The Murray County community of Dougherty lies at the southern terminus of State Highway 110, seventeen miles southwest of Sulphur and thirty-six miles north of Ardmore. Situated near the Washita River in the Arbuckle Mountains, Dougherty was originally known as Henderson Flat, then Strawberry Flat. The settlement was renamed in honor of William Dougherty, a Gainsville, Texas, banker, circa 1887.
The Thomas W. Johnson family acquired and established a residence on the present townsite in 1880. They were subsequently joined by Mazeppa Turner, a rancher and namesake of nearby Turner Falls. The Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway, an Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway subsidiary, reached the settlement in 1887, and the Dougherty post office was established that same year. A Masonic order was chartered at Dougherty in 1889, and the town had a population of about 103 in 1890.
Dougherty's early economy was based on ranching, farming (the town had two cotton gins in the mid-1890s), and mining. In 1895 approximately 550 workers were employed extracting asphalt from area mines. In 1899 Dougherty incorporated as a community of Tishomingo County in the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. The town's earliest church was built in 1899, and its first school opened in 1908. The Arbuckle News, Dougherty's only newspaper, was published from 1909 to 1911. A sand and gravel pit was opened north of town in 1917. Dougherty's population declined from 437 in 1900 to 278 in 1910, increased to 405 in 1920, and dropped to 371 in 1930.
Dougherty's mining industry remained operational through the Great Depression. From the early 1920s until the mid-1940s, local production exceeded one million tons of gravel and sand and three million tons of rock asphalt. Such activity slowed during the 1960s. Dougherty's population peaked at 464 in 1940, then fell from 341 in 1950 to 138 in 1990.
In 2000 Dougherty had 224 residents and four businesses, including a mining operation and two retail trade establishments. Dougherty is located near the Chickasaw National Recreation Area, thus tourism, has provided an additional source of revenue. The community lacked stable management until the 1950s, when a city council was elected. At the end of the twentieth century it maintained a town form of government.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Shelley Berry, Sidney K. Sperry, and Annie B. Whitfield, Small Towns, Ghost Memories of Oklahoma: A Photographic Narrative of Hamlets and Villages Throughout Oklahoma's Seventy-seven Counties (Virginia Beach, Va.: Donning Co. Publishers, 2004). Opal Hartsell Brown, Murray County, Oklahoma: The Heart of Eden (Wichita Falls, Tex.: Nortex Press, 1977). "Dougherty," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Jon D. May
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