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Stilwell, Oklahoma
Former train depot in Stilwell
Former train depot in Stilwell
Location within Adair County and the state of Oklahoma
Location within Adair County and the state of Oklahoma
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Adair
Incorporated 1897
 • Total 3.2 sq mi (8.3 km2)
 • Land 3.2 sq mi (8.2 km2)
 • Water 0.0 sq mi (0.0 km2)
1,089 ft (332 m)
 • Total 3,949
 • Density 1,234.0/sq mi (481.6/km2)
Time zone UTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST) UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s) 539/918 (918 Exchanges:696,797)
FIPS code 40-70350
GNIS feature ID 1098544

Stilwell is a city and county seat of Adair County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 3,949 at the 2010, an increase of 20.5 percent from 3,276 at the 2000 census. In 1949, the Oklahoma governor and legislature proclaimed Stilwell as the "Strawberry Capital of the World." Stilwell also serves as a gateway to Lake Tenkiller and the former Adair State Park.


The town was named after Arthur Stilwell, noted philanthropist and founder of the Kansas City Southern Railway. It was built because of the construction of the railroad, and was incorporated on January 2, 1897.

As early as 1901, Stilwell and Westville vied for the role of county seat. When Adair County was formed in 1907, Westville was identified as the county seat, due partly to its location at the intersection of two major railroads: the Kansas City Southern Railway and the St. Louis–San Francisco Railway. After three intensely contested elections, however, Oklahoma governor Charles Haskell proclaimed Stilwell as the county seat on May 6, 1910.

During the Great Depression and World War II, strawberries became a major crop in Adair County. In 1948, the first Stilwell Strawberry Festival was organized. In 1949, the state governor and legislature proclaimed Stilwell as "Strawberry Capital of the World." The 2002 festival saw some 40,000 people in attendance.

Stilwell Oklahoma mural
Mural on a wall in Stilwell: "Strawberry Capital of the World"

The former Adair State Park in Stilwell has been taken over by Adair County, after the State of Oklahoma announced in 2011 that it would close the park permanently as part of a budget cutting move.


Stilwell is located at 35°48′55″N 94°37′53″W / 35.81528°N 94.63139°W / 35.81528; -94.63139 (35.815234, -94.631359). It is 8 miles (13 km) west of the Arkansas state line and 23 miles (37 km) east of Talequah, Oklahoma. Stilwell is located at the intersection of U.S. Highway 59 and State Highway 51. Sallisaw and Little Lee creeks are nearby.

According to the United States Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 3.2 square miles (8.3 km2), of which 3.2 square miles (8.3 km2) is land and 0.04 square miles (0.10 km2) (0.63%) is water.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 779
1910 1,039 33.4%
1920 1,155 11.2%
1930 1,366 18.3%
1940 1,717 25.7%
1950 1,813 5.6%
1960 1,916 5.7%
1970 2,134 11.4%
1980 2,369 11.0%
1990 2,663 12.4%
2000 3,965 48.9%
2010 3,949 −0.4%
Est. 2015 4,016 1.7%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 3,276 people, 1,269 households, and 809 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,033.7 people per square mile (399.0/km²). There were 1,434 housing units at an average density of 452.5 per square mile (174.7/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 41.88% White, 0.49% African American, 48.41% Native American, 0.21% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 3.45% from other races, and 5.53% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 6.99% of the population. At 48.57% Cherokee, Stilwell is the most Cherokee community in the United States.

There were 1,269 households out of which 35.5% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 42.7% were married couples living together, 17.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.2% were non-families. 33.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.7% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.49 and the average family size was 3.21.

In the city, the population was spread out with 30.0% under the age of 18, 10.8% from 18 to 24, 26.9% from 25 to 44, 17.5% from 45 to 64, and 14.9% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 32 years. For every 100 females there were 86.1 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 79.6 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $18,555, and the median income for a family was $24,673. Males had a median income of $20,500 versus $17,351 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,034. About 28.3% of families and 32.0% of the population were below the poverty line, including 42.6% of those under age 18 and 20.4% of those age 65 or over.

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