John and Cordelia Steen
Edmond’s First Residents
The Pump House, built by John Steen and railroad crews, was the first residence of Edmond. This photo was taken on December 25, 1888, showing that a Black-Jack Oak branch was “the first X-mas tree in Edmond. “The Steens lived in the Pump House until well after the opening of the Unassigned Lands to settlement.
The entire north-south route through Oklahoma began full service on June 12, 1887. Soon thereafter, ranches in the Kickapoo and Iowa lands used Edmond for shipping cattle and receiving supplies. In fact, Kickapoo Indians frequented Edmond until the breakup of their reservation in 1895. Turner’s general store, twenty-nine miles to the east in Wellston, also used Edmond as a receiving point. George Haas, a Santa Fe engineer when the line opened, later recalled that the only place the crew could get anything to eat was at Edmond. Once they knew what time they would arrive, they would telegraph ahead for the Steens “to have some grub ready for us.”
When the Steens lived in Edmond, until the April 22, 1889 Land Run, only one passenger and one freight train passed through Edmond each day when the railroad was first completed. Edmond was a coaling and watering stop for the passing trains, located in between the Cimarron and North Canadian Rivers.
John Steen (at left), working with the “Dot” rail car he ran for officials of the Santa Fe in New Mexico in 1881.
Edmond History Museum & Museum Collection
John Steen Stands in doorway of the small red Pump House he and his family lived and worked in, boxcars in background. Taken after a second smokestack was added to the building.
John Steen was brought from the New Mexico Division of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to finish the enormous water well at the track’s side in Edmond, Indian Territory. The project was underway when the laying of the track was completed connecting Arkansas City and Gainesville, on April 26, 1887. The well was 128 feet deep and 30 feet across, lined with 110 carloads of rock. Once the well was completed and the Pump House was constructed, Steen brought his family to the barren plains of Edmond.
Dr. James L. Crowder, Historic Edmond: an Illustrated History, 2000.