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Purcell, Oklahoma
McClain County Courthouse in Purcell
McClain County Courthouse in Purcell
Heart of Oklahoma, Quarterhorse Capital of the World, Queen City of the Chickasaw Nation
Location of Purcell, Oklahoma
Location of Purcell, Oklahoma
Country United States
State Oklahoma
Counties McClain
Incorporated 1898
 • Type Council-Manager Charter
 • Total 13.80 sq mi (35.75 km2)
 • Land 13.39 sq mi (34.69 km2)
 • Water 0.41 sq mi (1.06 km2)
1,099 ft (335 m)
 • Total 5,884
 • Estimate 
 • Density 479.35/sq mi (185.07/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 405
FIPS code 40-61150
GNIS feature ID 1096963

Purcell is a city in and the county seat of McClain County, Oklahoma, United States. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 5,884. The 2020 population is listed as 6,420, which has grown to the 67th largest Oklahoma municipality. Founded in 1887, Purcell was a railroad town named after Edward B. Purcell, who was an official with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Purcell is often called the "Quarterhorse Capital of the World" and its official motto is "Heart of Oklahoma"; the city has registered trademarks on both titles.


Purcell was founded in 1887. It was named after Edward B. Purcell, a vice president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad (ATSF). Purcell was at the north end of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, owned by the ATSF. Amtrak still serves the town with the Heartland Flyer at the station near the old Santa Fe depot.

Purcell was the only town on the border of the Unassigned Lands, and began attracting hopeful settlers even before the Land Run of 1889. Town lots went on sale April 5, 1887, and a post office was established 16 days later. The Purcell Register, the town's oldest newspaper, was established in 1887, and continued operating into the 21st Century. Residents elected the town's first mayor, James Taylor Bradley, on August 13, 1895. The town was incorporated on October 3, 1898.

Located on the Canadian River, it was called the "Queen City of the Chickasaw Nation." In 1895, one of the five district courts of the Chickasaw Nation was located in Purcell, with the first session opening November 18, 1895. The court house escaped destruction the next day, when a fire destroyed most of the buildings in the business district.

Construction of the Oklahoma Central Railway (OCR), which would connect the Lehigh coal mines with Chickasha, reached Purcell in March 1907. The OCR located its main yards, barns and most of its equipment in Purcell. Although the OCR went bankrupt in the following year, its assets were acquired by the ATSF.


Purcell is within the Great Plains region, located at 35°1′3″N 97°22′10″W / 35.01750°N 97.36944°W / 35.01750; -97.36944 (35.017465, -97.369537). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.5 square miles (27.2 km2), of which 10.1 square miles (26.1 km2) is land and 0.46 square miles (1.2 km2), or 4.33%, is water.

Purcell is located along the I-35 Corridor in the central part of the state, on a bluff overlooking the Canadian River valley within the Interior Plains region. It is 13 miles (21 km) south of Norman. The view from atop Purcell's Red Hill offers a scenic glimpse at both the South Canadian River and the University of Oklahoma campus in neighboring Norman.

The central core of Purcell is located at the intersection of US-77 and OK-74/OK-39. Access to I-35 is at the north and south ends of the town.

Prior to the construction of I-35, this route of US-77 was the heavily traveled road from Oklahoma City to Dallas.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 2,277
1910 2,740 20.3%
1920 2,938 7.2%
1930 2,817 −4.1%
1940 3,116 10.6%
1950 3,546 13.8%
1960 3,729 5.2%
1970 4,076 9.3%
1980 4,638 13.8%
1990 4,784 3.1%
2000 5,571 16.5%
2010 5,884 5.6%
2020 6,651 13.0%
U.S. Decennial Census
2015 Estimate

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,571 people, 2,120 households, and 1,500 families residing in the city. The population density was 560.1 people per square mile (216.2/km2). There were 2,789 housing units at an average density of 233.3 per square mile (90.0/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 81.60% White, 2.21% African American, 6.53% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 4.51% from other races, and 4.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.09% of the population.

There were 2,120 households, out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.1% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.2% were non-families. 26.2% of all households were made up of individuals, and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city, the population was spread out, with 26.9% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females, there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,283, and the median income for a family was $36,128. Males had a median income of $25,494 versus $18,919 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,261. About 12.5% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.9% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

Local landmarks

Hotel Love
Love Hotel, Purcell
Nance Bridge
James C. Nance Memorial Bridge, viewed from Purcell train station

Purcell's downtown business district and its many historic buildings underwent major improvements and revitalization at a cost of over $1 million in the 1990s via the "U.S. Main Street" program. The improvements included new sidewalks, Victorian lamp posts, storefront restorations, and landscape islands in the downtown area.

Purcell has three listings on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • Hotel Love. A three-story Victorian brick building that currently houses an antique store, a bed and breakfast inn, and retail offices/storefronts.
  • McClain County Courthouse. An original turn-of-the-century three-story brick building. It underwent a $2 million restoration in 1995.
  • James C. Nance Memorial Bridge spans the South Canadian River, connecting Purcell to Lexington. The bridge, among the longest in Oklahoma, is named for James C. Nance, a newspaper publisher and legislative leader in Oklahoma and U.S. Uniform Law Commissioner. Nance was the publisher of a chain of community newspapers in Oklahoma, including the Purcell Register.

