BRYAN COUNTY NEWS: The hustling little town with three names
In 1872 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (MK&T or Katy) laid tracks through the Choctaw Nation. On their way south they created a depot town just south of Durant and named it Cale, after railroad official George W. Cale. The new community on the east side of the tracks quickly grew to include a school, livery stable, and several businesses.
On November 30, 1889 the first post office was established with John C. Womack as postmaster. However, the post office soon found the name of Cale was too similar to Cade, and in June they changed the town’s designation to honor Dr. John A. Sterrett, from Ohio. He was a member of the Choctaw Townsite Commission and Cale was the first townsite appraised. That name didn’t suit the Katy officials because they already had a Sterrett depot in Texas, so they continued to call the stop Cale or “Cale Switch”.
In 1905 the townspeople petitioned the post office to reinstate the name of Cale, but their request was denied. However, the Durant Daily Democrat printed a column titled “Cullings from Cale” and most people continued to use both names.
By the time Oklahoma became a state, most of Sterrett’s business district had moved west of the tracks. Sterrett boasted many more businesses including a billiard parlor, a barber shop, restaurants, grocery stores and a bank. The Sterrett Sun had a circulation of 800. Residents were planning to challenge Durant for the county seat.
In 1910 residents became weary of the dispute between the railroad and the post office. They got together, chose a new name, and submitted it to both parties. On December 3, 1910, the Democrat announced that “the hustling little town on the Katy railroad” known as both Sterrett and Cale, would have a third name, Calera. The new name was a modification of Cale and the paper noted that it was assumed that the pronunciation would be “Ka-ler-a, with the first a short”. The changed was made by the Katy on December 1 and would be the official post office designation on January 1, 1911.
The new name, though welcomed, required some adjustment. On December 10 the newspaper printed this bit of local news: “Professor R. A. Chestnut, principal of the Cale-Sterrett-Calera public schools, was in the city today on business and meeting his friends.” Later in the month they announced a lecture in “Calera (Sterrett)”. That clarification was necessary for many out-of-town readers.
The new name also required many businesses to spend money on new signs, advertising, and stationary. The front page of the newspaper printed on January 6, 1911 said “The Calera News”, but page two still said “The Sterrett News, R. H. Ausley, publisher.” Some businesses continued to use the name Sterrett. The 1923 financial report of the city was submitted by the “acting officers of the town of Sterrett, Calera post office”. Many legal notices published in the late forties stated “town of Sterrett, now Calera”. Twins Inez and Agnes Brown liked to tell people that they lived in three different towns without ever moving.
Cale-Sterrett-Calera has experienced some growth in the past few years and is currently the home of just over 2,000 residents. No doubt it will undergo major changes with the completion of the new highway. However, let’s hope those changes don’t include a new name.
Bryan County History is a weekly feature contributed by members of the Bryan County Genealogy Library and Archives in Calera. The views and opinions expressed here are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect those of Texoma Marketing and Media Group. Is there a historic event or topic you want to read about? Contact the library at P.O. Box 153, Calera, OK 74730.