Situated in Kingfisher County north of the Cimarron River, Dover lies on U.S. Highway 81, nine miles north of Kingfisher, the county seat. The surrounding area had been leased by cattlemen and was commonly called Red Fork Traders' Ranch because a trading post existed there. The ranch, and future location of Dover, lay along a government road and stage route from Kansas to Fort Reno and near the Chisholm Trail, the pathway of millions of cattle herded from Texas to Kansas in the 1880s.
Trader John G. Chapin arrived circa 1884 to operate the trading post. The site was northeast of Turkey Creek's confluence with the Cimarron River. Soon a few other enterprises operated there, including a blacksmith and a hotel. After the Land Run of April 22, 1889, opened the Unassigned Lands, Chapin claimed the northeast quarter of Section 1, Township 17 North, Range 7 West, around the ranch buildings. The region quickly filled with farmers. Chapin was ideally situated for business: Hennessey was well to the north, and Kingfisher lay south of the unbridged Cimarron River. A settlement called Red Wing soon emerged around Chapin's holdings. He spent seven years defending his claim against legal contests by individuals alleging that he was a "sooner."
Meanwhile, the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway (owned by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway) constructed its line from Kansas through the Cherokee Outlet in 1889. Passing through Chapin's claim in October, the railroad constructed buildings and also a bridge across the Cimarron River. Chapin received a postal designation for "Dover" on March 1, 1890. In October 1890 he and others, calling themselves the Dover Townsite Company, platted "West Dover" (another individual platted a "Dover" east of Chapin's claim). Lots were occupied and houses and businesses constructed east of the tracks.
In 1893 two dozen businesses served an estimated population of 150. The Cherokee Chieftain and the Dover Times were printed weekly. The townspeople voted to incorporate in 1893 and elected officers, although the actions were not official. After the federal government confirmed Chapin's title in 1896, in 1897 he sold out to developer William L. Taylor. By then, residents patronized two general stores, a grocer, a meat market, and three doctors. A hotel accommodated travelers. The 1910 estimated population was five hundred, served by three churches, a public school, a bank, and the Dover News. A gin and three elevator companies processed cotton, wheat, and grain. Dover achieved notoriety on September 18, 1906, when the Cimarron River bridge collapsed, allowing Rock Island Number 12, a passenger train, to crash into the waters below. The loss of life, at least one hundred, made this one of the nation's worst train wrecks.
Between the world wars Dover remained a small agricultural town with about five hundred people. Area resident Joseph Danne, a plant geneticist, developed Early Triumph wheat. While the primary crop remained wheat, farming was diversified, and cattle raising remained important. By 1939 twenty-five businesses operated.
The number dropped continuously during and after World War II as residents moved to the cities. In the 1940s and 1950s residents still patronized several grocery-merchandise stores, gasoline stations, a druggist, and a garage. In the 1970s citizens obtained a federal grant for a sewer and water system and in April 1973 voted to incorporate. Six months later a flood killed nine residents and destroyed 145 houses. In 1980 the first official census of Dover registered 570 and the 1990 census, 376. In addition, oil strikes in the area between Hennessey and Dover added jobs and businesses. In 1965 the Hennessey-Dover Field was defined as lying within the Sooner Trend, by 1973 one of the nation's top one hundred producers.
By 1998 eight businesses, including a bank, a convenience store, and two restaurants, still served Dover residents. Oil-field and agricultural services included a pipeline company, a meat-processing plant, and an irrigation equipment company. In the vicinity North American Brine Resources recovered iodine from oil-field brines. Dover experienced significant property damage from the F4 tornado in central Oklahoma on May 3, 1999. Undeterred, the town finished the twentieth century with a population of 367. More than half of those employed commuted to work in Hennessey or Kingfisher. The Kiel-Dover Farmers' Elevator is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (00001043).
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: John L. Lillibridge, 50 Years of Dover, OT (OK) Businesses, 1889-1939 (Shippensburg, Pa.: Beidel Printing, 1998). John L. Lillibridge, "John G. Chapin and the Struggle for Dover," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 77 (Spring 1999). Pioneers of Kingfisher County: 1889-1976 (N.p.: Kingfisher County Book Committee, 1976). Robert E. Smith, "Dark Morning Near Dover," in Railroads in Oklahoma, ed. Donovan L. Hofsommer (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1977).
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