A community in southwestern Love County, Leon is situated along State Highway 76, twenty-two miles west of Marietta and 123 miles south of Oklahoma City. Lying in an agricultural area, the town is located just east of the Red River. The Leon townsite was surveyed, platted, and incorporated in 1900, but area settlement dates to the Civil War (1861-65). A post office was established there in June 1883. Sources of early Leon history are discrepant.
Around 1860 a stockman named Ike Cloud settled a few miles southwe Cloud died during the Civil War, and his brothers-in-law, the Dibrells, subsequently acquired the ranch. Their activities attracted settlers from Texas. Residents of "the Dibrell community" raised cattle and corn during the 1870s and began growing cotton about 1880.
A sawmill and a cotton gin were established at present Leon in 1881. The Leon post office opened in summer 1883 with James T. Ray as postmaster. It is unclear why Leon, the Spanish word for "lion," was the chosen designation. Crop failures in 1884 caused many residents to move. As a result, the post office closed from December 1885 until March 1886.
By 1890 Leon had Baptist and Methodist churches and a Masonic lodge. Local businesses included a blacksmith and a drug store. An abundance of cotton, the town's principal crop, required the construction of a second gin. Numerous houses and a school were built during the 1890s. In 1900, the year of incorporation, Leon had a population of 221.
The community was in decline by the mid-1910s. Droughts, crop failures, and business and residential fires were contributing factors. The major detriment to development, however, was the lack of a railroad. The nearest rail service was located at Marietta, some twenty miles distant. The population peaked at 232 in 1907 and fell to 216 in 1920 and to 178 in 1940. The town had 109 inhabitants in 1960, 101 in 1990, and 96 in 2000. Leon had a post office and one business establishment in 2002. The town has had no known newspaper.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Leon," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. Love County Heritage Committee, The History of Love County, Oklahoma (Dallas, Tex.: National Sharegraphics, 1983). Joseph Bryan Whittington Interview, Indian-Pioneer History, Vol. 73, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Jon D. May
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