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Purcell, Oklahoma
Nickname(s): Heart of Oklahoma, Quarterhorse Capital of the World, Queen City of the Chickasaw Nation
Location of Purcell, Oklahoma
Location of Purcell, Oklahoma
Country United States
State Oklahoma
Counties McClain
Incorporated 1898
 • Total 10.5 sq mi (27.2 km2)
 • Land 10.1 sq mi (26.1 km2)
 • Water 0.5 sq mi (1.2 km2)
Elevation 1,099 ft (335 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 5,884
 • Estimate (2015) 6,370
 • Density 560.3/sq mi (216.3/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP code 73080
Area code(s) 405
FIPS code 40-61150
GNIS feature ID 1096963

Purcell is a city in McClain County, Oklahoma, United States, and the county seat. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 5,884.

Founded in 1887, Purcell was a railroad town named after Edward B. Purcell, who was an official with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.

Purcell is often called the "Quarterhorse Capital of the World" and its official motto is "Heart of Oklahoma"; the city has registered trademarks on both titles.


Purcell was founded in 1887. It was named after Edward B. Purcell, a vice president of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe railroad (ATSF). Purcell was at the north end of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, owned by the ATSF. Amtrak still serves the town with the Heartland Flyer at the station near the old Santa Fe depot.

Purcell was the only town on the border of the Unassigned Lands, and began attracting hopeful settlers even before the Land Run of 1889. Town lots went on sale April 5, 1887, and a post office was established 16 days later. The Purcell Register, the town's oldest newspaper, was established in 1887, and continued operating into the 21st Century. Residents elected the town's first mayor, James Taylor Bradley, on August 13, 1895. The town was incorporated on October 3, 1898.

Located on the Canadian River, it was called the "Queen City of the Chickasaw Nation." In 1895, one of the five district courts of the Chickasaw Nation was located in Purcell, with the first session opening November 18, 1895. The court house escaped destruction the next day, when a fire destroyed most of the buildings in the business district.

Construction of the Oklahoma Central Railway (OCR), which would connect the Lehigh coal mines with Chickasha, reached Purcell in March 1907. The OCR located its main yards, barns and most of its equipment in Purcell. Although the OCR went bankrupt in the following year, its assets were acquired by the ATSF.


Purcell is within the Great Plains region, located at 35°1′3″N 97°22′10″W / 35.0175°N 97.36944°W / 35.0175; -97.36944 (35.017465, -97.369537). According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 10.5 square miles (27.2 km2), of which 10.1 square miles (26.1 km2) is land and 0.46 square miles (1.2 km2), or 4.33%, is water.

Purcell is located along the I-35 Corridor in the central part of the state, on a bluff overlooking the Canadian River valley within the Interior Plains region. It is 13 miles (21 km) south of Norman. The view from atop Purcell's Red Hill offers a scenic glimpse at both the South Canadian River and the University of Oklahoma campus in neighboring Norman.

The central core of Purcell is located at the intersection of US-77 and OK-74/OK-39. Access to I-35 is at the north and south ends of the town.

Prior to the construction of I-35, this route of US-77 was the heavily traveled road from Oklahoma City to Dallas.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 2,277
1910 2,740 20.3%
1920 2,938 7.2%
1930 2,817 −4.1%
1940 3,116 10.6%
1950 3,546 13.8%
1960 3,729 5.2%
1970 4,076 9.3%
1980 4,638 13.8%
1990 4,784 3.1%
2000 5,571 16.5%
2010 5,884 5.6%
Est. 2015 6,370 8.3%
U.S. Decennial Census
2015 Estimate

As of the census of 2000, there were 5,571 people, 2,120 households, and 1,500 families residing in the city. The population density was 560.1 people per square mile (216.2/km²). There were 2,789 housing units at an average density of 233.3 per square mile (90.0/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 81.60% White, 2.21% African American, 6.53% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 4.51% from other races, and 4.86% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 10.09% of the population.

There were 2,120 households out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 54.1% were married couples living together, 13.0% had a female householder with no husband present, and 29.2% were non-families. 26.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.54 and the average family size was 3.06.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.9% under the age of 18, 8.6% from 18 to 24, 28.6% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 94.0 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.7 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $33,283, and the median income for a family was $36,128. Males had a median income of $25,494 versus $18,919 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,261. About 12.5% of families and 14.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.9% of those under age 18 and 7.5% of those age 65 or over.

Local landmarks

Hotel Love
Love Hotel, Purcell
Nance Bridge
James C. Nance Memorial Bridge, viewed from Purcell train station

Purcell's downtown business district and its many historic buildings underwent major improvements and revitalization at a cost of over $1 million in the 1990s via the "U.S. Main Street" program. The improvements included new sidewalks, Victorian lamp posts, storefront restorations, and landscape islands in the downtown area.

Purcell has three listings on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • Hotel Love. A three-story Victorian brick building that currently houses an antique store, a bed and breakfast inn, and retail offices/storefronts.
  • McClain County Courthouse. An original turn-of-the-century three-story brick building. It underwent a $2 million restoration in 1995.
  • James C. Nance Memorial Bridge spans the South Canadian River, connecting Purcell to Lexington. The bridge, among the longest in Oklahoma, is named for James C. Nance, a newspaper publisher and legislative leader in Oklahoma and U.S. Uniform Law Commissioner. Nance was the publisher of a chain of community newspapers in Oklahoma, including the Purcell Register.

The U.S. Federal Courthouse for Indian Territory, at the east end of Main Street, is a historic site of the former U.S. Federal Courthouse for Indian Territory. It was later renovated into a car dealer showroom and now is a retail storefront occupied by a local floral shop. The territorial courthouse was established under the Nonintercourse Act.

Parks and recreation

  • Brent Bruehl Memorial Golf Course. Named to honor a popular and talented Purcell High School golfer whose life was ended by cancer in the mid-1970s. The golf course is located with the municipal pool on a rolling area near Purcell Lake.
  • Veterans Memorial Park was established downtown across from City Hall. Recent granite memorial pavers and nameplate memorial was constructed by the City of Purcell workers in cooperation with the local Rotary Club and American Legion, on Main Street.
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