As the county seat of Love County, Marietta is situated at the intersection of State Highway 32 and Interstate 35, fifteen miles north of the Red River, and 114 miles south of Oklahoma City. Although Marietta was incorporated on June 2, 1898, with a population of approximately 550, settlement began years before. In the 1700s the Red River served as a travel route for French and Spanish explorers and traders. Small villages sprang up along its winding path, and a Spanish fort was located in the southwestern corner of present-day Love County. In the 1830s Abel Warren and Holland Coffee established trading post along Walnut Bayou.
The rich fertile land allowed the farmers to grow various crops and the abundance of open range served large cattle ranches. William "Bill" Washington had the largest in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. The Bill Washington Ranch House was added to the National Register of Historic Places (NR 71000667) in 1971. His brother Jerry Washington, who lived approximately one mile north of present-day Marietta, became Marietta's first postmaster when the post office was opened on December 20, 1887. One of the most popular stories is that Marietta was named after Jerry Washington's wife Marie Etta.
From the original 500 to 600 individuals listed in the petition for incorporation, Marietta grew to 1,391 in 1907. By 1908 the town supported twenty-four retail stores, three banks, and three churches. The Love County courthouse, built on Main Street in 1910, was the first courthouse built after Oklahoma statehood in 1907. In 1910 the population had grown to 1,546 and then increased to 1,977 in 1920. In the 1930s the numbers dropped to 1,505 but grew from the 1940s to 2000 when the population reached 2,445.
In 1930 Marietta had a cold storage plant, a hatchery, a bottling plant, and three lumber yards. A sawmill, a broom factory, a canning plant, and seven cotton gins operated at that time. The town also had at least five businesses such as garages and motor companies relating to the automobile business. In the 1940s Marietta had six churches, each representing a different denomination, and three school buildings that included a gymnasium, a combination elementary and highschool, and a separate school for African Americans.
The coming of the Gulf, Colorado and Santa Fe Railway (later the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway) brought about economic stimulus for the future town of Marietta, Indian Territory. The first track of the Santa Fe line through Pickens County was laid in the early 1887, and the first train ran July 28, 1887. With rail transportation local crops made their way to outside markets. With twenty-seven thousand bales shipped out in 1912 cotton was a major crop. Even during the drought of 1911 seventeen thousand cotton bales were shipped by rail. By the 1940s in addition to the railroad and U.S. Highway 77 and State Highways 32 and 199, the community was served by two bus lines, the Dixie Bus Line and the Greyhound Bus Line.
Like most small towns in Oklahoma the downtown area suffered with the coming of the Interstate 35 at the edge of town. At the turn of the twenty-first century several downtown buildings were empty. The main employers in the Marietta area were the Marietta Bakery that employed about 400 workers and the Siemens Dematic who employed sixty-five workers. In January 2004 the county was thrown into shock with the sudden bankruptcy of the Marietta Bakery. With that closing the town was financially hurt because employees were not paid for the last week of work and the last pay checks bounced throwing more hardship on the companies that had cashed them. Two weeks later the Siemens Dematic closed. However, several months later Siemens Dematic was purchased by the Chickasaw Nation and reopened bringing back many of the former employees. The bakery was bought at auction and reopened with a skeleton crew.
Although the WinStar Casino is located fourteen miles south of Marietta on Interstate 35 at the Thackerville exit, it is Love County's largest employer. Around the turn of the twenty-first century it employed about 1,500 workers, many driving from Marietta. In 2005 it was announced that the Chicksaw Nation had plans to spend $153 million to convert the WinStar Casino into a Las Vegas-style venue. This plan should increase the number of jobs and tourist trade in the Marietta area.
Just northeast of Marietta is Lake Murray State Park, and Lake Texhoma is located east of town. Falconhead Resort located eleven miles west has an 18-hole championship golf course that has been utilized by Jack Nicklaus, Chi Chi Rodriquez, and other professional golfers. The Chickasaw Nation's WinStar Casino is located fourteen miles south. Items from the Revolutionary War to the present, family military history, and area law enforcement exhibits are located in a two-story, 1910 jailhouse which houses the Love County Military Museum. It is located on the southwest corner of the courthouse lawn, just behind the modern Love County jail. Across the street from the jail is the new Love County Pioneer Museum building. The weekly Marietta Monitor has served the community since territorial days.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The History of Love County, Oklahoma (Dallas, Tex.: National Sharegraphics, 1983). "Marietta," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Patty Virginia Norton and Layton R. Sutton, eds., Indian Territory and Carter County, Oklahoma, Pioneers Including Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation, 1840-1926 (Dallas, Tex.: Taylor Publishing Co., 1983).
Tommie L. Horn
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