any information on my family history please contact Melba Jones @ I grew up knowing my grandparents as Walter & Myrtle Ward at a young age. Your help is appreciate

  3. Willecia Bowen on said:

    My dads people are from boley. He never found out until his mom passed(willie James).His dads last name was Releford. I remember attending one reunion.

  4. bryan turner on said:

    I’M so glad to find out the exploits of my great great grandfather SJ KING
    MY grandmother affectionally known as Muh” use to have my brother and I come down in the summer of 67″ to enjoy the rodeo specially picking plums as uncle Robert would say
    plz reach out to me on facebook messenger , grandmama’s hyneas

  5. Doreen Batchan on said:

    I am the great great great grandaughter of Samuel “Sam” Callahan. He owned the third biggest farm in Boley Oklahoma. I am the great granddaughter of Alice Callahan Roberts.

  6. sweeteepie0303 on said:

    When does the rodeo take place and where would you recommend that someone stay while visiting Boley. I would like to attend the rodeo next year.

  7. TheMcGhees on said:

    It is… We just left a few weeks ago from visiting for the very first time… I can’t wait to see attend the Rodeo in 2013.

  8. TheMcGhees on said:

    My husband’s great grandfather was T.M. Haynes… he is noted on all historical information as being the founder of this town.
    We visited the town last month! It was a great experience. We plan to attend the rodeo in 2013. The town has such rich history. It is a shame that this does not make it into history books. It would be nice for more communities across the US to know this history… a town where blacks owned everything– Water company, electricity, bank etc…

  9. defbaw on said:

    Great place to visit, and wonderful place to see a town filled with Black Folks. I saw my first Rodeo in Boley, and to make it more interesting and historical it was my first Black Rodeo. Love OurStory!

  10. MarilynYvonne on said:

    My Mother, Freddie Corene Henderson, was brought up in Boley, having been born in Altus March, 1931. From there, after graduating from an Black and Indian all-age school she moved to Topeka, KS where she met her future husband and my Father in 1949. I was born in Topeka in 1951 and when I was a toddler we moved to Denver, CO where she still resides with her second husband. They recently celebrated their 50th Wedding Anniversary!

  11. sweeteepie0303 on said:

    My great-grandfather D.J. Turner was the president of the bank. He is on the front row 3rd from the left in this picture. I have never been to Boley but I plan to go there next year to research my family history.

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