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Wellston

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The Route 66 "Gap" and "Loop" town

Wellston, this small town was bypassed by a later alignment of Route 66, but fought to have it pass through town, it has two alignments, the Gap and Loop segments of Route 66 in Wellston. Don't miss its historic Captain Creek Bridge or the remains of a 1930s Tourist Court, the "Pioneer", a primitive type of Motel.

Wellston OK

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About Wellston, Oklahoma

Facts, Trivia and useful information

Elevation: 899 ft. (274 m). Population: 788 (2010).
Time zone: Central (CST): UTC minus 6 hours. Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5).

Wellston is just 12 miles west of Lincoln County's seat, Chandler, in the central western part of the county.

This area has been inhabited for more than 10,000 years however the contemporary Native American populations were transplanted there during the 1800s from their original territories east of the Mississippi River. The U.S. government relocated (removed) Indians from Illinois, Ohio, Florida and Alabama and resettled them in the Indian Territories (which would later become the state of Oklahoma).

Captain Crek Bridge on the "Loop" of Route 66 in Wellston, Oklahoma

Historic 1933 bridge in Wellston
Captain Creek Bridge on State Hwy. 66, built in 1933., Wellston, Oklahoma
by

Wellston is on the land that was ceded to the Kickapoo group as a Reservation (The Kickapoo were originally from Illinois). However the government later changed its mind and made the individual tribe-members receive a plot of land and then had the tribe sell the surplus land back to the federal government. This created over 900,000 acres of surplus land which were "opened" to settlement through the method of "Land Runs". The run in Wellston took place in 1895.

But the first settler, Christian T. Wells arrived earlier. He opened an Indian Trading Post in the Kickapoo Reservation in 1880. Later, in 1884 the post office was established, and Wells was the postmaster.

The Name: Wellston

The town was named after the first settler, Christian T. Wells.

Land Run

A "Land Rush" or "Land Run" was a system by which those interested in staking a claim for a plot of land set off from a starting point and rode as fast as they could towards the land being "opended" to settlement. Once they reached it, they claimed their homestead on a "first come, first served basis". There were several "runs" in the early 1890s in Oklahoma.

Thomas Craddock claimed the land near Well's trading post and deeded land for a town which was laid out next to where Captain Creek joined Deep Fork River. A road soon linked it to Chandler an Oklahoma City, and in 1898 the Arkansas and Oklahoma Railroad, (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway or "Frisco") reached the town and built a station there.

Cotton farming was the main activity. During the early 1900s, the county successfully lobbied to have the "Ozark Trail" pass through it, and by 1918, the dirt surfaced trail passed through the town. It later became Oklahoma State Highway No. 7 and as such was incorporated into the alignment of Route 66 when it was created in 1926, which passed right through the town for the next six years.

There was quite a controversy about the alignment of Route 66 through Wellston: the Wellston Loop and Gap issue reaching Oklahoma's Supreme Court in 1932. But basically, US 66 did not enter the town when it was upgraded in 1933, it bypassed it.

Where to Stay

Book your hotel in neighboring Chandler or Edmond

>> Book your Hotels in Chandler, 8 miles away or in Edmond (25 mi.)

Lodging Near Wellston along Route 66

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>> There is a RV campground close to Wellston.

Weather in Wellston

The average highs during summer are around 94°F or 34.5°C (July) with lows of about 71°F (21.5°C). Winter in Wellston has average highs (Jan) of around 48.5°F (9.2°C) and average lows are below freezing: 25.6°F (-3.5°C).

The average rainfall is about 36 inches (914 mm). Most of it falls during May, June and September: 5.5, 4 and 4.3 inches (135, 100 and 109 mm) respectively.

There are approximately 90 wet days every year. Thunderstorms with hail and strong winds are more frequent during summer and may spawn tornados.

During the period spanning November to March, some 9.6 inches of snow (24 cm) fall.

Tornado risk

Wellston is located in the "Tornado Alley and experiences around 10 Tornado watches every year.

Tornado Risk: read more about Tornado Risk along Route66.
 

Route 66 and Wellston Oklahoma
Location of Wellston, Route 66

Getting to Wellston

Heading east from Wellston down Route 66 are the towns of: Warwick (4.3 mi.), Chandler (12 mi.), Davenport (19 mi.), are Stroud (25 miles). Further east are Depew" (36 mi) and Bristow.

To the west, are Luther (8.5 mi.), Arcadia (16 miles) and, 36 mi. away, Oklahoma City.

Map of Wellston and Route66

in Oklahoma.

Pale Blue: Historic Route 66 alignment; Red line: Interstate highways, where they overlap the old alignment.

  Click to See the Western Oklahoma alignment

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Google Maps. Terms. Icons.

Route 66 itinerary to Wellston

Route 66 logo

Route 66 in Oklahoma

Click to read the Full description of Route 66 across Oklahoma.

Below we detail the Wellston Loop of Route 66 in 1926, and the 1932 roadbed with the Wellston Gap.

Wellston, Oklahoma: Attractions & Sights

Things to Do and See

Wellston Attractions

Wellston is a very tiny rural community on the 1926-32 Route 66 alignment in central Oklahoma. Its main landmarks are the remains of Pioneer Tourist Court, a historic bridge and the "Route 66 Gap and Loop" roadbeds.

Pioneer Tourist Court

At the junction of Route 66 (OK-66) and OK-66B and S 3340Rd., Wellston

Driving from Warwick, 1⁄5 of a mile after crossing I-40, on the right side of the road is a building constructed with roughly hewn brown sandstone.

It is the remains of an original "Tourist Court" described by Ritterhouse in his 1946 Guide to Route 66: "WELLSTON is a small community located about one mile north of here. At the crossroads is the Pioneer Tourist Court, with a gas station.".

