November 16 dawned warm and sunny in Guthrie, Oklahoma Territory, in 1907. Citizens of the Twin Territories had been traveling for days to get to Guthrie in order to be on hand for the birth of the 46th state of the United States.
The newspapers reported that the crowd of 35,000 who thronged the streets of town was good-natured and happy, and ready to partake in the festivities.
The orphans of the Whittier Children’s Home were on hand as special guests to observe the historic events. Jack Love of Woodward County had made arrangements for railcars to transport 65 young women from his county, ranging in ages from 11 to 16, to participate in the parade and statehood ball.
The Carnegie Library, one of Guthrie’s most architecturally impressive buildings, was chosen as an appropriate place to stage the official inauguration of the new state’s first elected governor. When the telegraph in the local newspaper office received word that President Theodore Roosevelt had just signed the proclamation naming Oklahoma as the newest state, the news was announced to the waiting crowd with a gunshot. The crowd erupted in cheers and roars, the bands began to play, bells were rung and the party was underway.
Mrs. Anna Bennett, recognized as one of the most beautiful women in Indian Territory and of Cherokee descent, was chosen to represent Miss Indian Territory, while Mr. Charles C. Jones, a former mayor of Oklahoma City, represented Mr. Oklahoma Territory in a wedding ceremony symbolizing the union of the twin territories into one state. The steps of the Carnegie Library were decorated with beautiful flowers. Mrs. Bennett wore a lavender satin dress made in the latest fashion of the time, featuring long sleeves, a high collar and a large picture hat and gloves. She carried one large, mauve-colored chrysanthemum. Mr. Jones was dressed in a black coat and striped pants appropriate for such an occasion. The Reverend W. H. Dodson, of the First Baptist Church of Guthrie, performed the ceremony. Mr. Jones delivered his proposal in front of the cheering crowd: “I have been asked to perform the agreeable duty of proposing marriage to Miss Indian Territory. Permit me to say that nothing gives me more pleasure, as the President advises us of his Proclamation and that the marriage will be strictly legal, without regard to age, condition or previous servitude. The bridegroom is only 18 years old, but is capable of assuming all the matrimonial responsibilities of a stalwart youth.” William Durant, delegate to the Constitutional Convention and member of the Choctaw Tribe, stepped forward to reply: “To you, Mr. Jones, as the representative of Mr. Oklahoma, I present the hand and fortune of Miss Indian Territory, convinced by his 18 years of wooing that his love is genuine, his suit sincere and his purposes honorable.”
The traditional Wedding March was played as the bridal party came out on the platform. The bride smiled and bowed, the bridegroom took his place and Reverend Dodson performed the marriage ceremony to the delight of the cheering crowd.
Governor elect Charles N. Haskell then stepped forward and after he was administered the oath of office, he signed the official papers making him Oklahoma’s first governor. A group of Cherokee girls sang the “Star Spangled Banner” and received rousing cheers from the audience for their efforts. The governor then presented his inaugural address, which the crowd loudly applauded. The parade that followed led the people to a local park, where they were served barbeque sandwiches and granted the opportunity to greet the new state officials.
Guthrie, Oklahoma, featuring one of the nation’s largest historic districts, will celebrate Oklahoma’s 100th anniversary of its statehood with a bang. Historical re-enactments of the original statehood day ceremonies, at their original locations, will take place on November 16, 2007. The city will begin the day’s re-enactments with the announcement of Oklahoma’s statehood at the State Capital Publishing Museum in downtown Guthrie. The building was the home of the State Capital newspaper and the site of the telegraph office that received word that President Roosevelt had officially made Oklahoma the 46th state. Events will then commence at the 1902 Carnegie Library, which still stands as one of Guthrie’s premiere historic buildings.
The re-enactment of the wedding ceremony and the inauguration of the governor, in period costume and manner, will once again thrill the crowds, who will blend their voices with those of the past. A parade and free barbeque in the park will round out the festivities of the day.
See the past come alive and participate in one of the biggest birthday parties Oklahoma has ever seen.