[Narrator 1:] The date was April 19th, 1892. The event was the run for the Cheyenne and Arapaho surplus lands. Standing along the starting line were thousands of people anxiously waiting the signal. The soldiers fired their rifles.
[Narrator 1:] The race was on. Like a vast Kentucky derby, some people immediately surged to the front, leaving others behind in the race to secure homestead land in Oklahoma territory. Among these people were immigrants of Germany in search of a small section of this land in which to create their own religious and cultural environment.
[Narrator 2:]They came to Oklahoma from many nations. Newcomers to a new land, looking for better opportunities, a chance to begin again and what remains is their heritage. A rich heritage, that has become the Oklahoma image.
[Narrator 1:] By nightfall, this group of German immigrants was part of a wild, booming frontier community of tents and shacks, a community that would be called Okarche, a name derived from the first letters of the words Oklahoma, Arapaho and Cheyenne. These German immigrants were only a small minority in Okarche at the time of the run but gradually, over the next decade, word was spread that Okarche was a good place for other Germans to settle. Little by little, they did come from other communities and at the end it was they who set the tone, the way of life and the religious and cultural environment which would distinguish Okarche as a remarkable spring of civilization.
[Narrator 1:] But everyone knew that this could never be a community with a true German culture without the favorite German drink, beer. Noticing this void, the Eischen family decided that they would open the town tavern which became not only the town's dining hall and beer sipping oasis but also its chief focal point.
[Narrator 1:] The Eischen's have kept their bar in continuous operation since its inception, except for two unaviodable interruptions, those being caused by prohibition. On Oklahoma Statehood Day, November 16th, 1907 all saloons had to close due to the prohibition laws laid down by the newely drafted constitution. That morning there was a mournful quiet in the small town's business district. A sign was posted by the town well which expressed the general feeling: work the pump handle and drink with the horses.
[Narrator 1:] National Prohibition from 1920 to 1933 meant another dry spell but Eischen's Bar survived those rugged days and remains the chief attraction in Okarche. It has become something of a legend. It is billed as the oldest bar in Oklahoma, a phrase which does not refer to the tavern but to the bar inside, something which is right out of another age. The massive backbar is made of beautifully carved cherry encasing a very large, rounded plate glass mirror. A close inspection reveals that the mirror arch is framed by carved lions' heads, each with a small electric lightbulb in its mouth, the only concession to modern times. Along with the lions' heads is the family crest of the orignal Spanish owner, carved on each of the pillars supporting the bar.
[Narrator 1:] The history which goes along with this marvelous backbar is probably equally as interesting as the bar itself but all that is presently known is that it was originally handcarved in Spain in the early 1800s, shipped to California during the Gold Rush days and hauled over land to Oklahoma to grace the home of an oil baron during the days of the oil boom. After the oil baron died, Eischen was able to purchase it for his tavern.
[Narrator 1:] Ed Eischen, who now runs the tavern, remembers how his grandfather delighted in entertaining customers with wild west tails about the bar, pointing out bullet holes that would inevitably evoke anecdotes about a showdown or a drunken cowboy spree. Today Eischen's Bar stands as an enduring reminder of a time when Oklahoma was part of the Old West.
[Narrator 2:] This program was produced by the Oklahoma Image Project, funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities and brought to you as a public service by this station. Oklahoma Image is sponsored by the Oklahoma Department of Libraries and the Oklahoma Library Association.
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Part of the Oklahoma Image Statewide Humanities Project, promoting Newcomers to a New Land book series and the Oklahoma Image Project.
Copyright of this digital resource, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, 2008. For further information regarding use please consult the Rights and Permissions page, http://www.crossroads.odl.state.ok.us/shell/rights.php or contact the holding institution of the digital resource.
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