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Ponca City, Oklahoma
—  City  —
Veteran's Day Parade down Grand Avenue in front of the Ponca City Civic Center and Town Hall
Location of Ponca City, Oklahoma
Coordinates: 36°42′45″N 97°4′21″W / 36.7125°N 97.0725°W / 36.7125; -97.0725Coordinates: 36°42′45″N 97°4′21″W / 36.7125°N 97.0725°W / 36.7125; -97.0725
Country United States
State Oklahoma
Counties Kay, Osage
Founded 1893[1]
Incorporated 1899[1]
 - Total 19.3 sq mi (50.0 km2)
 - Land 18.1 sq mi (46.9 km2)
 - Water 1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2)
Elevation 1,010 ft (308 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 25,919
 Density 1,431.0/sq mi (552.5/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 74601-74604
Area code(s) 580
FIPS code 40-59850[2]
GNIS feature ID 1096815[3]

Ponca City is a city in Kay and Osage counties in the U.S. state of Oklahoma named after the Ponca Tribe. It is called Páⁿka Tʰáⁿwaⁿgthaⁿ pronounced [ˈpːãŋkːa ˌtʰãwãŋgðã] in Ponca and Páⁿka Chína in Otoe, the languages of two nearby tribes. Located in north central Oklahoma, it lies 18 miles (29 km) south of the Kansas border and 15 miles (24 km) east of Interstate 35. The population was 25,919 at the 2000 census, making it the largest city in Kay County. The city is near the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River and Kaw Lake, which provide recreational opportunities. Ponca City is served by Ponca City Regional Airport.



According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 19.3 square miles (50.0 km2), of which 18.1 sq mi (46.9 km2) is land and 1.2 sq mi (3.1 km2) of it (6.26%) is water.


As of the census[2] of 2000, there were 25,919 people, 10,636 households, and 7,019 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,431.0 /sq mi (552.5 /km2). There were 11,871 housing units at an average density of 655.4 /sq mi (253.1 /km2). The racial makeup of the city was 84.18% White, 2.99% African American, 6.27% Native American, 0.70% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.08% from other races, and 3.75% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 4.43% of the population.

According to the Center for Applied Economic Research at the Oklahoma State University, Ponca City's per-capital personal income for 2006 was $35,071, steadily climbing from the 2000 census numbers listed below.

There were 10,636 households out of which 31.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.3% were married couples living together, 11.1% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.0% were non-families. 30.0% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.38 and the average family size was 2.95.

In the city the population was spread out with 26.2% under the age of 18, 8.5% from 18 to 24, 25.5% from 25 to 44, 22.1% from 45 to 64, and 17.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 90.7 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 85.8 males.

The median income for a household in the city in 2000 was $31,406, and the median income for a family was $39,846. Males had a median income of $32,283 versus $20,098 for females. The per capita income for the city was $17,732. About 12.7% of families and 16.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 23.6% of those under age 18 and 9.3% of those age 65 or over.

Early history

Ponca City was founded after the Cherokee Outlet was opened for settlement in the Cherokee Strip land run, the largest land run in United States history.

Ponca City was founded in 1893 as New Ponca after the Cherokee Outlet was opened for settlement in the Cherokee Strip land run, the largest land run in United States history.[1]

The site for Ponca City was selected because of its proximity to the Arkansas River and a fresh water spring near the river. The city was founded by Burton Barnes who drew up the first survey of the city and sold certificates for the lots he had surveyed. After the drawing for lots in the city was completed, Barnes was elected the city's first mayor.[4]

Another city, Cross, vied with Ponca City to become the leading city in the area. The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway had originally opened a station in Cross and it was assumed that it would not open another one in Ponca City because the two cities were too close together.[4] New Ponca boosters eventually secured a station after offering the Santa Fe station agent two town lots and the free moving of his house from Cross. [5] It is reported that Ponca City obtained its first boxcar station when some Ponca City supporters went to Cross one night and pulled that town's station to Ponca City.[4] Cross eventually became nonexistent. The city officially changed its name from New Ponca to Ponca City in 1913.[5]

Influence of the petroleum industry

The statue of oilman E. W. Marland, founder of Marland Oil (later Conoco) who later became Oklahoma Governor and U.S. Congressman.

Ponca City's history has been shaped for the most part by the ebb and flow of the petroleum industry. The Marland Oil Company, which once controlled approximately 10 percent of the world's oil reserves[6], was founded by eventual Oklahoma governor and U.S. congressman E. W. Marland, who founded the 101 Ranch Oil Company located on the Miller Brothers 101 Ranch and drilled his first successful oil well on land he leased from the Ponca Tribe of American Indians in 1911.[7]

Marland's luck and tenacity would fuel growth and wealth that were previously unimaginable on the Oklahoma prairie, and his company virtually built the city from the ground up.[citation needed] Mansions—including the Marland Mansion and Grand Home—were built by Marland and his associates. Because of this period of wealth and affluence, Ponca City has an high concentration of buildings that exemplify the popular Spanish revival architecture of the period, as well as art deco-influenced buildings and homes.

