Israel Mercer Putnam


I.M. Putnam was born on a farm in Early County, Georgia, Dec. 19, 1873, to Jesse Mercer and Zenia Putnam, and descended on his father’s side from the Putnams of Revolutionary War fame. His New-Englander great-grandfather moved from Massachusetts to Georgia where both his grandfather and father were raised He attended school in Tennessee and graduated from Vanderbilt University in 1899 with a bachelors degree. Two years later he completed the law course at the University of Georgia and came directly to Oklahoma City, where he formed a law firm with Sam Hooker, who was a county judge of Oklahoma County in 1908.
In 1906 he was married in Shawnee, Oklahoma, to Harriet Cockrell. They resided in Putnam Heights, which he helped develop. He was active in Masonic circles, Elks, Odd Fellows and Knights of Pythias and was a former director of the Oklahoma City Chamber of Commerce.
Foreseeing the potential greatness of his adopted city he embarked in the real estate business, dissolving his law partnership to devote himself full time to it.
In 1902 he organized the Putnam Company, one of the most successful real estate concerns in Oklahoma City. By 1908, Putnam had developed and placed on the market numerous notable additions, among them Epworth View, Military Park, Putnam Park, Putnam Heights, Putnam City, Lakeside and Lakeside Heights. His public spirit and genuine desire for Oklahoma City’s welfare were evidenced by his donation of the site for the Oklahoma College for Young Ladies, The State Baptist Orphan School and part of the site for Epworth University. He also owned Putnam Park and a number of first-class farms located close to Oklahoma City. Hot Sulphur Wells at San Antonio, which was a noted resort in Texas, was also his property.
Putnam always took an active interest in politics and was a familiar personality at the Democratic conventions. He had not sought or held office until 1907 when he was elected to the legislature. There he displayed the same tact and generalship which had given him so much success in his private undertakings.
Putnam was a staunch supporter of all movements and measures looking to the welfare of the community in which he lived. It was he who launched the boom for locating the State Capitol in Oklahoma City. It was mostly through his efforts that this proposition was brought before the legislature of Guthrie and the people of Oklahoma in general.
In 1910 a local paper noted that an offer was made by the Putnam Company for a tract of land, consisting of 2000 acres, for the state capitol location. The land was offered for $1 and the goodwill of the people. The land was located northwest of Oklahoma City between Putnam Park and Putnam City. As an enticement, he constructed a large building that was to house the state government. This building became a part of the Putnam City Consolidated Public School System (the Arnett Building).
Early in Oklahoma’s history, Putnam bought the section of land bordered by N.W. 23rd St. and N. Western and N.W. 36th and N. Pennsylvania. Here he started development of the Putnam City area.
He died in San Antonio, Texas, in 1961 at the age of 90.