With a population of only two residents, the community of Catesby holds claim to the title of "Oklahoma's Smallest Town." But residents of the tiny community are planning a huge party next month to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the town's founding. Danny and Anna Swenn are the only two citizens officially residing within the city limits of Catesby, located in Ellis County. The couple has lived in the town's only home since their marriage on April 30, 1970.
Catesby remains a legal town site, though the U.S. Postal Service closed the local post office on January 1, 1970. Swenn's mother, Rosie Swenn, served as the town's final postmaster.
While researching a college term paper, Anna Swenn learned the 100th anniversary of the town's founding falls on July 1, 2002. Catesby Community Council members agreed to celebrate the town's heritage with a July 6 celebration.
The centennial celebration begins at 10 a.m. on Saturday, July 6 and lasts until a planned baseball game ends that evening. A 19th century art collection, once owned by town founder Eben Rose, will be displayed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Prior to his move to Indian Territory, Mr. Rose taught art in New York. Other artifacts related to the town's history will also be on display during the day long celebration.
A watermelon feast will follow the 3 p.m. centennial ceremony. Other planned events include a horseshoe competition, a skillet-throwing contest for women and prairie games for children. A makeshift stage will be available for those wishing to share their musical talents. A community baseball game, beginning at 7 p.m., winds down the day's activities.
A great-granddaughter of the town's founders, Cecelia Vanderslice, will serve as guest speaker during the centennial ceremony. Also scheduled to be on hand are direct descendents of Catesby Jones, a Civil War hero and the town's namesake. Jones' granddaughter, Martha Tyson, and two great-grandsons, Mabry and Ed Tyson, also plan to attend.
Anna Swenn said former Catesby residents from all over the country - including Oregon, Pennsylvania and California - plan to attend the centennial celebration.
The Log Cabin Café, located at the junction of Highways 270 and 283 (33 miles west of Woodward), will provide a concession stand at Catesby during the centennial event. A "Catesby Centennial Special" will be offered to diners who visit the restaurant that day. Catesby is located 10 miles south of the Log Cabin Café on Highway 283 and four miles west. The Whistle Stop Café on Main Street in Shattuck is also offering a "Catesby Special" on the day of the centennial celebration.
Centennial celebration committee member Carol O'Hair says organizers have applied for a U.S. Postal stamp mark bearing a portrait of town founder Ella Rose and the words "Catesby, Oklahoma Centennial." The special stamp will be sold only during the July 6 art show.
The town of Catesby was founded on July 1, 1902 by Eben and Ella Rose, who left their home in Rochester, New York for Indian Territory in 1901 due to Mr. Rose's ill health. His son, Flavius Rose, and two cousins, Charlie Pain and Gilbert Nixon, drove covered wagons full of merchandise from Wisconsin to the Catesby town site in September 1901.
Mr. Rose, who made the trip by train, met his son at the Cattle King Hotel in Woodward. The settlers filed for their 160-acre claim after posting a filing fee of $16.50. Mrs. Rose and the couple's younger son, Ralph, met them at the Catesby town site. It was agreed that Eben and Ella Rose would operate businesses on the north side of the town and their son, Flavius, would operate on the south side of Main Street. A large 24 x 44-foot sod house the couple built on the prairie served as the only trading center for miles around for more than 30 years.
Mrs. Rose applied for a U.S. Post Office commission, which was approved in February 1902. Because Catesby was not on an established postal route, she did not receive news of the commission until mid-March. Mrs. Rose learned that her family would have to carry the mail at no charge from April 1 until July 1 before
the government contract could be obtained. Dennis Flynn, a Congress commissioner, stated the post office would be named the Catesby Post Office, which is how the town derived its name.
reprinted with permission from June 2002 issue of Oklahoma Living
Story written Cathey Heddlesten from an interview with Anna Swenn