Vinita was established in 1871 by Elias Cornelius Boudinot. In 1889, gunman and lawman Tom Threepersons was born there. It was the first city in the state with electricity. The city was first named "Downingville", and was a primarily Native American community. It was later renamed "Vinita" after Boudinot's friend, sculptor Vinnie Ream. The city was incorporated in Indian Territory in 1898.
Vinita is along the path of the Texas Road cattle trail, and the later Jefferson Highway of the early National Trail System, both roughly along the route of U.S. Route 69 through Oklahoma today.
The First National Bank opened in 1892, and the local Masonic Lodge was founded in 1894. Newspapers founded before the turn of the 20th Century included Vinita Indian Chieftain (1882), Vinita Leader (1885) and the Daily Indian Chieftain (1899). The Vinita Daily Journal began publication in 1907 and has continued into the 21st Century.
Eastern State Hospital, a state mental health facility, was constructed in 1912 and admitted the first patients in January 1913. It was one of the county's largest employers until its operations were reduced during the 1990s.
A McDonald's bridge-restaurant built over the top of Interstate 44, called the Glasshouse McDonald's, is the world's largest McDonald's restaurant in terms of area, occupying 29,135 square feet (2,706.7 m2). It was formerly known as the Glass House Restaurant. In 2013 and 2014 the "Glasshouse" received a $14.6 million renovation. At its grand reopening on December 22, 2014, it was renamed the "Will Rogers Archway".
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