Bethany is a city in Oklahoma County, Oklahoma, United States, and a part of the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. The community was founded in 1909 by followers of the Church of the Nazarene from Oklahoma City.
Bethany was founded July 28, 1909 as a community where members of the Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical Christian movement that developed from Holiness churches, could practice their religious beliefs without interference by non-members. The town was named after the biblical place of Bethany. The community quickly founded Oklahoma Holiness College (now known as Southern Nazarene University, SNU). Two other institutions were soon established, the Oklahoma Orphanage (now the Children’s Center, a medical facility) operated by Mattie Mallory, and the Nazarene Rescue Home for unwed mothers.
Bethany incorporated on August 8, 1910 as a rural town; its economy depended on the surrounding farmlands. It gained a post office on March 11, 1913. With a relatively large population of conservative Nazarenes, the town council soon enacted strict blue laws that banned alcohol, tobacco, gambling, dancing, movies, swearing, and working on Sundays. After Bethany reorganized as a first class city in 1931, it relaxed these laws to some extent.
An F4 tornado struck Bethany on November 19, 1930, killing 23 people and destroying 652 buildings. It is one of three documented violent November tornadoes in Oklahoma since 1900. Recovery from the storm was slow until the outbreak of World War II. Defense industries rapidly developed in the area, and the city added population as bedroom community, or suburb for workers commuting to Oklahoma City.
What to See and Do
The Bethany parks and recreation system includes many small neighborhood parks, and four large parks, Eldon Lyon Park, McFarland Park, Ripper Park, and Stinchcomb Wildlife Refuge. Eldon Lyon Park is the venue for the annual Fourth of July festival, which is an all-day event with fireworks, a carnival, and a parade that starts on main street. Downtown festivals include Bethany66, the Annual Tree Lighting, Cinco de Mayo and is home to many special one-time musical events hosted by main street businesses like Java39.
The largest employers in the area include: Southern Nazarene University, Southwestern Christian University, The Children’s Center, Bethany and Putnam City Public Schools, City of Bethany, and Gilbert Medical Clinic. Bethany became the headquarters for the International Pentecostal Holiness Church in 1975. It is also the headquarters for the Pinto Horse Association of America.