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Phoenix rises from the ashes

A fire ripped through the main street of Muskogee, leveling 36 buildings, in March 1887. One of those was the only newspaper in the territory — the Indian Journal — and the owners, Frank C. Hubbard and Dr. Leo Bennett couldn't decide on a name for their next attempt at a newspaper.

The pair hailed Clarence Turner, who was across the street at the time tending to his destroyed hardware store, for a suggestion. Turner reportedly looked into the ashes of the Indian Journal plant and suggested "the Phoenix."

"Let it rise from the ashes of the past," Turner said.

The Muskogee Phoenix published its first edition, nearly a year after the fire, on Feb. 18, 1888.

The paper has operated continuously in the Muskogee area ever since, even as it changed hands from one owner to the next. Bennett and Hubbard eventually let the paper go to local politicians in 1907. That group sold the paper to Tams Bixby that same year. Bixby was responsible for moving the growing paper to a livery stable; his wife Clara Bixby oversaw the move to the current plant in 1927.

The paper remained in the Bixby family under the Oklahoma Publishing Company banner until it was sold to Gannett Publishing in 1977. Gannett sold the paper to Community Newspaper Holdings, Inc., in 2006. CNHI merged with Raycom Media in 2017. The Phoenix moved under the CNHI, LLC umbrella in 2019.

The home plant, at 214 Wall St., is a treasure trove of history. Front pages from across the years line the walls. The pages chronicle events both national – the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the Twin Towers, the end of World War II – and local, such as the 1972 installation of computerized printing equipment, or airshows at Hatbox Field.

The Muskogee Phoenix is in its 132th year as Muskogee's newspaper. The paper remains focused on providing award-winning, localized coverage for the community.

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