Located in eastern Grant County, Deer Creek is situated twelve miles east of the county seat of Medford on State Highway 11. Named for the nearby tributary of the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River, Deer Creek was established on March 14, 1898, when W. A. Bradford, Jr., of Boston, Massachusetts, and president of the Gulf Railroad, purchased 160 acres to establish a town along the railroad. On February 27, 1899, the post office was moved from nearby Orie, and Harrison Hubbard served as Deer Creek's first postmaster. In 1897-98 the Gulf Railroad (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) constructed a line between Medford and Blackwell that passed through Deer Creek.
Children's education commenced in 1894 when classes met in a farm home. From 1895 to 1910 the school facility progressed from a one-room to a four-room, frame building. In 1921 a brick structure was built, which was destroyed by fire in 1932. Covered by insurance, two facilities were constructed, a gymnasium and a classroom building. Circa 1939 the elementary school had an enrollment of sixty-nine and the high school had sixty-six. In 1968 enrollment stood at eighty-two elementary students and fifty-eight high school students.
On August 27, 1899, the Deer Creek Mennonite congregation was organized. Their first church was built in 1902. Initially, members of five denominations, the Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, Lutheran, and Christian, met in Elijah Franklin Webster's home, with a Methodist minister providing the sermon. Before 1909 the Christian and Methodist Episcopal churches had been constructed. Early weekly newspapers included the Echo newspaper established in 1899 and the Deer Creek Times begun in 1900 by G. W. Britt. On February 8, 1901, the Bank of Deer Creek opened. By 1909 residents supported a mill, an elevator, two blacksmiths, and two general stores. Between 1900 and 1907 the community hosted the county fair. A brief economic boom occurred in the early 1920s after the first oil and gas wells were drilled. On April 24, 1921, the Swaggart Number One became Grant County's first oil well. By the 1930s wheat was the principal export, while fuel, building materials, and general merchandise comprised the inbound shipments. In the 1950s the town boasted a lumberyard, an automobile dealer and garage, three gasoline stations, and two elevators. By 1998 most establishments had closed, and the Clyde Cooperative was the only business that generated tax revenue.
At 1907 statehood the population stood at 143. It gradually rose during the next three decades from 166 in 1910, 218 in 1920, and 312 in 1930. After peaking at 312, the numbers declined from 250 in 1940 to 174 in 1980. In 1990 the census reported 124 citizens, the lowest point. At the turn of the twenty-first century Deer Creek had 147 residents, of whom 37.8 percent claimed German ancestry and 16.5 percent declared Irish descent. Of those employed, 73.2 percent commuted to their workplace, while 19.6 percent worked from home. The Deer Creek General Merchandise Store (NR 84003024) was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Deer Creek," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Paul J. Isaak, A Small Town Remembered: The 100-Year History of Deer Creek, Oklahoma and Community, 1898-1998 (Deer Creek, Okla.: Self published, 1998). Medford (Oklahoma) Patriot Star and Grant County Journal, February 1998. Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003). Guy P. Webb, History of Grant County, Oklahoma, 1811 to 1970 ([North Newton, Kans.]: Grant County Historical Society, 1971).
Linda D. Wilson
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