Imagine if you lived in a city with no laws or rules – that’s exactly what happened in Oklahoma City after the Land Run of 1889. Congress opened the land for settlement, but they did not provide for the formation of a government until 1890 so the people of the city governed themselves. To ensure public safety and keep peace in the new town, the US Army sent a company of soldiers under the command of Captain Daniel Fraser Stiles of the 10th Infantry Regiment at Fort Reno. The soldiers camped on high ground around NE 4 and Walnut a few blocks south of here where they could watch over the city.
Capt. Stiles was from Canada but he fought in the defense of Washington, DC during the Civil War. After the war he was sent out west to serve at frontier posts like Fort Reno. Stiles was under orders not to interfere in the town unless there was violence or trouble. He was the right choice for the job – nearing retirement after nearly 30 years in the Army, he was known to be calm and patient and a disciplined officer. There were definitely quarrels in the new city, but Stiles and his men always kept the peace.
After retiring, Capt. Stiles bought the land around this park and later created the Maywood Addition in 1892 which was one of the very first neighborhoods in Oklahoma City. Maywood is noted for two geometric features – a wide diagonal street called Harrison Ave and The Circle which became Stiles Park and was donated to the city for use as a park. In those early days, the city did not have a parks department and could not afford to take care of the park, so it was overgrown with brush until around 1901. Stiles Park is the oldest park in the Oklahoma City park system and is believed to be the first city park in the state, although it was mostly a flower garden with a path for strolling rather than a playground.
Today Founders Plaza and the Beacon of Hope commemorating the Oklahoma Health Center forms the center of the circle. The beacon’s bright light is also a tie to the park’s history. In 1909, the city installed eight revolutionary new lighting posts called tungsten lamps that received national attention for the innovation.