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In the 18th century the Pawnee mainly lived along the Republican, Loup and Platte rivers in Nebraska. They were mainly farmers and raised crops of corn, beans, pumpkins and melons. The Pawnees had a special way of preparing the scalp lock by dressing it with buffalo fat until it stood erect and curved backward like a horn. The name Pawnee comes from the word pariki (horn).
The Pawnees were skilled at stealing horses from other Native American tribes. They used these horses on the south-west plains hunting buffalo. This brought them into conflict with other tribes in the area such as the Arapaho, Comanche, Kiowa, Crow, Sioux, Shoshoni, and the Ute.
It is estimated that at the beginning of the 19th century there were over 10,000 members of the Pawnee tribe. The arrival of European settlers created serious problems for the Pawnee. In 1831 a smallpox epidemic killed nearly half the tribe. They also suffered badly from a cholera outbreak in 1849.
The Pawnee never went on the warpath against the settlers and were willing to form alliances with the U. S. army. In 1864 Major General Samuel R. Curtis arranged for Frank North to organize a company of Pawnee scouts to help the army during the Indian Wars.
In 1865 North's scouts accompanied Brigadier General Patrick Connor on the North Plains expedition from Julesburg to the Tongue River. On 23rd August the Pawnees fought against a Sioux and Cheyenne war party and killed 34 warriors. Later that month the scouts directed Connor and his men to an Arapatho village and was able to capture 750 horses and mules.
In March 1867 General Christopher Auger commissioned Frank North to enlist 200 Pawnee scouts. Major North was given the task of using these men to protect workers building the Union Pacific Railroad. They did this successfully and were able to defeat a Cheyenne war party that had derailed a train at Plum Creek.
Pawnee chiefs signed a series of treaties but their loyalty was not rewarded and they were eventually forced to surrender their homeland for a reservation along the Loup River. In 1876 they sold this land and moved to the Indian Territory in Oklahoma.
By 1900 the Pawnee population had fallen to around 600 people. This has now increased to about 2,500.
Pawnee - History
Located in north-central Oklahoma, Pawnee County is bordered on the north and east by Osage County and the Arkansas River, on the south by Creek and Payne counties, and on the west by Noble and Payne counties. Organized as Q County following the Cherokee Outlet land opening on September 16, 1893, it was renamed Pawnee County in 1894 for the Pawnee tribe. The western one-third of the county lies in the Red Bed Plains physiographic region, and the Sandstone Hills region comprises the remaining two-thirds. With 594.87 square miles of land and water, the county is drained by the Cimarron and Arkansas rivers as well as tributaries such as Black Bear Creek. In 2010 the incorporated towns included Blackburn, Cleveland, Hallett, Jennings, Maramec, Pawnee (county seat), Ralston, Shady Grove, Skedee, Terlton, and Westport.
Pawnee County lies within a region that has been little studied by archaeologists. In 1975 an Oklahoma Archeological Survey member identified fifteen sites in the Greasy Creek watershed, lying in eastern Noble and western Pawnee counties. Six sites were tested, with the conclusion that the area had been occupied during the Archaic, Woodland, and Plains Village cultural phases. In the 1977 published report regarding this survey, it was noted that the lack of evidence for the Paleo-Indian period may be attributed to the fact that flooding could have destroyed artifacts or that settlement patterns did not include sites along the waterways that had been studied. As of 1979, the county had 175 known archaeological sites, of which ten had been tested and one had been excavated.
In 1803 the present area of Oklahoma was included in the Louisiana Purchase. In the early 1800s James B. Wilkinson, Thomas James, Washington Irving, and Nathan Boone traveled through present Pawnee County on exploring and trading missions. During their excursions they saw Osage hunting buffalo in the area. In 1825 the Osage ceded to the United States an area that included parts of Missouri, the Territory of Arkansas, and the future state of Oklahoma. Through a treaty in 1828 and the New Echota Treaty of 1835 the Cherokee received land in eastern Oklahoma as well as a strip of land known as the Cherokee Outlet.
Following the Civil War, under the terms of the Reconstruction Treaties of 1866, the Cherokee agreed to allow other American Indians to be settled in the eastern portion of the Outlet. Consequently, between 1873 and 1875 the Pawnee were relocated from Nebraska to a reservation there. The Pawnee Agency was established near the present town of Pawnee in the summer 1875. After the Civil War ended, cattle outfits such as the Berry brothers, Bennett and Dunham, and the McClelland Cattle Company leased land from the Cherokee in the Outlet in the vicinity of the future Pawnee County.
According to the Pawnee Agreement dated October 31, 1891, the Pawnee agreed to take allotments in severalty. After they received them, the area was opened to non-Indian settlers on September 16, 1893, during the Cherokee Outlet Opening. Prior to the land opening the county was organized as Q County and Townsite Number Thirteen (later the town of Pawnee) was designated as the county seat. Following the opening the communities of Blackburn, Cleveland, Jennings, Maramec, and Terlton soon developed.
