Located in the Oklahoma Panhandle in Beaver County, Gate is situated three miles west of the Harper-Beaver county line on U.S. Highway 64. The town was platted in 1883 as Gate City and finally established in 1886 as a post office. Once a part of the cattleman's domain and home for "squatter" homesteaders in the region, Gate City received its name because it was located close to the gate of the drift fence built by the cattlemen. The region was a paradise for thieves and outlaws until a vigilante group was formed to protect the settlers' families and property. As part of the region called No Man's Land, Gate became a part of Oklahoma Territory with the passage of the Organic Act of 1890.
In 1894 Gate City had several businesses and a star mail route running to Beaver City. That year, the name was changed to Gate. The community served a surrounding ranching and agricultural economy. By 1910 Gate's citizens enjoyed a number of commercial establishments, including a hotel, billiard parlor, barber shop, grocery, hardware, bank, bakery, lumberyard, millinery shop, doctor's office, feed mill, and two blacksmiths. In 1912, when the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway built tracks a mile west of town, the citizens platted a new town there and moved their buildings to Gate's present location. Early residents strongly believed in academic and spiritual education. Country schools were built, and in 1893 a Methodist circuit preacher began his work. In 1905 the Society of Friends (Quakers), who had earlier moved to the Gate area as a group, established Laurence Friends Academy, the first institution of higher learning west of Woodward. Over the years Gate's citizens have been informed by the Gate Valley Star and the Gate City News.
Agriculture has always been Gate's basic economic activity. Irrigation, which may have been used for crops in the area in ancient times, was begun by a commercial firm that developed an irrigation ditch shortly after 1900. It continued in use at the end of the twentieth century. Wheat and broomcorn were important early crops, and wheat remained important. However, industry has also been vital. Silica from an important volcanic ash deposit located northwest of town began to be mined in the early part of the century. Gas wells were developed from 1969.
The population stood at 774 in 1907, peaked 958 in 1910, and declined to 309 in 1920. Although Gate lost many business in the 1930s, the town remained viable. The 1940, 1960, 1980, and 2000 censuses recorded 243, 130, 146, and 112, respectively. Historically, Gate residents enjoyed fishing, boating, and ice skating at Gate Lake, two miles east of town. The Gate Museum, established in 1975, preserves pioneer history; art by Marilyn Shahan illustrates the history of the community. A library and two churches provide academic and spiritual education. Gate School was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1999 (NR 99001087).
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: A History of Beaver County, 2 Vols. (Beaver, Okla.: Beaver County Historical Society, 1971). "Gate," Vertical File, Gate Museum and Library, Gate, Oklahoma. Ernestine Maphet, Gate to No Man's Land (Beaver, Okla.: Privately printed, 1976).
© Oklahoma Historical Society