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Oklahoma’s Original Black Gold


When people think of Oklahoma and its natural resources, it’s likely that oil comes to mind. However, it was a different black gold that fueled Indian Territory and present-day Oklahoma’s early economic growth — coal.

Rich deposits of coal in southeastern Oklahoma helped develop the railroad and with it came immigration and industry.

French explorer Jean Baptiste Bénard de La Harpe is credited with the first written account of the discovery of coal in Oklahoma in 1719, though it is known that the Plains Indians used coal in southeastern Oklahoma for hundreds of years prior to La Harpe’s account.

Dr. Bob Blackburn, Oklahoma History Center

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