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EMPIRE CITY

Empire City is located approximately seven miles southwest of Duncan in the upper section of the southwest quarter of Stephens County. The town is about three miles due west of U.S. Highway 81, midway between Duncan and Comanche. Originally an oil-boom town, the community started in the late 1910s as drilling activity in Stephens County mushroomed. The original Empire City post office was established in February 1921 and discontinued in December 1934. A classic boom town, Empire City blossomed with an estimated population of 3,000, many transient oilfield workers, and a high number of saloons and other good-time establishments along its dirt-paved Main Street. In June 1920 the town was extended along almost two miles. Two or three additions were in the works, with lots selling for as high as a thousand dollars and improved primarily with rows of cultivated corn. The only entity that survived for more than a few of decades was the Empire School District, which continues to educate the youth of Stephens County. The sole red-brick building remaining from the boom days of the early twentieth century was a school building, which was slated for demolition in the mid-1990s.

Nearly fifty years after the original town flamed into existence, Empire City was revived, principally in response to encroachments from the neighboring communities of Comanche and Duncan. In order to avoid annexation area residents incorporated a forty-acre tract as the town of Empire City circa 1967. Notably, the city limits did not encompass the Empire School, and in 1970, the entire population numbered a total of 23 persons. Ten years later the number of residents dropped to just 13. In the mid-1980s locals revitalized the town again, primarily in order to provide fire protection for the community. At about the same time, the city limits were expanded to include all interested persons, resulting in the second major boom for Empire City. In 1990 the population exploded to 219, representing a 1,585 percent increase in just ten years. Growth continued in the community over the 1990s, so that by 2000 there were 734 people living in Empire City. Despite its tremendous proliferation, the town does not have a newspaper or its own post office.

SEE ALSO: OIL-FIELD CULTURE, PETROLEUM, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Empire City," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974).

Cynthia Savage

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