Located in north-central Major County, Cleo Springs is situated one mile north of the intersection of State Highway 8 and U.S. Highway 60. Prior to 1907 statehood Cleo Springs lay within Woods County. Originally known as Cleo, a post office was established on March 21, 1894. According to legend Cleo Springs was named for Cle-oh-i-to-mo, an American Indian maiden, who resided in the area when Coronado traversed through the region in 1541. Also, the springs supposedly had curative powers.
The first issue of the Cleo Eagle-Chief newspaper appeared on March 1, 1894, approximately five months after the Cherokee Outlet land opening. On May 15, 1901, Cleo Springs residents voted to incorporate by a vote of 65 to 6. In 1902 the Choctaw Northern Railroad (later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway) came through Cleo Springs when a line was built from Geary (Blaine County) to the Kansas-Oklahoma border. One year later the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) constructed a line from the Kansas-Oklahoma border to Fairview, which passed through one mile west of Cleo Springs. By 1909 Cleo Springs was a thriving agricultural center with a mill and an elevator, several harness makers, and blacksmiths. Two banks (Cleo State Bank and the Farmers' State Bank), an opera house, and a weekly newspaper served the citizenry. Settlers organized four churches, the Christian, the Church of Christ, the Friends, and the Methodist. In the mid-1940s and 1950s Cleo Springs had numerous blacksmiths, grocery/meat markets, gasoline stations, and automobile repair garages. The Cleo State Bank continued to serve the community. Located approximately four miles north of Cleo Springs and just north of the Major-Alfalfa county line, the Cleo Springs Sod House was listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 70000526).
At 1907 statehood Cleo Springs had 405 citizens. By 1920 the population declined to 377. Numbers rose slightly to 386 in 1940 but declined to a low of 236 in 1960. Population peaked in 1980 at 514. At the turn of the twenty-first century the town had 326 residents and 95.5 percent of those employed commuted to Fairview and other job centers.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Cleo Springs," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Gloss Mountain Country: A History of Major County (Fairview, Okla.: Major County Historical Society, 1977). Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003).
Linda D. Wilson
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