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Cherokee County, Oklahoma facts for kids

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Cherokee County
Cherokee National Capitol in Tahlequah.
Map of Oklahoma highlighting Cherokee County
Location within the U.S. state of Oklahoma
Map of the United States highlighting Oklahoma
Oklahoma's location within the U.S.
Country  United States
State  Oklahoma
Founded 1907
Seat Tahlequah
Largest city Tahlequah
 • Total 776 sq mi (2,010 km2)
 • Land 749 sq mi (1,940 km2)
 • Water 27 sq mi (70 km2)  3.5%%
 • Total 46,987
 • Estimate 
 • Density 63/sq mi (24/km2)
Time zone UTC−6 (Central)
 • Summer (DST) UTC−5 (CDT)
Congressional district 2nd

Cherokee County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 46,987. Its county seat is Tahlequah, which is also the capital of the Cherokee Nation.

Cherokee County comprises the Tahlequah, OK Micropolitan Statistical Area, which is included in the Tulsa-Muskogee-Bartlesville, OK Combined Statistical Area.


Cherokee stop sign
Cherokee stop sign with Cherokee language transliteration and the Cherokee syllabary in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, with "alehwisdiha" (also spelled "halehwisda") meaning "stop"
Cwy no parking
Cherokee traffic sign in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, reading "tla adi yigi", meaning "no parking" from "tla" meaning "no"

According to a historian, Cherokee County was established in 1907. However, the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, states that it was created from the Tahlequah District of the Cherokee Nation in 1906.

The Cherokee moved to this area as a result of the forced relocation brought about by the Indian Removal Act of 1830, also known as Trail Of Tears. The first significant settlements were at the site of Park Hill, where there was already a mission community, and Tahlequah, which became the seat of Cherokee government. However the Civil War divided the tribe and caused many of the early structures to be destroyed. Non-Indians began moving into the area illegally starting in the mid-1870s, and became the majority by the 1890s.

In 1851, the Cherokee Male Seminary opened in Tahlequah and the Cherokee Female Seminary opened in Park Hill. The latter burned down in 1887 and was rebuilt in Tahlequah. A 1910 fire destroyed the Male Seminary. The Female Seminary became Northeastern State Normal School after statehood in 1907 and is now part of Northeastern State University.

During 1901 – 1903, The Ozark and Cherokee Central Railway, which later became part of the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway was the first to build a track in the county. It boosted the shipment of farm products through the 1920s, but declined during the Great Depression. All rail service ceased in 1942.


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 776 square miles (2,010 km2), of which 749 square miles (1,940 km2) is land and 2.7 square miles (7.0 km2) (3.5%) is water.

The county lies in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains. It includes most of Tenkiller Lake and part of Fort Gibson Lake. The principal river running through it is the Illinois River. Grand River (Oklahoma) forms part of its western boundary.

Major highways

  • US 62.svg U.S. Highway 62
  • Oklahoma State Highway 10.svg State Highway 10
  • Oklahoma State Highway 51.svg State Highway 51
  • Oklahoma State Highway 82.svg State Highway 82

Adjacent counties


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 16,778
1920 19,872 18.4%
1930 17,470 −12.1%
1940 21,030 20.4%
1950 18,989 −9.7%
1960 17,762 −6.5%
1970 23,174 30.5%
1980 30,684 32.4%
1990 34,049 11.0%
2000 42,521 24.9%
2010 46,987 10.5%
2019 (est.) 48,657 3.6%
U.S. Decennial Census
1790-1960 1900-1990
1990-2000 2010-2019
USA Cherokee County, Oklahoma age pyramid
Age pyramid for Cherokee County, Oklahoma, based on census 2000 data.

As of the census of 2000, there were 42,521 people, 16,175 households, and 11,079 families residing in the county. The population density was 57 people per square mile (22/km2). There were 19,499 housing units at an average density of 26 per square mile (10/km2). The racial makeup of the county was 56.41% White, 1.20% Black or African American, 32.42% Native American, 0.27% Asian, 0.04% Pacific Islander, 2.10% from other races, and 7.56% from two or more races. 4.14% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race. 92.7% spoke English, 3.8% Spanish and 2.7% Cherokee as their first language.

There were 16,175 households, out of which 32.70% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.50% were married couples living together, 11.90% had a female householder with no husband present, and 31.50% were non-families. 25.30% of all households were made up of individuals, and 9.00% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.52 and the average family size was 3.04.

