Formerly known as East Duke and located on U.S. Highway 62 and State Highway 34, Duke lies fourteen miles west of Altus in western Jackson County, which was originally part of Old Greer County. In 1890 A. L. Perry founded Duke, established a general store, and applied for a post office. The charter was granted September 11, 1890, and the post office was named Duke after Judge F. B. Duke of Mangum. In 1906 the town was platted. By 1909-1910 Duke was a thriving agricultural trade center with approximately 350 residents, three churches, a bank, a grist mill, a cotton gin, and a newspaper, the Duke Times. Speculation over the location of the railroad sparked a division in the community.
For several years the community was divided into New Town and Old Town, with separate schools placed four hundred yards apart. The conflict increased in 1910 when the Altus, Wichita Falls and Hollis Railway (later the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway) located halfway between the two communities. However, in 1915 a dramatic ceremony celebrated the uniting of the two towns into Duke, when the towns' representatives literally buried a hatchet that was delivered in a horse-drawn hearse. The New Town (now Duke, also known as East Duke) offered free lots and free moving for persons to relocate. Old Town, or "West" Duke, no longer exists.
Population stood at 502 in 1920 and peaked at 543 in 1930. Between 1926 and 1936 ten gunfights caused ten homicides. Concerned citizens tightened up law enforcement, and Duke produced outstanding jurists and persons in public life. In 1960 Republic Gypsum purchased local gypsum deposits and built a wall-board plant west of town. The public school is a modern, underground facility with efficient heating and cooling systems. At the turn of the twenty-first century Duke, with a population of 445, was supported by farming and ranching, with cotton raised on irrigated land, wheat on nonirrigated land, and cattle on wheat and pastures.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Cecil R. Chesser, Across the Lonely Years: The Story of Jackson County (Altus, Okla.: Altus Printing Co., 1971).
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