The "Roaring 20s" would come to an end for Ponca City shortly before the Great Depression.[citation needed] After a takeover bid by J.P. Morgan Jr., son of financier J.P. Morgan, Marland Oil Co. eventually merged with Continental Oil Co. (Conoco) in the late 1920s,[7] and would be known as Conoco for more than 70 years. The company maintained its headquarters in Ponca City during this time and continued to grow into a global corporation.

During the oil boom years of the 1980s, Conoco was owned by the DuPont Corp., which took control of the company in 1981.[7] After nearly two decades of ownership and an oil bust that crippled Oklahoma's economy in the late 1980s, DuPont sold off its Conoco assets in 1998.[7] In 2002, Conoco had merged with Phillips Petroleum (another major petroleum player with roots in northern Oklahoma) to become ConocoPhillips.[7] ConocoPhillips was then the sixth largest publicly traded oil companies in the world, third largest in the United States[7] and maintains a significant presence in its historic home state.

Based in Houston, Texas, ConocoPhillips continues to operate one of the United States' largest refineries[citation needed] in Ponca City. The company's presence is much smaller than it once was, and Ponca City's population has declined steadily since the early 1990s as a result. In February 2009, ConocoPhillips announced that all of its remaining non-refinery operations in Ponca City (representing 750 jobs) would be moved out of the city.[8] However, recent efforts to grow the city's economy beyond the petroleum industry have landed a number of technology, manufacturing and service jobs.[citation needed]

In 2005, ConocoPhillips announced plans to build a $5 million museum across from its Ponca City refinery. Opened to the public in May, 2007, the Conoco Museum features artifacts, photographs and other historical items related to the petroleum industry and its culture in northern Oklahoma. A sister museum—Phillips Petroleum Company Museum—will also be opened in Bartlesville, Oklahoma. The Conoco Museum is funded by a private foundation charges no admission fee.

Native American history

The Statue of Standing Bear honors the Ponca Native American chief who successfully argued in U.S. District Court in a landmark civil rights case in 1879 that Native Americans are "persons within the meaning of the law" and have the rights of citizenship.
Native American young people hold flags of their tribes at the dedication of the Standing Bear Museum.

Historical accounts of white settlers and the oil industry in Ponca City have often overshadowed the area's Native American population and its influences on the culture and history of the city and its environs.

Ponca City is named after the Ponca Tribe, part of which relocated from Nebraska to northern Oklahoma from 1877 to 1880. Like all of the forced American Indian removals of the 19th century, the Poncas' trek was arduous. A number of Poncas who made the initial journey died from illness and exposure to the elements while following a group of leaders to northern Indian Territory (now northern Oklahoma)."Out of 700 Ponca who left the Nebraska reservation 158 Died in Oklahoma within two years." [9]

Part of the tribe was displeased with the living conditions on the land where they initially settled, and they were led on a journey toward their traditional home by Standing Bear in 1879. However, Standing Bear was arrested, and most of the tribal members who left eventually returned to the reservation in Oklahoma.[10] The story of Standing Bear is perhaps best told by the memorial in his name, which stands at the intersection of Highway 60 and South Fourth Street in Ponca City.

The Ponca Nation, which has kept its headquarters south of Ponca City since 1879, played a major part in the development of the Marland Oil Co. and the city when Chief White Eagle signed over the lease to valuable portions of the tribe's allotted land to E.W. Marland in 1911.

In recent years, the Ponca Tribe has made a number of moves to build its infrastructure and improve services for its people. In February 2006, the tribe received a grant of more than $800,000 from the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community of Minnesota for debt retirement and economic development.[citation needed]

Ponca City is bordered by, or in close proximity to, other Native American tribes, including the Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Pawnee, and Tonkawa. The Ponca Tribe of Indians of Oklahoma conducts business from here.

Pioneer Woman statue and museum

The Pioneer Woman statue was constructed by sculptor Bryant Baker and was unveiled in a public ceremony on April 22, 1930 when forty thousand guests came to hear Will Rogers pay tribute to Oklahoma's pioneers. The statue is 27 feet (8.2 m) high and weighs 12,000 pounds.

Ponca City is home the Pioneer Woman Museum and the Pioneer Woman statue. The statue was erected to commemorate women pioneers.

