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Located in Kay County, Kildare is situated one mile east of the junction of U.S. Highway 77 and State Highway 11. By 1892, one year before the Cherokee Outlet Opening, the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway had built a section house, a tool house, an agent's cottage, and a depot near the future town's site. With the railroad's presence, the location became a potential development area. Before the land run of September 1893, some Cherokee leaders recognized an opportunity. Dennis Bushyhead, former Cherokee chief, and Robert L. Owen, mixed-blood Cherokee and influential political figure, along with Howard Ross, W. D. Wisdom, and C. F. Winton, chose Kildare as a county seat site and drew up a plat with ninety-eight blocks. It included locations for a courthouse square, park, and school. With the railroad depot and the site centrally located on a small, rolling hill, it appeared a good choice. However, Secretary of Interior Hoke Smith was determined that the Cherokee would not receive allotments near proposed sites. He had all the county seats relocated, and the sites were kept secret. In spite of Smith's efforts, Cherokees Tennessee Jane Jordan and Spencer Stephens received allotments in this area.

The Santa Fe Railway sold eight thousand tickets to Kildare on opening day, September 16, 1893. The survey commenced the next day, and the plat, minus the courthouse location, was filed. Because a portion of Kildare was located on Bushyhead's land and he had clear title, those individuals buying lots in parts of the town were able to obtain warranty deeds much more quickly than other homesteaders. Like many early-day communities, Kildare blossomed overnight with newspapers, hardware stores, saloons, lumberyards, drug and grocery stores, and a jail. A post office was established on October 24, 1893.

In spite of Kildare's apparent advantages, history did not prove kind. Water was always a problem, and in the beginning it was hauled from Willow Springs, a few miles to the north. Lots did not sell as quickly as anticipated, and taxes became a crucial factor. Three fires devastated the business area, and each time fewer enterprises rebuilt. After the initial influx of settlers in 1893, population stood at 162 at 1907 statehood and peaked at 216 in 1910. On March 2, 1905, the territorial legislature approved Council Bill Number 80 and legalized Kildare's incorporation. At the turn of the twenty-first century 92 people resided in there. Small-town life continued to revolve around church, school, and a grain elevator.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Kildare," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. North Central Oklahoma: Rooted in the Past—Growing For the Future (Ponca City, Okla.: North Central Oklahoma Historical Association, 1995).

Karen Dye

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