With a unique city name like Alva, the natural question is “how did Alva acquire its name?” The origin has long been under scrutiny. The only actual fact of our city’s name source is that it was assigned by the authority of the Atchinson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Railway Company in 1885-86.
The earliest documented suggestion appears in an article in the Alva Pioneer, March 9, 1894. It first reminds readers “Thomas A. Edison’s middle name is Alva.” The writer goes on the suggest “we are not particularly superstitious, but we always believed that the steady, reliable and unexplained progress of Alva was due to the kind of a ‘Mascot,’ and that must be the ‘stuff.'”
Far more articles suggest Alva was named after Alva Adams, a railroad attorney who later was Governor of the state of Colorado. The Alva Chronicle dated April 26, 1895, stated “Alva was named after Alva Adams, Governor of Colorado. He was the best Governor the State of Colorado ever had and Alva is the best town in this Territory – both are democratic.” No bias there huh!?
The book, Oklahoma Place Names by George H. Shirk, a September 12, 1943, news article in the Alva Review-Courier, and a book, The Cherokee Strip-Why Some Towns Were So Named by George Rainey corroborate that belief.
A publication by James Marshall, Santa Fe – The Railroad That Built An Empire, states: More than 200 place names on the (Santa Fe Railroad) system are those of officials, employees or members of their families, ranging from brakemen to presidents. And Alva was simply listed – Alva, Oklahoma-Attorney.
The most written about the name origin is in a letter from the late pioneer, A.E. ‘Gene’ Pardee. Published in the Alva Record on November 4, 1926, Gene writes: “I saw in the Wichita Beacon of October 27, that Alva was trying to learn where and when it received the name ‘Alva.’ Perhaps I can enlighten you on the subject. At the time the Santa Fe came into this part of the world this was a big cattle country, called the Cherokee Strip, as you know, and this particular part comprised the 60,000 acre UIN ranch owned by Finis Ewing and I was his foreman. The last then years of the ranch’s existence the Santa Fe came into our pasture on its way to the southwest about the year 1885. About a mile and a half from our camp where Alva is now located they built cattle pens, switch yards, a section house and small office to house a telegraph station which was only used during the shipping season. They named it Alva and it has been Alva from that time to this.”
The most recent source, Wikipedia, states: Alva was established in 1893 as a land office for the Cherokee Outlet land run, the largest of the land rushes that settled western and central Oklahoma. The site was chosen for its location on the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway and likely named for a railroad attorney, Alva Adams, who had become governor of Colorado.
But there’s still that word “likely” so will we ever really know?