Change has been a constant in Sarcoxie, a community at the southeastern corner of Jasper County, since its inception in 1831.
In those early years, it was called Centerville, and was later known for its strawberry and peony production, industries in which the community was said to be a leader across the country. It was also unique for the belief that the town would always be tornado-free, a decree made by its namesake, Chief Sarcoxie of the Delaware tribe.
“Supposedly he held his finger up to the wind and said, ‘There will be no tornadoes here,’” says lifelong resident Dr. Debra Royce.
That story has remained such a part of the community that, in 1969, when Royce says winds “drove straw through telephone poles and took dog houses and moved them across the town,” it still wasn’t called a tornado.
“It was a tornado, but they wouldn’t call it that in deference to Chief Sarcoxie,” says Royce.
Black-and-white photographs show crowds in town in days when Sarcoxie was a “big” city of several hundred people that drew local rural families to trade.
“They show all the horses and buggies and the carts and the real old cars that came into town on Saturday night,” says Judy Patrick. “All the parking places were full and people were walking around. But way back then — coming to Sarcoxie was a big deal, and you didn’t go anywhere else. You just stayed right in your community. Now people drive to Tulsa to eat dinner — it’s no big deal.”