In the early 1920s, E. W. Marland decided to create a statue commemorating the Pioneer Woman.[11] Marland was asked, "E. W., why don't you have ... a statue to the vanishing American, a Ponca, Otoe, or an Osage - a monument of great size?" Marland answered "the Indian is not the vanishing American - it's the pioneer woman."[11]

In 1928, twelve miniature 3 feet (0.9 m) sculptures were submitted by U.S. and international sculptors (John Gregory, Maurice Sterne, Hermon Atkins MacNeil, James Earle Fraser, Alexander Stirling Calder, Wheeler Williams, Mario Korbel, F. Lynn Jenkins, Mahonri Young, Arthur Lee, Jo Davidson and Bryant Baker) and traveled to twelve cities where they were viewed by 750,000 people who cast votes for their favorite.[citation needed] The twelve original submissions have been on display at the museum at Woolaroc near Bartlesville, Oklahoma since the 1930s when Marland sold them to Frank Phillips after Marland lost control of the Marland Oil Company.[citation needed]

The winning statue was produced by British-born American sculptor Bryant Baker and was unveiled in a public ceremony on April 22, 1930 when forty thousand guests came to hear Will Rogers pay tribute to Oklahoma's pioneers. The statue is 27 feet (8.2 m) high and weighs 12,000 pounds.[citation needed]

A museum commemorating Oklahoma women was opened omn September 16, 1958 on the 65th anniversary of the Cherokee Strip land run.[12] Native American as well as European women are acknowledged for their leadership and stamina creating homes, raising children, and taking care of the daily business of sustaining life.


ConocoPhillips has 1,500 employees and 650 contractors in its facilities in Ponca City. The company has a credit card center, a refining complex, a technology research center, a transportation office. The Ponca City Refinery, operated by ConocoPhillips, is the largest refinery in the state of Oklahoma.[13]

E.W. Marland built the Ponca City refinery in 1918 and founded the Marland Oil Company. In 1929 the Continental Oil Company merged with Marland, and the two became Conoco Inc. The Conoco headquarters was in Ponca City until 1949, when it moved to Houston, Texas. In 2002 Conoco Inc. and Phillips Petroleum Company merged into ConocoPhillips.[13]

Sister Cities

Airport (KPNC)

Ponca City Regional Airport (1007 feet above Mean Sea Level) is located at the northwest corner of the city at 36 degrees 43.84 north latitude and 97 degrees 05.99 west longitude. The facility has a 7,201 foot 17-35 runway which is 150 feet wide and the untowered facility has a full-length taxiway. The local airport booster club hosts a fly-in breakfast every first Saturday of the month, year around, "rain or shine".


The Ponca City region receives electricity powered hydro-electrically at Kaw Lake, a United States Army Corps of Engineers project. The facility, located seven miles east of Ponca City, dams the Arkansas River. The electric utility is managed by the Oklahoma Municipal Power Authority (OMPA) of Edmond, Oklahoma.


  • Pioneer Technology Center is located in Ponca City.
  • Ponca City Public Schools serves the general population's education requirements.
  • First Lutheran School (private) educates local students through the 8th grade.
  • St. Mary's Catholic School educates local Catholic students through the 8th grade.
  • University Learning Center

Points of interest

The Town of Ponca City was also used extensively in the movie Twister. The cast and crew even rented dozen of rooms in the town to stay at for the filming.

Notable natives and residents

Bill Pickett's image on a handbill advertising the movie "The Bull-Dogger," released in 1921 by The Norman Film Manufacturing Company. Pickett was billed as "the world's colored champion" in "death-defying feats of courage and skill."


  1. ^ a b c William D. Halsey, ed (1976). "Ponca City". Collier's Encyclopedia. 19. Macmillan Educational Corporation. p. 236. 
  2. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  3. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. Retrieved 2008-01-31. 
  4. ^ a b c Louis Seymour Barnes, "The Founding of Ponca City" Chronicles of Oklahoma 35 (Summer 1957).
  5. ^ a b Paula Carmack Denson, "Ponca City" at Oklahoma Historical Society Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture (retrieved November 13, 2009).
  6. ^ Aptman, Patti, "Lydie's Legend: E.W. Marland's Tragic Love, 1995, p. 4
  7. ^ a b c d e f Conoco Inc. Company History at Conoco Phillips company website (retrieved March 2, 2010).
  8. ^ Rod Walton, "750 jobs in Ponca City will move: All ConocoPhillips non-refinery work is leaving town, Tulsa World, February 18, 2009.
  9. ^ Nebraska: A Guide to the Cornhusker State, Compiled and Written by the Federal Writers' Project of the Works Projects Administration for the State of Nebraska, University of Nebraska Press, Lincoln, 1939, reprinted, 1979, P. 36
  10. ^
  11. ^ a b "Life and Death of an Oilman: The Career of E.W. Marland" by John Joseph Mathews. Publsihed 1974 by the University of Oklahoma Press.
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b "ConocoPhillips Announces Museum Plans For Ponca City and Bartlesville." ConocoPhillips. May 13, 2005. Retrieved on January 22, 2010.
  14. ^
  15. ^ Nw York Times. "Muslim Singer With a Country Twang" by Neil MacFarquhar. November 13, 2007.

External links

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