During the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Charles A. McNabb was the farmer representing Oklahoma’s exhibit. For the upcoming Oklahoma Day at the Fair, McNabb sent word back home to send 100 watermelons weighing 100 or more pounds so he could show off Oklahoma agriculture. When the reply came that there were no watermelons of that size in the state, McNabb wired back, “Pinch off all the buds except a couple off the vine. Give the roots plenty of water.” He got his 100 melons for Oklahoma Day.
C. A. McNabb came to Oklahoma City on the day of the Land Run, but he preferred to arrive at the end of the day because he brought with him two railroad cars full of flour and lumber, both of which were in great need in the new city. He sold all the product in a matter of hours and used the money to buy property and he is widely believed to have built the first merchant store in Oklahoma City. McNabb had a head for business, but he was a genius at farming; what we would call an agricultural scientist today. McNabb gave freely of his knowledge and traveled all over the Twin Territories giving talks and showing farmers how to get more productivity from their labors. Naturally, he was the perfect choice for Territorial Secretary of Agriculture and he excelled in that role as well, helping to establish Oklahoma A & M (OSU) and creating what became the school’s Extension Service for horticulture. McNabb was not just interested in farms, though. In hopes of beautifying the city he began the Civic Improvement Club which became a foundational part of the city park system.
The land for this park was once part of the 80-acre nursery where C. A. McNabb grew fruit and shade trees. When he reached retirement age, McNabb converted the nursery to the McNabb Park neighborhood and donated the land for this park. Look around the neighborhood and you may see some unusual arrangements of streets and houses. That’s because the neighborhood was designed by the famous landscape architect George Kessler. The diagonal street on the east side of this park was once a streetcar line that took people from Downtown to Springlake Amusement Park and to Lincoln Park and the Zoo.
Ever busy even in retirement, C. A. McNabb and his wife Caroline moved to Ventura, California and opened a flower shop.