Claremore got its beginnings when Chief Glahmo led his tribe of Osage Indians from Missouri in 1802. He soon established a fur trading post along the Verdigris River. The trading post sat atop a 25-acre mound which came to be known as Clermont, a French word meaning “clear mountain.” Over time, traders and Indians alike began to refer to the Chief as “Chief Clermont.”
When the area became part of the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, it was designated as Indian Territory. Before long, the Cherokee tribe was forced from their eastern homes along the infamous “Trail of Tears” and was given title to the land, including Clermont Mound. The Osage Indians were removed to a reservation, which would later be called Osage County.
A settlement made up primarily of Cherokee Indians was established on Clermont Mound beginning with a general store, a blacksmith shop, and a school. In 1874, the post office was established with the intention of naming the town after Chief Clermont. However, due to a clerical error, the name was listed as Claremore, and so it was.
The Cherokees, adapting to the “white mens” ways, prospered, organized constitutional governments, published newspapers, and established an extensive educational system. In 1889, when the US government began to open up unassigned lands in Indian Territory to the white men, they flooded the territory and soon took control of Claremore. By the turn of the century, Claremore was larger than Tulsa. In 1903, a test oil well was drilled in Claremore, but instead of finding oil, the drillers discovered a large flow of artesian mineral water. Before long, radium baths were all the rage in Claremore.
In 1907, Rogers County was created in the Cherokee Nation and was named for Clement V. Rogers, the father of Will Rogers, and a member of the Constitutional Convention. When Route 66 came through the city, it was already well established, and quickly built motor courts, service stations, and restaurants along the highway to service the many travelers of the Mother Road.
Claremore is best known as the hometown of the Oklahoma’s favorite son, Will Rogers. Rogers was born nearby in a rough log cabin “halfway between Oologah and Claremore” on November 4, 1879. He rose from a vaudeville career as a sideshow rope tricks artist to become one of the most popular humorists in America.
Today, Claremore features the Will Rogers Memorial that includes an eight-gallery museum with theaters and features items from his cowboy trick roping days to vaudeville. Another “must stop” is the Will Rogers Hotel, once famous for its radium baths. Also be sure to visit the J.M. Davis Arms & Historical Museum, which displays more than 20,000 firearms.
Another interesting visit is the Belvidere Mansion, a restored turn-of-the-century home that is home to Claremore’s iconic The Pink House restaurant.
To round out your history-filled adventure in Claremore, visit the Oklahoma Military Academy Memorial Museum on the grounds of Rogers State University. Spend hours browsing through the antique shops and boutiques that fill the historic downtown district, and check out the Claremore Museum of History. The MoH features artifacts from ‘That Singin’ Rage, Miss Patti Page,’ who was born in Claremore. She sold millions of records in the 1950s and 1960s, including the now-classic, Tennessee Waltz. Also at the MoH are several items from the movie and Broadway hit, Oklahoma!, including the Surrey with the Fringe on top. Oklahoma! is based on the play Green Grow the Lilacs, written by Claremore’s own Lynn Riggs.
|Contributing authors: © Kathy Weiser/Legends of America, updated February, 2013 with additional edits by Ron Warnick, Route 66 News.|