It is now closed, but in its day was bustling with travelers and boasted a totem pole with "marble-eyes" which may still be there among the shrubs.

See its map and Street View.

At the junction of OK-66 and OK-66B begin the "Loop" and "Gap" sections of Route 66. Follow the Gap by turning right along OK-66B and head along it into the town; then follow 2nd Street west, and just west of Wellston is Captain Creek with its historic bridge:

The Historic Bridge

Captain Creek Bridge

Route 66 and Captain Creek, Wellston, OK.

Listed in the National Register of Historic Places

"Camelback" and "pony"

The name "camelback" comes from the shape of the truss (those steel frames on each side of the bridge), it curves and forms an arch-shaped truss. Strong and light.

The "pony" part refers to placement of the traffic in relation to the structure: traffic flows between the parallel trusses which are not braced at the top.

An original bridge built in 1933 on the "Loop" through Wellston in the middle of the controversy over the alignment of Route 66.

See a photo of the bridge above, and its Google Street View and location.

The steel bridge measures 225 long between abutments and the central span is 100 ft. long. The roadbed is 20 ft. wide and the total bridge widht is 22 ft.

It is a camelback pony truss bridge mounted on concrete piers and carries the "Loop" segment of Route 66 across Captain Creek.

Oklahoma state highway 66B heads southwest to meet OK-66 and head towards Luther.

Why are there two alignments of Route 66 at Wellston? Below is the story:

The "Loop" and "Gap" of Route 66 in Wellston

The original road that linked Oklahoma City to Chandler and Tulsa through Wellston was built due to the efforts of a private association, the "Ozark Trails Association".

Its goals were to build a decent highway network to allow farmers to move their produce to the markets and to allow the growing number of cars to circulate along reasonable roads.

Ozark Trail

The Lincoln county authorities quickly saw the positive effects of such a network and they were very active promoting the Ozark Trails during the early 1910s. Their goal was to have the road pass through the county (and its seat, Chandler), linking it to Tulsa, Oklahoma City and the rest of the nation.

This lobbying was successful and by 1918, the Ozark Trails passed through Lincoln county and Chandler. It also passed through Wellston.

Over the following years, Oklahoma improved the road and transformed it into Oklahoma Highway No. 7. Paving some sections of it like the Ribbon Road.

When the U.S. highway system was outlined, Route 66 was placed along Oklahoma Hwy. 7 as it was the best road between northeastern Oklahoma and the state's capital city.

The Loop

In 1926 Route 66 was created and it went right through Wellston following the current alignment of OK-66B (Ash). It is clear that it looped north into the town and then again south to follow its east-west course towards Edmond.

A few months later, a vote was cast to issue bonds to pave the road through Wellston. By 1928, Route 66 was paved in asphalt from Chandler to Wellston city limit, about half a mile north of the turnoff. And from there westwards it was a dirt surfaced road.

But Route 66's initial alignment was not the best: it followed property lines, with plenty of right angle curves at the boundaries between properties. So when Route 66 was upgraded in 1930, the original zig-zag course of the "Ozark Trail" was improved.

In 1930 the road west of the Lincoln - Oklahoma County line was paved in Portland concrete. The remaining section to be paved included Wellston, and here there were two points of view: the town and state on one side and the Federal government on the other.

The Gap

The U.S. Bureau of Public Roads favored an alignment that ran half a mile south of Wellston, and wanted to pave the short distance ("Gap") between the existing ("Loop") road that entered and exited Wellston and save money in the process.

Route 66 Loop and Gap in Wellston Oklahoma
"Loop" and "Gap" of Route 66 in Wellston, Oklahoma, from Google Maps

The town on the other hand realized that they would loose traffic and revenue if travelers took the shorter route and bypassed the town, so they lobbied for the "Loop" to be paved. So the town took the case to court and won.

The Oklahoma Supreme Court ruled in its favor but the US Bureau of Public Roads stood by its decision to bypass Wellston and paved the "Gap" just the same. But the state Higway Commission had to abide by the court order and it paved the "Loop" through the town with Portland concrete in 1932, and built the Captain Creek bridge the following year. As it was not a U.S. highway, but a state higway, it was renamed as State Highway 66, becoming the first section of road to be named as a state highway "66" between Los Angeles and Chicago (many states would follow this practice fifty years later when US 66 was decomissioned).

Many years later, after U.S. Highway 66 was decertified and Route 66 became OK-66, this original "loop" through Wellston or State Highway OK-66 was renamed as OK-66B.

The federal Route 66 across the "Gap" was built in 1933 and also had its own bridges across Captain Creek, it was paved in Portland Concrete all the way to the Oklahoma county line.

The town in the end failed: the loop did not manage to attract traffic through the town: in 1939 only 7 cars passed every hour through town compared to 600 passing south of the town. Route 66 did not benefit Wellston as much as it did to other towns along its alignment.

See the Loop Map and the Gap Map.

By the way, the Loop measures 3.3 miles and the Gap 2.4 miles... so it was less than one mile of road that kept Route 66 out of Wellston.

Tours & Itineraries

Nearby Route 66 Towns

Visit, to the west, the nearby town of Luther, and to the east, Warwick and Chandlert.

Route 66 alignment through Oklahoma

Learn more about alignment of Historic Route-66 through Oklahoma.

Sources

Gerry Stanfill Greenfield, Wellston, Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, www.okhistory.org

Ritterhouuse, Jack, (1946) A Guide Book to Highway 66.

Image by Melodibit used under its CC BY-SA 3.0 License

Image by Vítězslav Válka adapted under its CC BY-SA 3.0 CZ License

Map Icons by Nicolas Mollet under its CC BY SA 3.0 License