By Nick DeMoss, vice president of communications and programs, Written for Points of Interest, The official blog of the Jenks Chamber of Commerce
Josh and I were chatting with a Chamber member on Main Street last week when we got a call from city hall. There was someone city staff thought we might want to meet.
That person was 62-year-old James Jenks of Herbertsville, New Jersey.
His great great grandfather was William Henry Jenks, for whom our city is named. Jenks was a railroad executive at the turn of the 20th century, and when the Midland Valley Railroad Company established a station just outside Tulsa, he had the honor of giving it his name.
For his descendants, that makes for a weird experience. Growing up on the eastern seaboard, James Jenks had been told there was a town somewhere in Oklahoma that bore his family name, but it wasn’t until he reached his sixties that he actually had time off work as a fisherman to go and see it.
So, as part of a month-long cross-country vacation, James Jenks figured he should stop by the town he’d been looking at on a map since he was 10 years old.
And what did Jenks think of his family’s town? He found it hilarious to see his name on government buildings, school gear and public property. He loved the scenery on the drive to Jenks, and as a New Jersey resident, he said he was impressed with the quality of the roads, especially the Creek Turnpike.
He said he was also impressed by how kind the people were, and how interested they were in the history of his family
We asked him if he’d ever consider moving to the town that bears his name. His response:
“Maybe if they made me mayor.”
For now, Jenks said he was headed back to the East Coast, planning to pick up a load of fishing equipment in Maryland before returning home to New Jersey.
In all, we chatted with Jenks for about half an hour. It was surreal for everyone involved – for us to meet a direct descendent of someone who played such a pivotal role in our community’s history, and for him to be welcomed like a celebrity in an Oklahoma town he had never visited.