2019-05-28 sc-TulsaWORLDTGp24

Tulsa World Garnett Nov. 29 1981


For decades, once or twice every day, homeowners in the area of Garnett Road and Pine Street were greeted by that sound, which left their windows rattling.

The source? The limestone quarries next door and the dynamite that was a regular part of the job.

The history of Garnett Road is tied to those quarries.

Likely, the street took its name from the community of Garnett, a company town founded by the quarries back before statehood.

Situated north of Pine between Garnett Road and 145th East Avenue, Garnett survived until the 1960s when it was gobbled up by the expanding city of Tulsa.

Garnett never incorporated. But during its heyday in the 1920s, it boasted more than 600 residents, a school, post office, railroad station and a small business district.

Over the years, Garnett had its prominent citizens. Most colorful among them was L.G. Burt, Oklahoma millionaire and inventor.

And it had its stories.

According to local legend, Garnett was the place where Will Rogers discovered a young Gene Autry and set him on his way to superstardom.

Autry worked there at the telegraph station, where one day Rogers overheard him playing his guitar. He told him he should play on the radio. Autry took his advice and auditioned. The rest is history.

Except, maybe, the part about it happening in Garnett. That claim was disputed by Chelsea, which contended the fateful encounter actually occurred there.

For years, Garnett was a home to many Mexican immigrants. They lived in shanties next to the quarries where they worked.

Harking back to their cultural influence, the Garnett Road and 21st Street area today is a Hispanic hub, home to authentic restaurants and food trucks, markets and shops.

By the 1960s, when it was annexed into Tulsa, the town of Garnett was in serious decline. As of the early 1980s, a few former residents were still living there. But one by one, they cut deals with industrial developers or the quarries and finally moved away.

Today, about all that’s left of Garnett is the street that bears its name. One of the east Tulsa area’s best-known thoroughfares, it runs north all the way to Collinsville and south to Bixby.

Although most who drive it every day are unaware of its past, the street in its own way is a historical marker, quietly commemorating a long-gone quarry town.

Tim Stanley



Twitter: @timstanleyTW