Welcome to Boley!
The biggest and most notable all-black town in Oklahoma is Boley. Founded in 1903, Boley was established when Creek freedman James Barnett received a land allotment for his daughter Abigail. It was named after J.B. Boley who worked for the Fort Smith and Western Railway as an official. As a result of a heated debate about whether or not negros could establish and govern their own communities, between J. B. Boley and the head of the railway company, the town sprang up becoming one of the most historic black towns of all times. Boley was incorporated in 1905 with 824 residents living there when Oklahoma became a state in 1907. Thomas M. Haynes, who is credited as the founder of the town, served as the first mayor. By 1911, Boley had more than four thousand citizens. Lots of businesses sprang up in this promising black community, including the first black bank, first black electric company, first black telephone company and the first black bank to receive a national charter in all of the United States of America. Two colleges were founded as well as a training school for black boys in addition to an ice plant and water system with a 200,000-gallon water tower. The Masonic Temple, built there in 1912, became the tallest building between Tulsa and Oklahoma City. Famous black leader Booker T. Washington called Boley “the most enterprising and in many ways the most interesting of the Negro towns in the United States.” Advertisements went out to blacks throughout the south telling them of the availability of some twenty thousand acres of the finest land in the Creek Nation surrounding Boley. Soon, the town would grow to seven thousand residents with another twenty-five thousand blacks living in the communities surrounding. In 1921, the silent movie The Crimson Skull was filmed in the black oasis. Richard E. Norman traveled to Boley to capture the life of legendary black cowboy Bill Pickett in one of the first films to cast African Americans in a positive light. Richard’s studio was located in Jacksonville, Florida, yet he would remain in black Oklahoma eventually making 4 black films over the span of about 8 years. By then, Boley had amassed 54 businesses which included 7 restaurants, 5 hotels, 4 cotton gins, a jewelry store, 2 insurance agencies, a lumberyard, 2 photographic companies, 4 department stores, 2 livery stables, a funeral home, 3 drug stores, 5 hotels and 5 grocery stores. Seven physicians served the community. In 1932, members of Pretty Boy Floyd’s gang robbed the Farmers Merchant Bank in Boley. A shootout took place and two of the members, George Birdwell and Charles Pete Glass, lost their lives as members of the community defended themselves. David Johnson Turner, the banks president, and H. C. McCormick, the banks assistant cashier, were killed during the robbery. Still, the robbery effort was thwarted. The United States’ oldest Black rodeo takes place in Boley every Memorial Day weekend with tens of thousands of visitors, annually, since the beginning of its existence. Like the other towns, the population has dwindled down to almost no sign of the success black folks experienced in this old-time version of a black metropolitan area in the past. Boley’s population is currently about 1000 residents. With several buildings still standing, The National Park Services has designated the town’s business district as a National Historic Landmark. Located, 70 miles East of Oklahoma City and 65 miles Southeast of Tulsa, this famous black town is arguably the important stop along the Green Leg of the Black Towns Motorcycle tour.