After the removal from our ancestral homelands to Indian Territory over the Trail of Tears in 1839, the Cherokee Nation divided the new land base in I.T. into nine districts. Each of these districts contained an active judicial system complete with its own courthouse. The nine rural courthouses had jurisdiction over all misdemeanor crimes, and civil suits that involved less than $100 (cases involving over $100 were heard at the Supreme Courthouse in Tahlequah, OK). Each district was represented by four elected offices, clerk, sheriff, judge and solicitor.
Entire communities were built up around these courthouses. The Saline community during its peak consisted of a general store, blacksmith shop, gristmill, hotel and several homes. After passage of the Curtis Act by the US Congress in 1898, the Saline District Courthouse closed its doors and ceased its judicial functions.
Upon closing, the Saline Courthouse land was allotted to Felix Teehee and the courthouse sold for $75 to James Teehee. The site and buildings were later sold in 1912 to John M. and Poca Phillips. The Phillips sold the property to their son John Riley Phillips (Coon Phillips) in 1917. Dr. SW Perkins purchased the acreage and courthouse in 1933 and owned it until his death in the 1940s. Lee and Florine Ransom purchased the site in 1952 and sold it to the State of Oklahoma Industrial and Park Department in 1970. The original structure, built in 1884 by the Cherokee Nation, was about one half of its current size (after the building sold, an addition was constructed and the structure converted into a country home). The State of Oklahoma returned the site, including the courthouse and other buildings, to the Cherokee Nation in 1988, under the administration of then Principal Chief Wilma P. Mankiller.
Today, the courthouse sits on 14 acres of rolling hills and creeks (along with a historic springhouse and the Teehee Cemetery). In 1976 the Saline Courthouse was officially added to the National Register of Historic Places. The Saline District Courthouse is the only one of the original nine district courthouses still in existence.
In October 2005, the Cherokee Nation and Saline Preservation Association developed a master plan for the courthouse site and named the property the Saline National Park, the first national park in the history of Cherokee Nation.
Lead paint remediation on the courthouse was completed along with restoration of the porch. The roadway fencing and cemetery fencing was also finished. Additional work is planned.
A “ground-up” restoration of the Springhouse was completed in 2009. One of the site’s three freshwater springs originates beneath this structure. The springs meander across the site’s 14 acres and ultimately join the west end of the property (comprising the headwaters of Saline Creek). These cool, crystal clear waters are surrounded by breath-taking scenery.
Saline National Park is open for the public to see at no charge. Cherokee Nation welcomes the use of its facilities and grounds by our citizens, communities, neighbors and friends. All use of meeting facilities and grounds is on a first-come basis. To make reservations, contact our office at 918-453-5671. If the grounds are available, an Agreement and Facilities Policy form will be mailed to you.