Originally named Coo-Y-Yah, Cherokee for Huckleberry, it was renamed Pryor Creek, which was the name of the local railroad station (named, of course, for the creek). Due to confusion in distinguishing handwritten mailing addresses to Pryor Creek and Pond Creek, the U.S. Postal Service name for the town was shortened to Pryor, though the official name of the town remains Pryor Creek.
Pryor is also the home of Catch the Fever Music Festivals which is host to Bikelahoma, Country Fever and Rocklahoma just 4 miles north of Pryor. These attractions draw people from all over the world to the city of Pryor.
According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 6.5 square miles (16.9 km²), of which, 6.5 square miles (16.8 km²) of it is land and 0.04 square miles (0.1 km²) of it (0.31%) is water.
There were 3,567 households out of which 30.2% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.1% were married couples living together, 10.6% had a female householder with no husband present, and 34.3% were non-families. 30.9% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.3% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.35 and the average family size was 2.95.
In the city the population was spread out with 26.1% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 25.7% from 25 to 44, 19.9% from 45 to 64, and 18.8% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 91.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 84.6 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $29,424, and the median income for a family was $37,115. Males had a median income of $33,547 versus $20,737 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,887. About 10.8% of families and 13.6% of the population were below the poverty line, including 19.9% of those under age 18 and 6.4% of those age 65 or over.
The storm killed 52 people, according to the U.S. Weather Bureau, but The Associated Press set the total at 60 two days after the storm. More than 400 were injured in the April 27, 1942, storm that caused damage estimated at $3 million.
The F4 tornado struck about 5 p.m., an hour and a half after one hit near Talala and mowed a path about five miles long, killing three and injuring 12. Talala, which was not hit, is about 30 miles northwest of Pryor.
Both of Pryor's hospitals were wrecked by the storm, the city's water supply was disrupted and there was no electrical or telephone service. Residential areas also suffered extensive damage.
Gov. Leon C. Phillips put the area under martial law, but because the Oklahoma National Guard had been activated for service during World War II, he sent state troopers to rescue victims, maintain order and prevent looting.
The troopers were assisted by soldiers stationed at the Oklahoma Ordnance Works south of the city and by employees of duPont Co. that was to operate the gun powder plant at the OOW. Ambulances were on the scene from Tulsa, Muskogee, Vinita, Claremore, Wagoner and Siloam Springs, Ark. Water was trucked in from Vinita and from the Oklahoma Ordnance Works. Tulsa doctors interrupted their weekly meeting, and a team of 20 went to Pryor to care for victims. Others went to the Tulsa hospitals to treat any victims sent there.
A shuttle train that usually transported workers between Muskogee and the Ordnance Works site was pressed into service to transport injured victims to Vinita for treatment.
The Pryor tornado ranks as the fifth deadliest in Oklahoma history behind tornadoes at Woodward in 1947, Snyder in 1905, Peggs in 1920 and Antlers in 1945. The May 3, 1999, tornado at Midwest City caused more damage but fewer deaths.
Talala residents said they did not see the typical funnel of a tornado in the storm. They said what looked like a series of streaks reaching from the clouds to the ground leveled everything in their paths.
But there was a definite funnel at Pryor.
William A. Graham - 1851-1952 Millionaire, philanthropist
Oliver Dewey "Jock" Mayor - 1898-1985 Merchant
Joseph "Jocko" Clark - US Navy admiral, WWII hero
Bob Johnson (outfielder) "Indian" Bob Johnson - Professional Baseball Player born in Pryor (1933-1945)
Cliff Mapes (1922-1996) - Professional Baseball Player lived and died in Pryor