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Norman Living Guide: Norman grew from small prairie town

Norman Living Guide: What began as a small camp soon turned into a town called Norman, which today has grown into the third-largest city in Oklahoma.
by Jane Glenn Cannon Published: September 25, 2013

During the land rush of 1889, home seekers came here by wagon, buggies, on horseback and on foot to found a new town along the Santa Fe railroad tracks. Stakes were claimed on both sides of the tracks, and the population of Norman in April of that year was 500.

The town incorporated in May 1891 and was named for Abner Norman, a surveyor for the Santa Fe Railway. The county was named for President Grover Cleveland.

A statue of Abner Norman graces the front entrance to city hall, something that would surely surprise him were he to return today to the little patch of prairie where his work crew first burned the words “Norman's Camp” into an elm tree. It would turn into a thriving town and eventually an enduring city — the state's third-largest with an estimated population this year of about 114,000.

The railroad laid the foundation for Norman to flourish into a prominent city, but it also owes its growth to early mayor T.R. Waggoner, who directed a bill through the Territorial Legislature to make the city home to the state's first institution of higher learning.

Norman was selected for the University of Oklahoma contingent upon the county passing bonds to construct a building. Residents were required to donate 40 acres of land for a campus site. The residents of Norman were successful in all their plans to be OU's home and by 1895, the university enrolled 100 students. Today, the Norman campus has an enrollment of about 23,000.

OU is well known for its sporting events, with more than 80,000 people routinely attending football games. The university also is home to two state museums, the Fred Jones Jr. Museum of Art and the Sam Noble Oklahoma Museum of Natural History.

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by Jane Glenn Cannon
Senior Reporter
A native of Oklahoma, Jane Glenn Cannon is an award-winning reporter who has covered everything from crime, courts and government to entertainment and features. She wrote a popular personal column for many years. She is a former associate writer...
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