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FREEDOM

Located in Woods County on the banks of the Cimarron River, Freedom lies twenty-five miles west of Alva, Oklahoma, on State Highway 64, and three miles south of the junction of State Highways 64 and 50. Freedom began as a small settlement in the late 1800s as the result of the Cherokee Outlet (Strip) Land Run of 1893 and the building of the Buffalo and Northwestern Railroad in 1917-20. Early settlers in the area were ranchers and farmers. The U.S. Post Office Department named the community Freedom in 1901 after it granted the area a post office. Mrs. Adlah Annis was the first postmaster. Freedom was incorporated as a town in 1925 with a population of 251. The primary economic base for the Freedom community has been beef and wheat production. Early pioneers to the area were self-sufficient, and many homesteaded 160-acre tracts after the Cherokee Outlet was opened for settlement. At the turn of the twenty-first century beef, wheat, and feed grain production continue as important industries.

Salt is another major commodity produced in the Freedom area. In 1822 I. J. M. Harsha, county surveyor and civil engineer for Reno County, Kansas, surveyed and mapped the area. Subsequently, the federal government leased the salt flats west of Freedom on the Cimarron River from the Cherokee Nation. While the federal government never produced salt, area farmers and ranchers had access to the necessary commodity. In 1935 Ezra Blackmon opened his salt factory and began mechanized production. The salt plant was capable of producing one hundred tons of salt daily. In 1982 Cargill Incorporated purchased the salt plant from Blackmon and began production in 1988. The Cargill plant continued as one of the largest employers in the community at the end of the twentieth century.

Freedom is home to Alabaster Caverns State Park, the largest gypsum cave in the world open to the public. It is located six miles south of Freedom on State Highway 50. Freedom is also known for the Battle of Turkey Springs, which occurred approximately ten miles northeast of town in 1878. The Battle of Turkey Springs was the last known encounter between U.S. Army cavalry and American Indians in Oklahoma. It is home to the "Largest Open Rodeo and Old Cowhand Feed" in the West, and is also the smallest Certified City in Oklahoma. The U.S. Census recorded 350 residents in 1920, 364 in 1940, 268 in 1960, 339 in 1980, and 271 in 2000.

SEE ALSO: CHEROKEE OUTLET OPENING, SALT AND SALT WORKS, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: John Cable, The Birth of Freedom: How a Town Came To Be (Freedom, Okla.: Freedom Public Schools Library, 1996). Petition and Application for the Incorporation of the Town of Freedom, Woods County, Oklahoma, Woods County Clerk Office, July 1925. Pioneer Footprints Across Woods County (Alva, Okla.: Cherokee Strip Pioneer League, 1976). Mari Sandoz, Cheyenne Autumn (1953; reprint, Lincoln, Neb.: University of Nebraska Press, 1992).

Kay Decker

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