Located nineteen miles southeast of Pawnee, the county seat of Pawnee County, Hallett is situated slightly north of U.S. Highway 412 on State Highway 99. Unlike other Pawnee County towns that had their beginning due the Cherokee Outlet land opening in 1893, Hallett was formed at the junction of two railroads. The Arkansas Valley and Western Railway (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway) and the Missouri, Kansas and Oklahoma Railroad (later the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway) constructed lines through the town around 1903. Named for Charles H. Hallett, an officer in the Nineteenth Kansas Cavalry, the town was founded on December 8, 1904, by the Hallett Townsite Company. A post office was established on May 19, 1905, with William D. Oliver as the first postmaster. On July 30, 1907, H. M. Hewitt and W. P. Hughes published the first issue of the weekly Hallett Herald newspaper. Early on several hotels catered to the passengers making railroad connections to other destinations.
Hallett developed as a trade and support center for the local farmers and the oil and gas industry in the immediate area. The soil was conducive to the production of corn, wheat, oats, alfalfa, potatoes, and cotton. Also, numerous fruit orchards dotted the landscape. The diversified agriculture included the raising of cattle, horses, mules, hogs, sheep, and poultry. The development of the Hallett Oil Field began in 1908. An oil boom occurred then and again in the 1920s.
Respite from work included recreational activities such as fairs, picnics, ball games, and racing. In the early twentieth century Hallett hosted the Pawnee County fair. Peter White, an African American farmer, held an annual barbecue that drew many African American and white participants, who also enjoyed baseball games, music, and dancing. He served barbecued beef, mutton, pork, and chicken. Through the years horse races and automobile racing interested many. Beginning in the 1970s the newly constructed Hallett Motor Racing Circuit drew race car enthusiasts from across the United States.
Disasters have struck the community on numerous occasions. On June 20, 1916, lightning struck the oil storage tanks southwest of Hallett. Fires in 1918 and 1940 destroyed the school building. On June 20, 1985, an explosion at the Aerlex Fireworks plant killed twenty-one individuals.
Hallett's population has remained fairly steady except for a peak of 279 in 1920. The first reported census indicated 147 in 1910. Thereafter, the numbers generally stayed in the mid-one hundred range. The 1940 and 1990 censuses noted a population of 159. The lowest point was reached in 1950 at 120. At the turn of the twenty-first century, Hallett had 168 citizens.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Aerlex Corporation Fireworks Factory, Pawnee County," Vertical File, Oklahoma Room, Oklahoma Department of Libraries, Oklahoma City. Kenny A. Franks and Paul F. Lambert, Pawnee Pride: A History of Pawnee County (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Society, 1994). "Hallett," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003).
Linda D. Wilson
© Oklahoma Historical Society