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Pawnee, Oklahoma

Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum
Pawnee Bill Ranch and Museum
"Where The West Remains"
Location of Pawnee, Oklahoma
Location of Pawnee, Oklahoma
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Pawnee
 • Total 2.21 sq mi (5.71 km2)
 • Land 2.21 sq mi (5.71 km2)
 • Water 0.00 sq mi (0.00 km2)
869 ft (265 m)
 • Total 2,196
 • Estimate 
 • Density 955.10/sq mi (368.70/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 539/918
FIPS code 40-57650
GNIS feature ID 1096479

Pawnee (Pawnee: Paári, Iowa-Oto: Páñi Chína) is a city and county seat of Pawnee County, Oklahoma, United States. The town is northeast of Stillwater at the junction of U.S. Route 64 and State Highway 18.

It was named for the Pawnee tribe, which was relocated to this area between 1873 and 1875. The population was 2,190 at the 2010 census, a decline of 1.5 percent from the figure of 2,230 recorded in 2000.


The Pawnee Agency and Pawnee Boarding School were established after the Pawnee tribe came to this area in 1875. The Pawnee Agency was designated as a post office on May 4, 1876. The area was opened to non-Indian settlers on September 16, 1893, during the Cherokee Outlet Opening. Townsite Number Thirteen (later Pawnee) had been designated as the temporary county seat. The post office was redesignated from Pawnee Agency to Pawnee on October 26, 1893. The town incorporated on April 16, 1894. On September 9, 1895, the townspeople dedicated a stone county courthouse.

The Eastern Oklahoma Railway, which later became part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, built a line through Pawnee between 1900 and 1902. In 1902, the Arkansas Valley and Western Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) also built a line through the city. The railroads enabled Pawnee to develop as an agricultural trade center. The population was 1,943 at statehood in 1907.

Pawnee continued to develop during the Great Depression, largely because of Federal works projects. A hospital to care for the Ponca, Pawnee, Kaw, Otoe, and Tonkawa people opened January 15, 1931. A new school building at the Osage Agency opened in 1932. The federal government built a reservoir named Pawnee Lake in 1932. A new county courthouse was also built in 1932.


Pawnee is located at 36°20′11″N 96°48′5″W / 36.33639°N 96.80139°W / 36.33639; -96.80139 (36.336260, -96.801494). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 2.2 square miles (5.7 km2), all land.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 1,464
1910 2,161 47.6%
1920 2,418 11.9%
1930 2,562 6.0%
1940 2,742 7.0%
1950 2,861 4.3%
1960 2,303 −19.5%
1970 2,443 6.1%
1980 1,688 −30.9%
1990 2,197 30.2%
2000 2,230 1.5%
2010 2,196 −1.5%
2019 (est.) 2,106 −4.1%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 2,230 people, 878 households, and 581 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,015.4 people per square mile (391.4/km2). There were 1,054 housing units at an average density of 479.9 per square mile (185.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 63.18% White, 3.59% African American, 27.89% Native American, 0.18% from other races, and 5.16% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 1.03% of the population.

There were 878 households, out of which 33.3% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 45.7% were married couples living together, 17.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 33.8% were non-families. 32.0% of all households were made up of individuals, and 16.5% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.44 and the average family size was 3.08.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 27.4% under the age of 18, 7.3% from 18 to 24, 24.4% from 25 to 44, 22.7% from 45 to 64, and 18.2% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females, there were 84.3 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 80.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,962, and the median income for a family was $32,850. Males had a median income of $28,182 versus $20,139 for females. The per capita income for the city was $12,970. About 16.8% of families and 20.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 25.9% of those under age 18 and 23.4% of those age 65 or over.

2016 earthquake

A 5.8-magnitude earthquake struck near Pawnee on September 3, 2016, causing cracks and minor damage to buildings. It was the strongest recorded earthquake in state history, exceeding the 5.7 magnitude 2011 earthquake near Prague, Oklahoma.

Items of interest

Peerless Steam Threshing Engine Pawnee County Courthouse Oklahoma
Peerless Steam Threshing Engine on Static Display at Pawnee County Courthouse
Dicktracy (mural)
Dick Tracy mural in downtown Pawnee
  • Home of the largest free Pow-Wow. (put on by the Pawnee Indian Veterans July 4 weekend)
  • Served by Meridian Technology Center
  • Pawnee High School
  • Home of the Pawnee people
  • Pawnee Indian Agency
  • Pawnee County Courthouse (Oklahoma)
  • Pawnee Agency and Boarding School Historic District
  • Pawnee Armory
  • Pawnee Bill Historical Museum
  • Oklahoma Steam Threshers Association Steam & Gas Engine Show - 1st Weekend in May
  • Pawnee Bill Memorial Rodeo
  • Pawnee Bill Wild West Show Reenactment
  • World's Largest Dick Tracy mural
  • Pawnee Municipal Swimming Pool and Bathhouse
  • Pawnee County Historical Society Museum

Notable people

  • Kenneth D. Bailey, Medal of Honor recipient
  • Carter Camp, Native American activist
  • Ernest E. Evans, Lieutenant Commander, United States Navy, Medal of Honor recipient for action as commander of Destroyer USS Johnston (DD-557) off Samar Island, Philippines, 1944
  • Chester Gould, cartoonist, creator of Dick Tracy
  • Saginaw Grant, actor, dancer, and motivational speaker
  • Clyde LeForce, selected by the Detroit Lions in the 19th round of the 1945 NFL Draft
  • Gordon W. Lillie (aka Pawnee Bill), Wild West Show presenter
  • May Lillie, Wild West Show performer, sharpshooter and equestrian
  • John J. Mathews, historian
  • Neil E. McNeil, was city and county judge of Pawnee (1905-11), then Associate Justice of the Oklahoma Supreme Court (1914-1919)
  • Della Warrior (b. 1946), born in Pawnee, served as first (and so far, only) female chair of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe. Also was president of the Institute of American Indian Arts.
  • Moses J. "Chief" YellowHorse, first full blooded Native American Pro Baseball Player (Pittsburgh Pirates, 1921-2)
  • Steve Ripley, musician, leader of The Tractors
Black History Month on Kiddle
Famous African-American Inventors:
George Robert Carruthers
Patricia Bath
Jan Ernst Matzeliger
Alexander Miles
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