In the late 1800’s, the lands of Indian Territory were still wild and rugged. In 1871, a large group of pioneers settled in the area around Hartshorne and became the first white settlers in the area. Within four years, this settlement grew into a small town. The people who settled here were as rugged as the land itself, and brawls were a common sight.
As railroads moved into Indian Territory, the white man followed, but it wasn’t until an enterprising Civil War veteran moved into the area that the town of Hartshorne really boomed. James Jackson “J. J.” McAlester saw promise in Indian Territory. After the Civil War, he met a man who had surveyed the territory before the war. The man showed McAlester a location that was abundant with coal and even provided the exact locations of the veins. Taking no chances, McAlester quickly purchased the land and a short time later began his coal mining operations. This would begin the reign of coal in Oklahoma, and Hartshorne being only a few miles away, reaped the rewards.
The opening of the coal fields drew thousands of immigrants into the area. Dr. Charles Hartshorne, a wealthy businessman from Pennsylvania, was caught up in the massive migrations.
A short time before Dr. Hartshorne came to Indian Territory, a group of Pennsylvania coal operators and financiers incorporated the Choctaw, Coal and Railway Company. This company, founded in 1887 could mine and market coal, but could also build and operate railroads at the same time. Two years after the founding of this company, Dr. Hartshorne became president. The company was ambitiously laying tracks eastward into Indian Territory and towards J. J. McAlester’s coal operations. With these tracks in place, it was now possible for coal mined in Hartshorne to be shipped all across the country.
During the time that McAlester was experiencing a coal mining boom, Hartshorne became a major economic force in the area. With abundant coal in the region, and easy transportation through a trolley system to McAlester, Hartshorne was both a vibrant and ever-expanding community of immigrants. In fact, Hartshorne could boast of the largest and best equipped coal mine in the state of Oklahoma. The Rock Island No. 8 featured advancements in the coal mining process that had never been seen before.
From incorporation of the town on March 1, 1900, until the mid-1920’s, Hartshorne remained a vivacious, bustling coal-mining town. Productivity began to decline in 1922, when oil took over many of the functions that coal once had. As coal mines began to produce less coal, people began to move out of the area in search of better jobs. The great depression finally put an end to the coal era, as well as the glory days of historic Hartshorne.
For baseball fans and historians, Hartshorne was the home of Warren Spahn after his retirement from baseball and his Diamond Star Ranch is still on Warren Spahn Rd, south of town. In 1999, the Oklahoma Sports Museum in Guthrie began presenting the Warren Spahn Award to the top left handed pitcher in Major League Baseball. In August, 2003, the Atlanta Braves unveiled a nine foot bronze statue honoring Spahn at Turner Field in Atlanta. The Hall of Fame pitcher passed away on, November 4, 2003 and was laid to rest at Elmwood Cemetery in Hartshorne.