Ghost Town Wednesday: Cayuga, Oklahoma

GhostTownWednesday  If you read yesterday’s Tombstone Tuesday article on town founder Mathias Splitlog, then you already know a few facts about this ghost town.  If you missed it, read it here.

Today it’s still considered a census-populated area but there’s not much left of the original town site.  Mathias established successful businesses and made some shrewd land deals while a resident of Kansas, a place he migrated to after being removed from the Sandusky, Ohio area with a large group of Wyandot Indians in 1843.

After he and his family were forced to move yet again, they headed to Indian Territory at the suggestion of friends.  Mathias likely saw it as an opportunity to build another “Splitlog empire” because right away he got to work and began laying the groundwork for several enterprises, having already gained a reputation for being the “millionaire Indian.”

His new home would be located on Seneca lands near the fork where the Grand and Cowskin (also called Elk) Rivers converge.  It was a fertile valley and the nearby springs were named Cayuga Springs, also giving the town he would build its name.

After building a sawmill and grist mill, Mathias seized on the need for a means to transport his products, so he also built a factory which made wagons and horse buggies.  He also kept enough walnut in stock to make coffins.  A general store, blacksmith shop and flour mill were also built  — all of these enterprises providing good-paying jobs to residents of the community.

MathiasSplitlog_FactoryMathias, a mechanical expert (self-taught apparently) used steam engines to run his factories, piping the spring water underground.  Mathias Splitlog was a very busy man, and after being adopted by the Senecas he served as their chief, often traveling to Washington, D.C. on behalf of the tribe.

In the early 1890’s Mathias also began construction of a Gothic-styled Catholic church, some say a shrine, made of area limestone.  A sixteen hundred pound bell was installed in the tower and could be heard within a twelve-mile radius.  Even though the church was not yet completed when his wife Eliza died from cancer in 1894, she was buried on the grounds of the church.

CayugaChurchAccording to Ghost Towns of Oklahoma, the church was unused for several years and the bell was transferred to the Nowata Catholic Church for a time and later returned.  Mathias died in early 1897 while on a Washington trip and was returned for burial next to Eliza.

The Cayuga post office had been in operation since 1884, closing in 1912.  A fire in early 1913 burned most of the town, leaving only the five-story carriage factory, the priest’s house and the church.  In 1972 the church was placed on the National Register of Historic Places.  There is a Cayuga Mission Church web site and it appears that the church still may be used.  The town site today is near Grand Lake of the Cherokees, a popular recreational area.

Have a GREAT day . . . someday it will be HISTORY!

© Sharon Hall (Digging History), 2014.



  1. My late husband and I were married in the church in 1994. Church services are still held inside every Sunday.

  2. That’s great to hear. Thanks for stopping by!

  3. My mom grew up there before there was a Grand Lake. When she was a little girl, she & her mother would walk to the Cayuga Mission for church. She was allowed to ring the church bell at times. My grandma was a widow & she lived with her children in a house at the end of the Cowskin Bridge to collect toll. My dad & mom are both buried in the Cayuga Cemetery. My grandmother’s name is Mabel Florence Clanton & my mom is Helen Lucille Clanton Wooldridge.

    • Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing some of your family history!


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