“He came here to a dirt-street, sprawling, prairie town, and lived and worked to see it made over into a modern city of 200,000 in a few miraculous years.”
Despite their importance to the brand-new town, neither Henry nor his son Ed Overholser made the Land Run of 1889. Henry Overholser shipped six prefabricated buildings ahead of his arrival a few days after the run and those sturdy buildings were the first signs of strength and hope in the city. Eventually he owned large sections of real estate downtown and opened several businesses, earning him the nickname Uncle Henry.
Henry’s son Ed was in college then, but he arrived a year later. He operated the family theater and became a partner in the family’s extensive real estate empire. He even strung an early telephone line. But the son succeeded where the father failed – in politics. Henry Overholser never won an election to public office, but Ed had a string of political victories including Mayor of Oklahoma City. Ed’s success in politics came from his infectious laugh, eloquence as a speaker, and “vision and energy with a gift of leadership that could make others see and strive.”
The last great deed of the Overholsers for Oklahoma City was the leadership that Ed Overholser provided as mayor for the construction of a dam on the North Canadian River in 1918. The lake created by the dam provided a safe and reliable water supply that enabled the city to support a large population. Although it’s not technically a part of this park, the dam is easily accessible from the park and gives an unusual opportunity to walk across a functioning dam.
This area was once covered by a thick grove of post oak and pin oak trees called Council Grove that was reserved for use of Fort Reno which relied on the wood for fuel and building. Soldiers were stationed in the area to prevent settlers from using the land or cutting down trees. At the far south end of the park’s sidewalk at NW 10 and Eagle Lane, you will find a stone marker commemorating the history of this area.
Oklahoma City was beleaguered by the influenza pandemic of 1918 during Edward Overholser’s term as mayor. Even the mayor was not immune, and on Christmas Eve he resigned as mayor because he was weakened from the virus. The city commissioners voted later that day to name the just-completed project Lake Overholser to honor the contributions of the Overholsers, father and son.