It was jokingly referred to as “Harrison’s Horserace,” but for young Kansan Bill Lytle that’s exactly what the Land Run of 1889 was. Lytle and his brother-in-law Isaac Melrose were cowpunchers along with their friend Charles Colcord (who later built the Colcord Building downtown) when the three decided to head to Oklahoma. Lytle and Melrose spent three weeks training horses to run fast over broken ground and then headed for starting line. They had seen maps of the area, so they already knew where they were headed – some fine land near a grove of trees along the North Canadian River. It took a full day to get there and today Lytle’s land claim is between Melrose and Reno on MacArthur. He built a cabin, dug a well, and planted a garden and then headed back to Kansas for his wife Melvina and two children. Melvina’s brother, Isaac Melrose, made his home two miles due west.
The land for this park is not actually on the Lytle homestead but it is on land that Isaac Melrose bought a few years after the Land Run. This area was once covered by a thick grove of post oak and pin oak trees called Council Grove and was guarded by soldiers from Fort Reno which relied on the wood for fuel and building. Look around you and you will see that many of these trees are descendants of the old Council Grove trees. The soldiers were frequent visitors to the Lytle home as were Native Americans who often watered horses in the nearby river. All were welcome and few left without a home-cooked meal from Melvina’s kitchen.
The city council named this park for William O. Lytle in 1970. For more information on this historic area, visit Melrose Park a few blocks south near Melrose Lane and Council, and look for the historic marker near the street. In Lake Overholser Park, you will find another historical marker tucked into some trees at NW 10 and Eagle Lane.