The Oklahoma town that started as a lie and got bombed by the US in WWII

The way Boise City, Oklahoma, got started makes selling Florida swampland to northerners look downright ethical.

And then a US Army airplane dropped bombs on it!

Boise City, OK

It began in 1908, when a trio of Oklahoma developers, J. E. Stanley, A. J. Kline, and W. T. Douglas, distributed brochures promoting the town as an elegant, tree-lined city, complete with paved streets, numerous businesses, railroad service, and an artesian well.

Some 3,000 folks followed their dreams and bought lots, only to find that nothing in the brochures was true!  And it turned out that the developers didn’t even have title to the property they were ‘selling.’

All ended well, however. Stanley and Kline were found guilty of mail fraud and sent off to Leavenworth Penitentiary (Douglas died of TB too soon to be punished) and the duped settlers got to work and formed an actual town, which became incorporated in 1925 as Boise (rhymes with voice) City.

Set in the heart of dustbowl territory near the western tip of the state, it had a tough time in the 1930’s but survived.

And even an attack from a US warplane in WW II couldn’t kill it.  Yes, the crew of an Army Air Corps B-17 Flying Fortress on a training run mistook the lights at the Cimarron County courthouse for a practice target that was actually some 30 miles away and dropped five dummy bombs on the town in 1943, puncturing the roof of a garage and leaving craters in the town square, which fortunately was empty at the time.

Oddly enough, the crew declined to attend the town’s 50th anniversary of the event. A 790_572cplaque unveiled at the anniversary event proclaimed that the town is ‘Still Booming.’

Boise City today is a pleasantly small (population 1,200) farming and ranching hub and an interesting spot for an overnight visit.  Wild Bill’s RV Park  is right along the main drag, Cimarron Avenue, for a convenient evening camping out.  It’s not far from the Angel Café and just a short walk from the Cimarron Heritage Center Museum.

That museum attracted me like a magnet.  There’s no way I can drive past a huge statue of the Tin Man and a large iron dinosaur and not stop.Boise City, OK

The 13-foot, 750-pound replica of the Wizard of Oz character started life sometime before 1980 as an attraction for a restaurant in May, Oklahoma. It was later sold to a Pueblo, Colorado, resident, who stopped off at the Boise City museum while transporting it home.  The museum director told the purchaser he wished he’d known it was for sale and regretted not having had the chance to buy it.  Years later, the Colorado fellow, unable to keep the statue any longer, remembered that conversation and in 2012 the Tin Man moved to the Heritage Center Museum.

The dinosaur, nicknamed Cimmy, is a life-sized  model of an Apatosaurus, based upon bones that were excavated in 1931 about 30 miles northwest of town.  It is 65 feet long, 35 feet tall, and weighs 18,000 pounds.

A final note: Boise City is less than an hour’s drive to four other states, Colorado, Kansas, New Mexico, and Texas, but it took actress Vera Miles, who was born there, 20 years to get to Los Angeles.

Boise City, OK
Boise City, OK

Boise City, OK  (Photos by Ron Haines)



About Ron Haines

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3 Responses to The Oklahoma town that started as a lie and got bombed by the US in WWII

  1. Leslie Dreier says:

    I don’t get it. Are you in OK now?

    If those folks survived the Dust Bowl, they can out-do anything. I think the gov’t was complicit in some of the schemes out there, certainly with the incentive to dig up the prairie grass.




  2. lvacgar says:

    Great post!!


  3. Linda says:

    Enjoyed your post.


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