For much more great history, visit the Official Blackburn Website
The incorporated town of Blackburn is located in Pawnee County on Blackburn Road, halfway between county roads E0440 and E0450. Approximately twelve miles east of the county seat of Pawnee, the community developed after the Cherokee Outlet land opening on September 16, 1893. Named for Kentucky Sen. Joseph C. S. Blackburn, a post office was established on December 15, 1893. Positioned on the south side and at a natural ford of the Arkansas River, a toll bridge, a wagon bridge, and a ferry at various times connected Blackburn, Oklahoma Territory (O.T.), with the Osage Nation to the north. During the territorial era before 1907 statehood, Blackburn was one of the whiskey towns in O.T. that bordered the “dry” Indian Territory. The town was incorporated on April 21, 1909.
Blackburn’s economy has been primarily based on agriculture, with cotton and corn as the principal crops. Consequently, the community had a cotton gin, a flour mill, a livery stable, and several blacksmiths. Due to a drought in 1901, hundreds abandoned their farms. Those who remained formed an association and held an annual reunion, at least through the 1950s. Blackburn hosted the Pawnee County fair from 1903 to 1909. Although oil was discovered nearby, Blackburn never developed into an oil-boom town. Early newspapers included the Blackburn Globe, Blackburn Flash-Light, and Blackburn News. By 1909 the community boasted two banks, a public school, and three churches.
The town’s growth was stunted by the fact that it was never connected by a railroad or a state highway. At 1907 statehood Blackburn had 330 residents. In 1910 the population peaked at 335. From 1920 to 1940 the numbers dropped from 257 to 198. As residents moved away, the post office was closed on March 31, 1960, and the population reached a low of 88 in 1970. Between 1980 and 1990 the numbers remained steady at 114 and 110, respectively. As of the census of 2000, there were 102 people, 41 households, and 25 families residing in the town.
One of those 25 families is the Denny family. When we came into town, the first place we stopped was “Denny’s Service Station”, where we were greeted by Mrs. Billye Denny. She grew up in Blackburn, and went to school in the school pictured below. She told us stories about the old main street, and the many businesses throughout the years. Her grandfathers home is also pictured below in the last group of images. Pictures 18 and 19 below are of the stained glass window pane designed by Billye’s daughter at Blackburn United Methodist Church which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
Being strangers in a small town is often an experience that many feel indifferent about. However in Blackburn we were welcomed whole heartedly. Mrs. Billye Denny was ready to show us this very dynamic town and share it’s history with us. Blackburn’s tale is one of boom and bust. Yet, there are people who still love this hidden treasure, and we were lucky enough to share it with them. Blackburn is a town filled with people who are determined to hold on to the dreams of the founders. People who dreamed to create a place of wealth and prosperity. These same dreams live on in the spirit of the residents of the town of Blackburn.
Parts Taken from Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture – Blackburn