Is the proper name of this community Pryor or Pryor Creek? That is a very interesting question and the answer maybe that it is both…
Pryor Creek, OK was incorporated as a town under the laws of the Cherokee Nation in 1898 and was officially known as Pryor Creek, Cherokee Nation, Indian Territory. However, the town was officially known as Pryor by the US Postal Service. Due to confusion of distinguishing handwritten mailing addresses to Pryor Creek and the town of Pond Creek, the US Postal Service shortened the name to Pryor in 1909.
The town’s founder, Captain Nathaniel Pryor, was a very notable figure during the time of the founding of the town. He was a member of the Lewis and Clark expedition, veteran of the War of 1812, trader, frontiersman, and sub-agent to the Osage Indian tribe.
The city is in the northeastern section of Oklahoma, at the intersection of Highways 69 and 20. It serves as the county seat of Mayes County and sits along the paths of the historic Texas Road cattle trail, and then later, the Jefferson Highway, a 2,194 mile stretch of highway connecting Winnipeg, Manitoba to New Orleans. Important to the city’s early existence was its proximity to the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad and the Grand River to east, which was a vital source of the city’s power, commerce, and recreation.
In 1951, voters approved the current city charter which calls for a mayor-council form of government. The charter also approved the election of a mayor, clerk, treasurer, police chief and eight councilors. The charter also established a cemetery, park library board, and a municipal utility board, which continues to oversee the operations of the city-owned gas, water, electric, and sewer systems.
Today, Pryor Creek is a quaint community of approximately 9,500 residents. Decades after it’s beginning, it is continuing on the pioneer spirit of its, founder, Captain Pryor. Through close bonds and working relationships with residents and community groups and leaders, Pryor Creek is making continued progress as it forges ahead in economic development and quality of life endeavors.
One example of a successful and strong partnership is the Mid-America Industrial Park (MAIP), which opened in 1960. Mayor Larry Lees said that Pryor Creek could not ask for a better economic development partner than MAIP. “MAIP offers our community and residents great jobs, acts as an education and business partner, political networking partner, and is a visionary partner for our future growth and development. I could go on and on about the value of MAIP to our community,” Lees said.
MAIP’s is home to several premier Global 500 companies, including Google, DuPont, Chevron, and SYGMA.
There is also a thriving agricultural base located near the town. That not only includes the dairy industry, but successful horse farming, cash crops, and cattle.
Mayor Lees describes the current condition of economic development in Pryor Creek as ‘under construction,’ as they are focused on developing more retail and housing opportunities. “Our economic development is not dead, but we are missing many opportunities with retail and housing development that is needed to allow our community to thrive in so many ways. Our recent bond election identified facilities maintenance needs that, when accomplished, will have positive economic impact,” Lees said.
Mayor Lees said that the city is currently focused on the goals set forth in their recent Comprehensive Plan, which calls for land use planning and developing, parks and public space planning, downtown revitalization by growing the area’s population density and creating placemaking.
Quality of Life and Community Partners
In order to be vital and prosperous, every community must have organizations and groups in which they partner and have common goals and vision. Pryor Creek is no exception, as they have many groups that provide great partnerships in the area of quality of life.
One of the most vital community organizations in Pryor Creek is the Chamber of Commerce. Organized in 1942, the Chamber has a long-standing reputation of bringing volunteers and other community groups together to help to improve the economic, civic, and cultural environment in the community.
The Chamber also works closely with numerous local and national events, such as the renowned Rocklahoma, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors to the area each Memorial Day weekend.
The Mayes County Health, Outreach, Prevention, and Education (HOPE) was formed in 2008 for the purpose of promoting better health to area citizens. The coalition brings together community resources in a manner that inspires healthy living.
Programs through HOPE include the HOPE4Youth, which is a drug-free community support program; the TSET Healthy Living Program; HOPE Farm to School Program; the HOPE Community Garden; and, HOPE Fit Kids. All these programs and partnerships assist HOPE in accomplishing their mission, which is to reduce high-risk health behaviors, such as, alcohol, drug, tobacco use, unsafe sexual activity, poor nutrition, and physical inactivity through education, coalition building, interventions, and other appropriate activities.
In 1951, the Municipal Utility Board was created by Charter, approved and adopted by the City of Pryor Creek. The Board’s responsibility, still today, includes the care, custody, and management of the communities electrical, water, gas, streetlights, and sewage disposal.
Helping to promote existing downtown businesses and recruit new businesses, especially retail and restaurants is the primary goal of the Pryor Main Street organization. Founded in 2013, the organization helps to enhance the downtown area with the painting of light poles and structures, adding greenery and flowers to create a warm ambiance and by hanging seasonal and event themed banners from the light poles. The group also holds several events throughout the year in the main street area, including the Summer Block Party and the very famous, Dancing with Pryor Stars. The Main Street Executive Director, Jennie Vanbuskirk, along with board member, Scott Miller, said that a vision of the group is to see the downtown area again vital with people walking and gathering for shopping, dining and attending community events.
Pryor Creek is also home to a forty-eight (48) bed, Hillcrest Hospital. The hospital is a full-service facility that employs approximately 200 medical, support and ambulance personnel in the hospital and clinics located throughout the area. According to Mayor Lees, the hospital is a tremendous asset to Pryor Creek in that it not only provides medical care and services to the citizens, but also acts as an economic engine in the community. “Pryor Creek is very fortunate to have Hillcrest Hospital located in our community. They are a wonderful community partner,” Lees said.
Since 1993, Pryor Creek has been home to the Thunderbird Challenge (TC) program, which was established as 1 of 10 pilot programs in the country. TC is a nationally recognized program offered through the National Guard and the Oklahoma Military Department.
The mission of TC is to intervene in the lives of Oklahoma’s high school dropouts and to affect a positive change in them through challenge, respect, and education.
Of all the progress that Pryor Creek has enjoyed over the past few years and continues to enjoy, there is one area of the community that has thrived beyond measure, the Pryor Creek Public School system.
With an enrollment of approximately 2,800 students, the Pryor Creek system is celebrating many successes with their educational learning processes. One important process is that the district has integrated the Franklin-Covey Foundation’s “Leader in Me” program. In fact, Roosevelt Elementary School recently became the first school in Oklahoma to earn the Lighthouse School designation from the Covey Foundation. This process teaches children the value of habits such as independence, teamwork and continuous improvement.
Other recent designations include Pryor Creek High School being named a 2016 National School of Character. Both Jefferson and Lincoln elementary schools were recently named State and National Schools of Character.
According to School Superintendent, Don Raleigh, ED. D, this type of teaching approach is that they are a whole child school. Not only do the students receive the required basics of education, but the Pryor Creek system is going above and beyond the basics.
Raleigh states that the goal of the system is to get each student prepared for the future, whether that is a college education or career readiness through specialized training. “We want our students, when they graduate from our system to be prepared for their next steps, whatever that may be,” Raleigh said.
The vision of the school system is that they will use quality and creative instruction to nurture intellectual curiosity, innovative thinking to inspire lifelong learning.
The Future of Pryor Creek
The story of the future of Pryor Creek is obviously one yet to be told. However, because the community has a long-range visionary plan in place; the hard-working people to make it come to pass; and, leaders who want nothing but success for the citizens who live there and the businesses that have entrusted in the community enough to deeply invest, I believe their future will be exciting and prosperous and even exceed what they have been able to accomplish since their beginning in 1898.