In the county, the population was spread out, with 26.30% under the age of 18, 14.60% from 18 to 24, 25.70% from 25 to 44, 21.50% from 45 to 64, and 12.00% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 96.30 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 92.10 males.

The median income for a household in the county was $26,536, and the median income for a family was $32,369. Males had a median income of $25,993 versus $21,048 for females. The per capita income for the county was $13,436. About 17.00% of families and 22.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 28.40% of those under age 18 and 13.80% of those age 65 or over.




Census-designated places

Other unincorporated places

NRHP sites

The following sites in Cherokee County are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • Cherokee Female Seminary, Tahlequah
  • Cherokee National Capitol, Tahlequah
  • Cherokee National Jail, Tahlequah
  • Cherokee Supreme Court Building, Tahlequah
  • First Cherokee Female Seminary Site, Tahlequah
  • French-Parks House, Tahlequah
  • Illinois Campground, Tahlequah
  • Indian University of Tahlequah, Tahlequah
  • Dr. Irwin D. Leoser Log Cabin, Tahlequah
  • Murrell Home, Park Hill
  • Park Hill Mission Cemetery, Park Hill
  • Ross Cemetery, Park Hill
  • Tahlequah Armory, Tahlequah
  • Tahlequah Carnegie Library, Tahlequah
  • Joseph M. Thompson House, Tahlequah

Notable citizens

In popular culture

In the 1940 film The Grapes of Wrath, a policeman, portrayed by Ward Bond, tells the Joad family he is from Cherokee County, Oklahoma.


Since statehood, the economy of Cherokee County has been based on agriculture, especially production of corn, wheat and vegetables. However, the percentage of the population engaged in farming has declined from 62 percent in 1940 to 4.4 percent in 1990. This is largely due to increased urbanization around Tahlequah since World War II. Agriculture remains very important. In 2002, this county ranked first in Oklahoma for the value of nursery and greenhouse crops and seventh in the state for poultry and eggs. Illinois River and Lake Tenkiller tourism are perhaps of greater economic impact than agriculture, and both have lodging, water sports and recreation outfitters, fishing equipment and guides, eating and drinking establishments, campgrounds, festival events, and organizations for the conservation of resources.

Major non-agricultural employers in the county now include the Cherokee Nation government and Northeastern State University,


Oklahoma Cherokee language immersion school student writing in the Cherokee syllabary.

Primary & secondary education

The Cherokee language immersion school in Tahlequah, Oklahoma educates students from pre-school through eighth grade. The Department of Education of Oklahoma said that in 2012 state tests: 11% of the school's sixth-graders showed proficiency in math, and 25% showed proficiency in reading; 31% of the seventh-graders showed proficiency in math, and 87% showed proficiency in reading; 50% of the eighth-graders showed proficiency in math, and 78% showed proficiency in reading.

Adams Corner - Schulhaus 3
Adams Corner Cherokee language chalk board in schoolhouse.

The Oklahoma Department of Education listed the charter school as a Targeted Intervention school, meaning the school was identified as a low-performing school but has not so that it was a Priority School. Ultimately, the school made a C, or a 2.33 grade point average on the state's A-F report card system. The report card shows the school getting an F in mathematics achievement and mathematics growth, a C in social studies achievement, a D in reading achievement, and an A in reading growth and student attendance. "The C we made is tremendous," said school principal Holly Davis, "[t]here is no English instruction in our school's younger grades, and we gave them this test in English." She said she had anticipated the low grade because it was the school's first year as a state-funded charter school, and many students had difficulty with English. Eighth graders who graduate from the Tahlequah immersion school are fluent speakers of the language, and they usually go on to attend Sequoyah High School where classes are taught in both English and Cherokee.


Seminary Hall
Tahlequah is home to Northeastern State University.

Northeastern State University is the oldest institution of higher learning in the state of Oklahoma as well as one of the oldest institutions of higher learning west of the Mississippi River. Tahlequah is home to the capital of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma and about 25 percent of the students at NSU identify themselves as American Indian. The university has many courses focused on Native American linguistics, and offers Cherokee language Education as a major. Cherokee can be studied as a second language, and some classes are taught in Cherokee for first language speakers as well.

See also

Kids robot.svg In Spanish: Condado de Cherokee (Oklahoma) para niños

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