The U.S. Federal Courthouse for Indian Territory, at the east end of Main Street, is a historic site of the former U.S. Federal Courthouse for Indian Territory. It was later renovated into a car dealer showroom and now is a retail storefront occupied by a local floral shop. The territorial courthouse was established under the Nonintercourse Act.

Parks and recreation

  • Brent Bruehl Memorial Golf Course. Named to honor a popular and talented Purcell High School golfer whose life was ended by cancer in the mid-1970s. The golf course is located with the municipal pool on a rolling area near Purcell Lake.
  • Veterans Memorial Park was established downtown across from City Hall. Recent granite memorial pavers and nameplate memorial was constructed by the City of Purcell workers in cooperation with the local Rotary Club and American Legion, on Main Street.


Purcell is a member of the Heart of Oklahoma Chamber of Commerce, and is at the center of a micropolitan trade area which includes the communities of Goldsby, Lexington, Washington, and Wayne. Several small businesses and banks are located in Purcell, including a Walmart Supercenter. Purcell has historically served as an agribusiness area and a center for Oklahoma's equestrian industry. Purcell is the site of the first planned double-wide trailer park with underground utilities, paved roads, greenbelts and other amenities, according to the Oklahoma Department of Commerce. The largest area employer is Oklahoma Department of Corrections at 2 nearby prison facilities Joseph Harp Correctional Center and Lexington Assessment and Reception Center, with other area employers including Tinker Air Force Base in Midwest City, Purcell Public Schools, and The City of Purcell (which operates electric, water and sewer service).


  • A $14 million public high school campus facility was constructed in 2007–2008. The new junior high school facility on N. Green Avenue is newly constructed with adequate storm shelter for both junior high and adjacent high school building facility. Elementary and Intermediate school facilities are located on North Ninth street.


Parks and recreation

  • Brent Bruehl Memorial Golf Course. Named to honor a popular and talented Purcell High School golfer whose life was ended by cancer in the mid-1970s. The golf course is located with the municipal pool on a rolling area near Purcell Lake.
  • Veterans Memorial Park was established downtown across from City Hall. Recent granite memorial pavers and nameplate memorial was constructed by the City of Purcell workers in cooperation with the local Rotary Club and American Legion, on Main Street.


Purcell's train station is located at the lower level of the hill at east Main Street, and has daily rail service provided by Amtrak's Heartland Flyer north to Norman and Oklahoma City, and south to Pauls Valley, Ardmore, Gainesville, and Fort Worth. In Fort Worth, passengers can connect to Amtrak's Texas Eagle. Interstate 35 runs north–south on the west edge of Purcell. The town is also served by U.S. Highway 77, State Highway 39, and State Highway 74. In addition, ODOT maintains State Highway 77C in downtown Purcell, a route which is not marked.

Purcell Municipal-Steven E. Shephard Field (Airport ID: 303) has a paved runway just over 3000 feet. The facility was renamed from Purcell Municipal Airport in 2005 to honor a Purcell High School alumnus who became a U.S. pilot and flight instructor and lost his life in the Iraq War.


In 2016, The City of Purcell was assigned a FCC License for Low Power FM radio station KQTR-LP on 93.9. It plays Variety format.

Call sign Frequency City of license Facility ID Class ERP
(m (ft))
Transmitter coordinates
KQTR-LP 93.9 FM Purcell, Oklahoma 193719 LP1 45 45 m (148 ft) 35°0′42.1″N 97°21′45.2″W / 35.011694°N 97.362556°W / 35.011694; -97.362556 (KQTR-LP)

Notable people

  • Earl Bartlett, professional football player
  • Lisa Johnson Billy, member of Oklahoma House of Representatives
  • Eric Buterbaugh, American florist and perfumer
  • Wallace Fox, film director
  • Lester Lane, gold medal winner in the 1960 Olympics
  • Tom Lester, actor and former school teacher in Purcell, best known for TV role as farmhand Eb Dawson on Green Acres
  • F. C. Love, president of the Kerr-McGee oil company
  • Bill McClard, professional football player
  • James C. Nance, Oklahoma community newspaper chain publisher and former Speaker of the Oklahoma House of Representatives, President pro tempore of the Oklahoma Senate and member Uniform Law Commission
  • Parker Millsap, alt-country and blues musician
  • William T. Pheiffer, Representative from New York in 77th Congress, and ambassador to the Dominican Republic
  • Joe Simpson, professional baseball player
  • Bert Seabourn, American artist and painter
  • Charles W. Wantland, coach
  • Neil B. Ward, meteorologist and storm chaser
  • David W. Whitlock, 15th president of Oklahoma Baptist University
Black History Month on Kiddle
Famous African-American Inventors:
Valerie Thomas
Frederick McKinley Jones
George Edward Alcorn Jr.
Thomas Mensah
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