When it came time to name the county, the names Queen (for Q County), Platte, and Pawnee were suggested. On November 6, 1894, an election was held to choose county officials. The name Platte was listed on the Democratic ballot, and Pawnee on the Republican. Because the Republicans won, Pawnee was chosen for the county name. A courthouse was dedicated on September 9, 1895. This building was razed in 1931, and a three-story edifice was erected in 1932. Architects for the new structure were Smith and Senter of Tulsa. The Manhattan Construction Company of Tulsa built the courthouse, which cost approximately $125,000. The building is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 84003406).
Pawnee County's economy has been primarily based on agriculture. The principal crops have included cotton, corn, wheat, oats, and sorghum. At 1907 statehood 48,143 acres were planted in corn, 16,234 in cotton, 3,903 in oats, 3,265 in sorghum, and 2,631 in wheat. Livestock numbered 17,375 head of swine, 11,951 of cattle, 6,750 milk cows, 6,083 horses, and 747 sheep and goats. In the mid-1920s cotton gins operating at Pawnee, Skedee, Maramec, Terlton, Ralston, Cleveland, Blackburn, Jennings, and Keystone ginned between ten thousand and twelve thousand bales. In 1930 the county had 2,289 farms, with 59.9 percent operated by tenant farmers. The average size farm was 154.3 acres. By 1950 the number of farms had dwindled to 1,426. In 1963 farmers planted 16,300 acres in wheat. That year livestock numbered 44,000 cattle, 42,000 chickens, 9,700 swine, 2,400 sheep, and 1,600 milk cows. At the turn of the twenty-first century the census recorded 671 farms, comprising 263,369 acres and an average farm size of approximately 393 acres.
The petroleum industry has also boosted the economy. With Pawnee County surrounded by prominent oil fields such as the Cushing-Drumright, the Osage, and the Glenn Pool, speculators drilled many wells in the eastern third of the county. The Cleveland pool opened in 1904 after a discovery well, known as Uncle Bill Lowery Number One, was completed on the William Lowery farm located south of Cleveland. Other oil and gas wells soon developed near Hallett, Jennings, Maramec, Pawnee, Quay, Ralston, and Terlton. In December 1915 Frank Buttram completed a discovery well in the Watchorn (Morrison) Field in northwestern Pawnee County. In 1925 oil production peaked at 2.2 million barrels annually. In 1980 the county produced more than one million barrels of crude and 620 million cubic feet of natural gas.
Manufacturing has played a minor role in the economy. In 1959 Pawnee County had nine industrial plants. At the turn of the twenty-first century twenty manufacturers operated, including the Columbia Windows factory in Cleveland. Availability of sandstone, limestone, clay, and sand provided construction materials for early-day buildings and roads. At various times more than thirty-five quarries operated. In the 1930s Cleveland had a brick plant, and Ralston had a broom factory and a sand company. In the 1990s two quarries existed, the Quapaw Quarry near Skedee and Stewart Stone, east of Pawnee.
The earliest education in present Pawnee County was provided at the Pawnee Agency near the present town of Pawnee. Two day schools functioned by February 1876, and the Pawnee Boarding School opened on November 11, 1878. At the day schools students received lessons in English and basic education, and the boarding school offered them advanced classes and a half-day of industrial education. After the Cherokee Outlet Opening in September 1893, whites educated their children through subscription schools until public schools could be established. Between 1935 and 1938 the Pawnee Junior College provided higher education. The Tri-County Vocational Center opened on November 15, 1993, in Cleveland to train disabled residents, mainly from Pawnee, Creek, and Osage counties.
Prior to the development of railroads and highways, rivers and trails served as transportation routes. Between 1900 and 1902 the Eastern Oklahoma Railway (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) built a line that entered the southwest corner of Pawnee County, passing through Rambo and Pawnee to Esau Junction. This railroad also connected Ralston, Skedee, Maramec, and Quay in a north-south direction through the county. In 1902 the Arkansas Valley and Western Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) crossed the county from east to west. Two years later the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma Railway (or Katy) passed through the county from the south to the northeast, connecting Cleveland, Hallett, and Jennings to outside markets. Modern motorists use U.S. Highways 412 (Cimarron Turnpike) and 64, as well as State Highways 15, 18, 48, and 99.
At 1907 statehood Pawnee County's population stood at 17,112. The numbers increased to 17,332 in 1910, 19,126 in 1920, and peaked at 19,882 in 1930. After the Great Depression the population declined to 17,395 in 1940, reaching a low of 10,884 in 1960. Censuses for 1980 and 1990 reported 15,310 and 15,575, respectively. In 2000 the county had 16,612 residents. In 2010 Pawnee County's 15, 557 inhabitants were 80.6 percent white, 12.1 percent American Indian, 0.7 percent African American, and 0.3 percent Asian. Hispanic ethnicity was identified as 2.0 percent.
