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LOYAL

An agricultural community in rural west-central Kingfisher County, Loyal was called Kiel from its founding circa 1894 until 1918. Prior to the opening of the Cheyenne and Arapaho lands to settlement, a twelve-mile-wide strip of present Kingfisher County, below the Cimarron River, had been part of the Indians' reserve. After April 19, 1892, it was part of Kingfisher County. The Kiel community coalesced in Otter Township after the opening. No records indicate precisely when the community began, but by June 1894 a store and a post office existed on land owned by Dr. Paul Friedeman in the southwest quarter of Section 1, Township 17 North, Range 9 West. On June 15, 1894, he obtained a postal designation of Kiel. By December a store owned by J. Royer, a blacksmith shop, and sod schoolhouse operated there. Slightly to the north, J. T. Cronkhite constructed another store, which attracted several businesses. The original settlement came to be called "Old Kiel" and the new location "New Kiel," although they were adjacent. By 1900 an estimated three hundred people supported Roman Catholic, German Lutheran and Methodist churches, a bank, and a public school as well as twenty retail establishments, a hotel, three doctors, and other service providers. No grain elevator was ever constructed, although the settlement was situated in the heart of the wheat belt.

Otter Township had a population of 634 in 1900, 559 at 1907 statehood, and 590 in 1910. Of the 1900 population, 15 percent were of German or German-Russian origin (including Dr. Friedeman); of the 1910 population 20.6 percent were German in ancestry (with about 10 percent born in or who had parents born in Germany and 10 percent Germans from Russia, that is, of German ancestry but born in Russia or had parents born there). Friedeman or someone of the German population may have chosen the name Kiel to reflect some connection with Kiel, a seaport city in the German state of Holstein. It is not surprising that anti-German sentiment during World War I caused residents to change Kiel's name to Loyal, to express their devotion to the United States.

Kiel/Loyal dwindled over the next decades. Wheat remained the staple crop. Farmers continued, unsuccessfully, to try to convince a railroad to build a line there from Okeene. Newspapers published in the early 1900s included the Kiel Press, the Kiel Herald, and the Kiel Record. By 1930 Otter Township had only 471 residents. The town incorporated in the 1930s, and the first U.S. Census, taken in 1940, counted 177. In 1955 nine businesses still operated and 125 persons lived there. Subsequent censuses counted 87, 107, and 112, in 1960, 1970, and 1980, respectively. In the mid-1990s Loyal consisted of residences and half a dozen businesses, a post office, and two churches. Lomega consolidated school serves both Loyal and Omega youth from prekindergarten through high school. In 2000 Loyal had eighty-one inhabitants.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Douglas Hale, The Germans from Russia in Oklahoma (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1980). "Kiel Items," Kingfisher (Oklahoma) Free Press, 20 December 1894. "Kiel/Loyal," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Pioneers of Kingfisher County: 1889-1976 (N.p.: Kingfisher County Book Committee, 1976).

Dianna Everett

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