Ponca City, Oklahoma, (25,000) was once home to six Native American tribes, and the Kaw, Osage, Otoe-Missouria, Ponca, Pawnee, and Tonkawa Indians remain a strong influence today.
Ponca City was created during the land runs of the late 1800s. On September 16, 1893, homesteaders lined up for a race to claim one of the 160-acre farm sites in the surrounding area. B.S. Barnes claimed a site and organized the Ponca Townsite Company. After the land was surveyed, a lottery was held to match names and lot descriptions, at a cost of $2 per lot.
In the early 1890s, Pennsylvania geologist and lawyer E W. Marland discovered oil. Marland and another oil man, Lew Wentz, left a lasting imprint on the town, creating public parks, churches, schools, and homes. Today, Ponca City’s economy is based mainly on commerce, manufacturing, and agriculture.
The E.W. Marland Mansion, a National Historic Landmark, was constructed between 1925 and 1928 and is known as the Palace on the Prairie. The community recently restored the elaborate decorative plaster ceilings in the mansion, which attracts about 3,500 visitors every month.
Other historic sites include Marland’s Grand Home, where he lived before the mansion was completed, today a National Register-listed house museum. The Pioneer Woman Museum showcases the history of women in Oklahoma, featuring a 30-foot-tall statue of the Pioneer Woman, and the Gateway House District includes five blocks of historic homes.
A Downtown Historic Walking Tour brochure guides visitors through the area. Each year, the Ponca City Birthday Bash celebrates the city’s founding. The Standing Bear Pow Wow is another annual celebration, honoring Native Americans through oral histories, songs, and stories.
Designated a Preserve America Community in July 2007.