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HAWORTH

The area that later became Haworth was surveyed and platted as Harrington by the Choctaw Townsite Commission on the Arkansas and Choctaw Railroad (later the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, or the Frisco) being built across future McCurtain County, then part of the sovereign Choctaw Nation. The site was about ten miles west of the Arkansas-Choctaw Nation boundary, ten miles north of the Red River, and twelve miles southeast of Purnell (later Idabel).

A trading post-village called Norwood, which existed about a mile southwest of the proposed town of Harrington, was bypassed by the railroad. A post office was established at Norwood March 28, 1902, and served the region until November 1906 when it was closed and an office was opened at the Harrington site, now designated as Haworth. The new name was derived from the family name of a railroad official. Neither Harrington nor Haworth was ever known as Norwood as some reports infer.

The forty-five-acre townsite was approved April 1, 1903, and many lots were immediately sold . However, development languished until Oklahoma statehood in 1907. The new town's early economic base was harvesting and processing the dense stand of virgin oak, hickory, and pine timber in the trade territory. Mills were established in the vicinity to process timber, and Haworth became known as a major hardwood market in addition to being a prolific producer of pine lumber.

Farmers occupied much of the cleared land, with cotton being the principal money crop. It was ginned at Haworth. The town became the main commercial center of the southeastern section of the county. Three additions were platted by 1920. A bank, newspaper, telephone exchange, water system, several stores, restaurants, and hotels were soon in place. Early wood-frame buildings in the business district were replaced with brick structures. A two-story, brick school building was completed in 1911 to replace a 1906 7structure.

The town flourished through the 1920s but lost momentum when most of the hardwood and pine timber had been harvested. Cotton production also became unprofitable, and much of the land in the Haworth trade territory was abandoned and then confiscated by the county for unpaid taxes. With the coming of the Great Depression in the 1930s many of the business establishments closed and some relocated to Idabel or Broken Bow. The brick store buildings, which had graced the main street, were gradually demolished. The population, once estimated to be as high as eight hundred, stood at 293 in 1990.

The federal government and private entrepreneurs recognized the potential of the land for reforestation in pine. Those entities acquired large acreages of the abandoned land and began redevelopment of the forest by nurturing natural growth and by proactive planting of pine. The Harris House, six miles south of town, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 78003082). Beginning in the late 1970s there was a resurgence of civic activity in Haworth, funded with federal and private monies. The town's infrastructure was upgraded although the population remained relatively steady at 354 in 2000 with most employed citizens filling jobs elsewhere in the region.

SEE ALSO: FORESTRY CULTURE, FORESTRY, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: William Arthur Carter, McCurtain County and Southeast Oklahoma (Fort Worth, Tex.: Tribune Publishing Co., 1923). McCurtain County: A Pictorial History, Vol. 2 (N.p.: McCurtain County Historical Society, 1982). McCurtain (Idabel, Oklahoma) Gazette, 2 May 1914. McCurtain (Idabel, Oklahoma) Daily Gazette, 22 June 1980. George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974).

Louis Coleman

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