EPOTM: Criner, OK

_DSC0096(click photo at left for full view) -CRINER, OK.

When we were driving into Criner the only thing my mom had been able to find out about the town from a quick LexisNexis search was that they had a Superfund site, and that there was a lady who got in an argument with her neighbors because her goats were…ahem, fornicating in her front yard and the neighbors didn’t much care to see this particular act of nature.  So heading into town we were sort of hoping to talk to goat lady because we thought that story was hilarious, but as it happens we found someone else in town to tell us her story.

Usually (I say usually, but we’ve only done ten towns. I don’t really know how often you have to do something to justify using the word “usually.”) when we enter a town we scope it out before trying to track down someone who is willing to talk to us while we’re lugging around equipment, asking a billion questions, and also being complete strangers.  We like to drive down whatever the main street seems to be, look for interesting architecture, count the churches along the main street, and then look for a place that might have someone interesting and willing to talk.

So as we drove into Criner we passed a house with a gate and some sort of signage that said something about goats so we got excited and said “Hey! We maybe found goat lady! Let’s come back to her if something else doesn’t come up.” Then we went and found the Superfund site, met a few friendly dogs that wanted to come along for the ride, and then drove by a cute fence that had an “Eggs for Sale” sign.

We then had a debate about if we wanted to go find out about egg lady or goat lady, mams (mams is what I call my mom who you probably know as Red Dirt Kelly, Kelly Marie, or Dr. Kelly M Roberts with some extra letters that I haven’t committed to memory) finally asked who I wanted to talk to since she had chosen in Dibble. Well I wanted to see the chickens and love farms eggs, so I chose “Egg Lady.”

Egg Lady turned out to be Kaye Bilyeu, and Kaye had an awesome porch and tons of chickens and roosters. Part of the awesomeness of her porch was that it was the original concrete slab of the Criner Cotton Gin, and the gin office building is now her home. Kaye told us a lot of stories about her kids, how she’s writing a cookbook, her opinions on raw milk vs store milk, and the types of chickens she raises. I, however, was most struck by her story about when she and her husband owned a dairy in the last 80s. A really awful ice storm hit, and they lost electricity, had to hand milk over 100 cows, drive the tractor 15 miles to pick up a friend’s generator, and also had to put down a cow.  She tells it best, so I’ll let her pick it up from here.

~ Rachel J. Apple

For more information on the Criner Superfund site, go here. Here’s a photo of a Criner bridge published in the Daily Oklahoman in the 70s. Here is a Lexington, OK newspaper printed in 1915 with a story of a man living in Criner who was ordered to get his mules dipped.


For photos of Kaye, her chickens and her historical porch, scroll below. Also below are two photos of the Superfund site just down the road from Kaye, and the dogs that were hanging out there.









13 thoughts on “EPOTM: Criner, OK”

  1. Clyde Ward you wouldn’t happen to have any pictures of the cotton gin or store, would ya?
    I live next to where the cotton gin used to be.

  2. We loved reading about the little town of Criner. My husband is J. B. Criner & he may be related to the George Criner that you say the town was named for. I haven’t been able to connect him in a direct line to J. B., but there must be a connection since his great grandfather & uncle are George Criner. Also. His father, Buck Criner, Sr. always said the town was named for his older brother, Frank. But we just can’t believe that it was since Uncle Frank had a “not so honest” reputation (in fact, he & wife, Goldie were incarcerated in their 20s. It gets confusing since there were several George Criners & several Frank Criners. We had always wanted to visit Criner, OK but we don’t travel well these days. I continue to research the Oklahoma Criners & if anyone is doing the same, I will share what I have.

    1. Hello, Reba: Such an interesting comment! I love hearing the history of now only how towns were named, or started, but how people make sense of them once they’re gone. Thanks for writing! ~ RDK

  3. My name is Clyde Ward, I lived in Criner in the 40s. My Grandfather ran the Cotton Gin for Southwestern Cotton Oil Co. My father bought the store from Binks. As I can see there is nothing left. I went to school in that school house. The Store is gone, the Gin is gone. I would like to know what happend.

    1. Hello, Clyde: Well, I will say that our contact there knew quite a bit of history. It’s because her house is basically where the cotton gin was built. In fact, her porch slab is the old gin scale. She told us stories there of cotton being such a large industry that all the canyons in the area were full to ground level with cotton hulls. The school house was still there, across the street, when we visited two years ago. However, I don’t know if it’s still there – – she was trying to have a family member purchase it, I believe. One thing you might do, since our contact there sells eggs and other things, is simply stop by her place and speak with her about your history there. That’s really cool that your grandfather ran the cotton gin. She might have some information for you – – at least for the next leg of your investigation. Thanks, Kelly Roberts

      1. There are a lot of questions that I have. What happen to the Store? What happen to the Gin? What happen to the Store that was across the street from the Store and next door to You. My aunt Opal Kerbo ran that store after we sold the Store and left. I can understand why all of the farmers that were there left now they made a Wast Disposal Area. I would help weigh the cotton wagons on the scale by the house.

  4. I grow up in criner my grandparents lived there until the mid 90’s it was the best place in the world. I have very found memories of going to Binks store with my grandpa and going to farm with him and Doc Baster and laying at night, lessening to the oil buffer sounds and watching the coyotes run across the yard after jack rabbits. I attended church with them in the old community Center / Methodist Church, they also celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary there I have recently inherited a small piece of land that they had bought. I love to drive out there and relive the memories of my childhood.

    1. Chrystal – so glad you have fond memories of Criner! Thanks for being willing to share them with us! ~ RDK

    1. Christina: Thanks for checking out our EPOTM posts. One of our goals is to deliver the texture and feel of Oklahoma, so if we reminded you of your grandma, then we achieved that goal on some level. Have a great day ~ RDK

      1. Well you nailed it. My grandparents were wheat farmers in Oklahoma. 🙂 Made me FEEL Oklahoma-y. I still live in Oklahoma, but ya know. 🙂

  5. Kelly and Rachel, once again you have gone to a place where our family has a connection. Short version: my great aunt taught there years ago when it was a one room school, I believe. My grandparents lived there years ago until they moved to the Dibble area and later to Purcell. If my mother was still living she could really fill you in. Love reading your writings. Marilyn.

    1. Marilyn: The one room schoolhouse is still there, but in slight disrepair. It was moved to a location directly across the street from where our contact, Kaye, lives. She said the county (commissioner?) agent relayed that they would eventually auction it off. It’s located where the blacksmith used to be located. So great to hear about your connections…to Dibble, and now to Criner! ~ Kelly

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