William C. Rogers, last hereditary Chief of the Cherokees, founded Skiatook in 1872, when he established a trading post in the Cherokee Nation just to the south of Bird Creek where the stream was easily crossed. When a post office was established in Rogers’ store in the 1880s, the place was named Ski-a-took. An Osage Indian, Skiatooka, was a frequent trader at the post, so it had been suggested this may be the connection which resulted in the town’s name.
Historical records have conflicting data as to the origin of Skiatook’s name. One story is that the town was founded on land which was the home of a prominent Osage Indian. Another story is that the name was Cherokee in origin. The first deed in town was granted to the Skiatook Bank, later known as the First National Bank, on December 18, 1904. Lumber was hauled in to build the bank building and in January 1905, the bank opened. Immediately after this day, despite the harsh winter, active construction began, and many buildings replaced shacks and tents. Also in 1904, the Midland Valley Railroad was built through the area and weekly newspaper, the Skiatook Sentinel, was first published. The town became incorporated during the summer of 1905, with A.E. Townsend as its first mayor. By the fall of 1906, the residents had the conveniences of natural gas and public telephones.
After Oklahoma Statehood in 1907, construction began on permanent roads and bridges. Several country schools had been scattered throughout the area, and Skiatook Schools began in 1905. The first church building constructed in Skiatook (link https://www.skiatookschools.org/) was the First Christian Church in 1907. Before this, congregations met in several places in town, including homes and businesses. Cement sidewalks were constructed between 1909 and 1910, and in 1912 Skiatook received water, sewer, and electric light improvements. The area experienced much growth in the oil, gas, and farm industries. Increased traffic through town warranted better streets, and by the fall of 1919, Skiatook had 15 blocks of continuous cement paved streets. In 1920, Skiatook had 2,000 residents and around 50 businesses.
A road to Tulsa was paved in the early 1920s and with good roads leading out in all directions, Skiatook became known as the “Gateway to all points North, South, East, and West.” In the 1930s, Skiatook began purchasing water from Spavinaw, but the completion of Skiatook Lake in 1984 gave Skiatook its own water source.
The historic downtown area is home to a wide variety of stores, including antique dealers, a beer bar, specialty shops, Indian crafts, art galleries, dance studios, old-fashioned drug stores, a bakery, and a music store that features country music concerts every week. During the Pioneer Day festival people line the streets along Rogers Boulevard in downtown for the parade; in the past the street was blocked so a dance could be held in the evening, although this is no lover feasible due to the heavy traffic volume through town on Highway 20.
Skiatook Main Street Association is actively trying to clean up the old downtown area. For more information, see SMSA.S5.com.
Skiatook Dam and Lake was authorized for construction by the Flood Control Act approved October 23, 1962. It is one of the five projects in the Bird Creek Basin plan recommended to meet the comprehensive water resources needs of the area. The Damsite is located on Hominy Creek about 5 miles west of Skiatook in Osage County. The project serves the purposes of flood control, water quality, water supply, recreation, and fish and wildlife management. The total cost of the project was approximately $120 million. It was completed in 1984. Elevated 714 feet about seal level, the lake has a surface area of about 10,500 acres and 160 miles of shoreline. Skiatook Lake has brought tremendous growth to the surrounding Skiatook area since its completion.
In 2010 Skiatook opened a $2.3 million park that features splash pads, new playground equipment and even a pond and walking trails. Osage Trail is 14.5 miles long, starting in Skiatook. The shoreline is accentuated by steep picturesque bluffs which offer fantastic views. Boating, hiking, swimming, camping, picnicking as well as hunting and fishing are all popular activities at the lake.