Ponca City, named after the Ponca Tribe
, is a town of 25,000 in north-central Oklahoma
. It is the largest city in Kay County, Oklahoma
, although, obviously, the competition is not great. Ponca City is situated only 18 miles south of the Kansas
bounder, 15 miles off of Interstate 35
. Ponca City was founded on September 21, 1893 as one of the many cities formed after the Cherokee Strip land run
Ponca City boomed during the 1920's as oil exploration took off. Lew Wentz and E. W. Marland both did extremely well in the oil business. Wentz loved children and built a pool and camp for them that still operates. Marland built a mansion in Ponca City which bankrupted him, but it's one of the major tourist attractions in Ponca as a National Historic Monument.
Marland founded Marland Oil, which merged and became Continental Oil after Marland's resignation in 1928. They later changed their name to just Conoco. This oil company is the major employer in town. Although the headquarters moved to Houston, Texas, both a refinery and much of the research remained in Ponca, making Ponca have a disproportional number of doctorates and engineers for a town of its size. Conoco recently (September, 2002) merged with Phillips Oil Company and much of the research is moving to Houston or Bartlesville, Oklahoma, so it's not clear how much this will remain.
Other attractions in Ponca include the Pioneer Woman, a statue built by Marland in 1927. Marland commissioned twelve artists to make models for the statue, designed to honor the pioneer women and their role in European settlement of the central part of the United States.
More recently, a statue of Standing Bear was constructed as a tribute to Native Americans in the late 1990s. Surrounding this statue are boulders with bronze plaques bearing the seals of the area tribes:
Osage, Pawnee, Otoe-Missouria Kaw, Tonkawa and Ponca.
Kaw Lake, formed by Kaw Dam on the Arkansas River, provides a wonderful place for water recreation east of Ponca City, including catfish fishing. Kaw Dam is operated by the Army Corp of Engineers and features a (relatively small) hydroelectric plant. The Arkansas river separates Kay County, Oklahoma from Osage County, Oklahoma.
Lesser attractions include:
- 101 Ranch, previous home of the 101 Wild West Show and a National Historic Landmork,
- the Art Center ,
- Cann Garden,
- Centennial Plaza in the center of town,
- the Cultural Center,
- Hutchins Memorial, an auditorium,
- War Memorial Park, featuring tennis courts and a disc golf course,
- Lake Ponca,
- Ponca City Library, a Carnegie Library also containing the Matzene Art Collection, a collection of Chinese art,
- the Poncan Theater, and
- the Wentz Memorial
Ponca City News' website, http://www.poncacity.com/ponca