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Small Town Matters: Wakita was put on the map after "Twister"

Sarah Hussain / Red Dirt Report
The welcoming sign greeting visitors of Wakita.
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WAKITA, Okla. – Owner of “Twister” The Movie Museum Linda Wade said that prior to part of the movie being filmed in their town of roughly 350 people, there weren’t too many visitors driving through.

“We felt like if people made the effort to come to Wakita, that there really should be something for them to see,” Wade said. “Warner Brothers told us we’d have visitors for the first couple years – that was typical of any movie – but I don’t think they understand the impact it would have on the storm chasing-meteorology community.

“We have daily visitors in the summertime – from Greece, Canada and France. You meet lots of neat people.”

So to have something to show people was what they did.

In September 1995 the museum privately opened its doors to collect whatever leftover props the filming crew was finished using.

Wade said there were a lot of people who wanted to see what was going on  why Warner Bros. picked Wakita of all places to film.

On May 14 the town hosted a 20th anniversary party of the movie’s premiere where they had a hot dog cookout, showings of behind the scenes footage, Frisbee, snow cones, popcorn, candy, games, weather-related book signing and tours of the museum.

The museum runs off donations and more information can be found here.

Wakita is a town in Grant County founded in 1898. It is 12 miles northwest of Medford, the county seat, on State Highway 11A.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the town has a total area of 0.3 square miles, all of it land. 

Before the town's founding in 1898, there was a dispute over the right to name the town. The owner of the First General Store and the town's first Post Master pushed for the town to be named Whiteville. Local Deputy U.S. Marshall Herbert John Green motioned that for the town be named after a Cherokee chief (of local notoriety) named Wakita (pronounced Wok-ih-taw). Green and other local settlers wanted to name the town in the Chief's honor because of a protective spell cast by the Chief's tribe to protect the area around the town between Crooked Creek and Pond Creek from tornadoes for a time span of 100 years. The name was also favored because of a battle that had occurred in the area of the town under the leadership of this Indian Chief.

Citing historian George Shirk, the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture states that Wakita is a Cherokee word for water collected in a small depression, such as a buffalo wallow. The same source states that Charles N. Gould claimed that it is probably a Creek word meaning to cry or to lament.

The town began after the Cherokee Outlet was opened to non-Native American settlement September 16, 1893. A post office opened November 14, 1893. Population grew after the Hutchison and Southern Railroad (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) built a line through the area in 1897. At statehood in 1907, Wakita had 388 residents. By 1910, there were 405. 

Photos by Red Dirt Report's Sarah Hussain.

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Sarah Hussain

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Red Dirt Report was launched July 4, 2007 as an independent news website covering all manner of news, culture, entertainment and lifestyle stories that affect and interest Oklahoma readers and readers outside of our state. Our mission is to educate, promote civic engagement and discourse on public policy, government and politics. Our experienced journalists provided balanced in-depth coverage of news stories that affect Oklahomans. Our opinion/editorial stories come from a wide range of political view points. We carry out our mission by reporting, writing, and posting news and information. read more

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