Located in western Dewey County, Camargo is situated approximately equidistance between Leedey and Vici on State Highway 34. Dewey County, originally known as D County, was created from the former Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation after it was opened to non-Indian settlers on April 19, 1892. Subsequently, a post office was established at Camargo on September 16, 1892, with Rosa Meek as postmaster. Although historian George Shirk asserts that Camargo was named for an Illinois town, another source claims that Camargo is a Cheyenne word meaning "little dog." In 1912 the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway (later the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway, or Katy) built a line between Leedey and Forgan, Beaver County, that passed through Camargo. That same year the Camargo Comet newspaper began serving the citizenry.
Farming and ranching sustained Camargo's early economy. By 1915 the town had four general stores, two hotels, two lumber yards, and two grain elevators. In the 1930s Camargo had a cotton gin and a blacksmith shop. Crossing the (South) Canadian River at Camargo remained a hazardous feat until a 2,912-foot-long bridge was completed in December 1954. Previously a tractor and trailer operated as a ferry to transport or pull vehicles across the mud and sand. In 1972-73 railroad service was suspended. Prior to rail suspension, bentonite was mined and shipped from Camargo. Other shipments included livestock, wheat, and gravel.
The first federal census for Camargo reported 291 inhabitants in 1930. Despite the Great Depression, numbers remained steady with 289 counted in 1940. Population peaked at 312 in 1950. Since then numbers have declined to 264 and 185 reported in 1980 and 1990, respectively. At the turn of the twenty-first century Camargo had 115 residents. All of those employed commuted to work. A prominent resident was U.S. Sen. Joshua "Josh" Lee who owned a ranch nearby.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Camargo," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003). Spanning the River (N.p.: Dewey County Historical Society, 1976).
Linda D. Wilson
© Oklahoma Historical Society