Located in Garfield County approximately sixteen miles northeast of Enid, the county seat, Hunter is situated on County Road E0310, four miles due west of State Highway 74/15. The surrounding area was originally part of the Cherokee Outlet, opened to public settlement on September 16, 1893. Noble Township, just south of the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River and the site of future Hunter, offered fertile land attractive to farmers.
Hunter was selected as a townsite for the Blackwell, Enid and Southwestern Railroad (after 1907 the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway), which built through the area from Blackwell through Hunter and Enid to Darrow in 1900-1901. The place was named for Charles E. Hunter, the railroad's townsite manager and an Enid real estate promoter who had been in Theodore Roosevelt's Rough Riders during Spanish-American War. He chose the site in 1900, platted it in December for the Frisco Town Company, and managed the sale of lots in 1901. The town of Hunter was incorporated from 1900. William L. Chambers was appointed postmaster at Hunter on January 10, 1901.
The town grew quickly, accommodating the usual variety of businesses serving local residents and a rural community. The Oklahoma Review newspaper, published in Oklahoma City, noted on September 15, 1901, that Hunter already consisted of seventy-five buildings that sheltered the Bank of Hunter, a furniture/undertaker dealer, and numerous other enterprises. The area's farms already produced enough to support four local grain elevators. Hunter had attracted a Christian Church from a nearby dispersed rural community called Pana in 1901, and a Methodist church congregation had also relocated there from another community. A Baptist Church was established in 1903. A 1909 state gazetteer shows three churches, a graded public school, a bank, and a newspaper, and notes that residents had telephone connections. Other businesses included two grain dealers, three general stores, a confectioner, a milliner, and a hotel. By 1918 a second hotel had opened and a Catholic Church had been built. Citizens enjoyed socializing at the Epworth League, IOOF (Odd Fellows), Knights of Pythias, and Farmers' Union. The Hunter Enterprise informed the citizens from 1904 through 1923. Grain and orchards provided an ongoing economic base, and the town remained a small agricultural center in the midst of a prosperous wheat-farming region.
Hunter's population at 1907 statehood stood at 254 and grew until the 1920s. It peaked in 1920 at 443. Despite a minor oil boom in the 1930s in the Hunter Field, the Great Depression took a toll, and from the 1930s through 1950s the number declined to 203 in 1960. A resurgence brought a peak of 276 in 1980. The 2000 population stood at 173, about fifty families, and many residents commuted to work in Enid and other towns. In the 1990s two elevators, a bank, a grocery, a garage, and gas station continued to operate. Residents maintained three churches, a park, and a lake. The Bank of Hunter was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1984 (NR 84003014), and tellers' counter/cage now resides in the bank building in the western town exhibit at the National Cowboy and Western Heritage Museum in Oklahoma City.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Homer S. Chambers, "Townsite Promotion in Early Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 19 (June 1941). "Hunter," Vertical File, Public Library of Enid and Garfield County, Enid, Oklahoma. "Hunter," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Stella Campbell Rockwell, ed., Garfield County, Oklahoma, 1893-1982, Vol. 2 ([Enid, Okla.]: Garfield County Historical Society, 1982).
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