At the turn of the twenty-first century two newspapers, the Cleveland American and Pawnee Chief, served Pawnee County. Hospitals and public libraries were located in Pawnee and Cleveland. Viable unincorporated communities included Oak Grove, Timberlane, Wes, and Lone Chimney. Keystone Lake, Feyodi Creek State Park, and Lone Chimney Lake provided outdoor recreational facilities. Attractions included the Blue Hawk Peak Ranch (known as the Pawnee Bill Ranch, listed in the National Register of Historic Places, NR 75001571) and the Hallett Motor Racing Circuit. Prominent individuals who have hailed from Pawnee County include Chester Gould (creator of the Dick Tracy comic strip), Moses J. "Chief" YellowHorse (baseball player for the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1921–22), U.S. Rep. Bird S. McGuire, and Congressional Medal of Honor recipients Comdr. Ernest Edwin Evans and Maj. Kenneth D. Bailey. Annual events include a powwow, a rodeo, Pawnee Bill's Wild West Show and Festival, and the Oklahoma Steam and Gas Engine Show held in Pawnee.
Kenny A. Franks, The Rush Begins: A History of the Red Fork, Cleveland, and Glenn Pool Oil Fields (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1984).
Kenny A. Franks and Paul F. Lambert, Pawnee Pride: A History of Pawnee County (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 1994).
"Pawnee County," Vertical File, Oklahoma Room, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City.
"Pawnee County," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed. Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003).
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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. 
|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/km 2 ). There were 1,054 housing units at an average density of 479.9 per square mile (185.0/km 2 ). 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.
Pawnee has an aldermanic form of government. 
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. 
Pawnee Township saw some of Sangamon County’s earliest European settlers, with Justus Henkle apparently being the first in 1818. He was followed by a number of other settlers from St. Clair County. The new families encountered the indigenous Kickapoo and Pottawatomie, but no clashes occurred between them.
The village originally was known as Horse Creek, “so named from the fact that the dead body of a man was found on its banks at a very early day in the winter, and the next spring the horse carcass was found upon its banks which the dead man had ridden,” reports A Pictorial Album of Pawnee, Illinois 1854-2004 by Joyce Reynolds, which is in the Sangamon Valley Collection at Lincoln Library. (The album, which includes the first photo ever of Pawnee, a stereoscopic view that apparently dates from the 1850s, is an exceptionally good photographic history of the community.)
In 1854, however, residents sought to have a post office located there, and postal authorities objected to Horse Creek as a name. Springfield post office employee Charles Keyes suggested the name of “Pawnee.” “It was a popular notion in those times to name things after Indian Nations,” according to the Pictorial Album. “Even though there had never been a Pawnee Indian in Illinois, the Horse Creek community adopted the new name.”
Pawnee’s economy centered on coal mining for virtually all of the 20th century, starting with the Horse Creek Coal Mine, followed by the Victor Coal Co., and finally the Peabody Coal Co. Most Pawnee miners worked first at the Peabody No. 5 mine, then Peabody No. 8 near Tovey. Finally, Peabody No. 10 east of town, which loaded its first rail car in June 1951, was for a while the world’s largest mine. Pawnee’s coal industry ended with the closure of Peabody No. 10 in 1995.
Pawnee’s miners were a melting pot of ethnic groups, often immigrants. In Pawnee, many of them lived in houses owned by Peabody on the west end of town, a neighborhood known as “The Patch.”
Mine automation starting in the 1920s led to the layoffs of half of Peabody’s miners, and a strike against Peabody in 1932 divided miners themselves, leading to violent conflicts between the longstanding coalfield union, the United Mine Workers of America, and its upstart rival, the Progressive Miners of America.
A brief, well-written history of Pawnee, including the area’s mining industry, is available on the village web site.
More: While many 19th-century communities rose or fell depending on the routes railroad organizers selected for their lines, Pawnee residents took the initiative themselves and built the Pawnee Railroad in 1888. The line first went west to connect to the Illinois Central Railroad and later was extended eastward to reach what is today’s Norfolk Southern Railway. The Pawnee Railroad is considered to be the origin of today’s Illinois and Midland Railroad.
*Dr. Addie Helen Babb (1866-1952), who practiced medicine at the turn of the century in her family home on Galloway road near Pawnee and in Springfield, was known as “Pawnee’s own lady doctor,” according to the Pictorial Album.
*The east side of the Pawnee square burnt down in 1894. And a sleet storm in 1924 put the local telephone company out of business for two years. The Pictorial Album shows the effects of both.
*Joyce Reynolds’ A Pictorial Album of Pawnee, Illinois 1854-2004, at Lincoln Library’s Sangamon Valley Collection provides an unusually good photographic look at Pawnee history. Included is a stereoscopic photo of Pawnee, the first photo ever taken of the village, that apparently dates from the 1850s.
Today: Pawnee, population 2,739 in 2010, is 17 miles south of Springfield, east of Interstate 55 on Illinois 104.
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Pawnee - History
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- Pawnee Schools Year Books 1921-
- Mannford Year Books
- Digital images of the pages of a book titled Men and women in the Armed Forces from Pawnee County, Oklahoma
- Chaui – Grand
- Kitkehaki – Republican Pawnee
- Pitahauerat – Tapage Pawnee
- Skidi – Loup or Wolf Pawnee