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LAVERNE

An incorporated community in southwestern Harper County, Laverne is situated at the intersection of U.S. Highway 283 and State Highway 149, twenty-three miles southwest of Buffalo and 179 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. A post office was established northwest of present Laverne in 1898, when the area was within Woodward County, Oklahoma Territory. Designated Laverne, the facility operated until 1908, when mail was rerouted to now-defunct Speermore.

John Mollman homesteaded near Laverne post office in 1903. He sold part of his land to a townsite promoter in autumn 1911. The acreage was platted, and lots were purchased. Stores soon opened, and the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway (WF&NW) reached the settlement in spring 1912. (The WF&NW was a Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway subsidiary. The Laverne line was abandoned in 1972.) The old Laverne post office was reactivated and moved to the village in May 1912, giving the community its name.

Laverne had approximately forty-four businesses by June 1912, including the Laverne State Bank. The Fox Hotel (NR 78002236) and the Clover Hotel (NR 84003034), both built in 1912, are among Laverne's five properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places. Broomcorn, wheat, and cattle were economic staples through the 1920s. The Laverne Leader, the Laverne Tribune, and the socialist Beacon Light were early newspapers. The town had 476 citizens in 1920. That number increased to 903 in 1930 and dropped to 816 in 1940.

Nicknamed the "Oil Capital of Northwest Oklahoma" during a 1950s oil boom, Laverne prospered as petroleum and pipeline companies opened local facilities. The Laverne Chamber of Commerce originated in 1956, and housing increased as the population grew from 1,269 in 1950 to 1,937 in 1960. That figure subsequently fell to 1,337 in 1970, rose to 1,563 in 1980, and declined to 1,269 in 1990.

Laverne had 1,097 inhabitants and approximately seventy-one businesses in 2000. The economy remained agriculturally based, with wheat, hay, and cattle as principal commodities. The community presently has nine churches, a public library, a municipal airport, and the weekly Laverne Leader Tribune newspaper; the nearest hospital is in Buffalo. Children from Harper, Ellis, and Beaver counties attend the Laverne public schools. Jane Jayroe, Miss America 1967, and musician James "Jimmy" Webb are former residents.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Laverne," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Sage and Sod: Harper County, Oklahoma, 1885-1974, Vol. 2 (N.p.: Harper County Historical Society, 1975).

Jon D. May

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