Annette Cline Pittman and her daughter Susan Cline Rutledge have created a book called Kaw City: A Pictorial History. This book is now available from Brace Books and More in Ponca City and the Kaw City Museum. “
Their work includes 200 photographs and descriptions covering the history of the old town of Kaw before it was inundated with the creation of what is now known as the Kaw Lake and Dam. The original town of Kaw was located approximately 12 miles east and slightly north of Ponca City on State Highway 11 in Kay County. The city was located in what is known as the Ox Bow Bend of the Arkansas River.
The town was established by the Kaw City Townsite Company, which sold lots from July 4, 1902. It was promoted as a location for commercial land as flat as a story with gently sloping uplands for residential homes. It was bordered to the north by the Kaw (Kansa) reserve and to the east by the Osage reserve. Located in a fertile and productive agricultural and ranching region, the town of Kaw was connected to overseas markets when the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe railroads built their line through town. Completed in 1903, the railway depot served as a shipping point for thousands of bushels of corn and other agricultural products. Hundreds of wagons full of Texas cattle drove through the town of Kaw to the pastures of the Osage Reserve to fatten up before being transported to market.
Since the creation of the city, construction has progressed rapidly. Kaw City soon had a bank, a newspaper, two lumber yards and a mill. A railcar bridge built over the Arkansas River to the north increased trade in the area known as Kaw Country. A post office was established on September 12, 1902, and a one-room school opened with fifty-six children in November 1902. In 1907, the city’s population stood at 486.
In 1919, a construction boom began when oil hit east of the town of Kaw. Roads were widened, gas was brought into the city, the main street was paved, old buildings were replaced with new ones, and bonds were issued for a city water and sewer system. . The population nearly doubled from 627 in 1920 to 1,001 in 1930. In the 1920s Kaw City became internationally known thanks to the art collection of Laura A. Clubb, wife of a breeder. A passionate collector of paintings, she exhibited them in her husband’s three-story brick hotel. Later, in order to keep her paintings and rare books intact for the future, she donated them to the Philbrook Museum of Art in Tulsa.
Kaw City suffered several setbacks. In 1923, a flood damaged the business district and destroyed two bridges, only one of which was rebuilt. During the Great Depression, many businesses closed. At the start of World War II, many citizens left to join the armed forces and obtain higher paying jobs in the defense industry. The city has never regained the status it once enjoyed. The population increased from 1,001 in 1930 to 561 in 1950.
The next blow came with the construction of the Kaw Dam which was completed in 1976. As the lake rose, it completely covered the original town. In the years leading up to the flooding of the ancient town of Kaw, a new town was created nearby at a higher elevation. The original Santa Fe repository was moved to the New Town and it became the Kaw Town Museum. Many will remember that the original bank moved to Ponca City and was renamed Pioneer Bank and Trust.
Over the years, the creators of this book, Annette Pittman and her daughter Susan Rutledge, have been very active in preserving the history of the town of Kaw at the local museum. Their book, along with the other artifacts in the Kaw City Museum, will continue to ensure that history will not be forgotten.
This book is now on display along with many other local history books at Brace Books and More in Ponca City and the Kaw City Museum in Kaw City.
For more information, you can call the bookstore at 580-765-5173 or the museum at 580-269-2366