A community in southern Harper County, May is situated at the intersection of State Highway 46 and U.S. Highways 270/412/State Highway 3, twenty-one miles southwest of Buffalo, the Harper County seat, and 165 miles northwest of Oklahoma City. John H. Porterfield of Illinois established a store on the present townsite following the Cherokee Outlet Opening of 1893. Then located in Woodward County, Oklahoma Territory, the settlement was named in honor of Porterfield's daughter, Jessie May. (Other sources claim it was named for May Innis, daughter of local landowner Joseph A. Innis.) The May post office opened in July 1896 with Porterfield as postmaster. The town was platted in July 1902 and incorporated on November 3, 1913.
May became a wheat shipping point after construction of the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway, a Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (MK&T) subsidiary, was completed through town in spring 1912. Cattle and wheat remained economically important to the community into the twenty-first century. Positioned just south of the Beaver River (North Canadian River) and east of Otter Creek, the town flooded often.
Businesses at the time of incorporation included the May State Bank, the Cottage and Keystone hotels, the C. B. Cozart Grain Company, a grain elevator, a feed barn, and the May Restaurant and City Meat Market. In 1913 a two-story, brick school building was built. Early newspapers were the May Monitor, the May Bugle, and the May Record. The community had a population of approximately 20 in 1907. That figure grew to a high of 324 in 1920 and then fell from 258 in 1930 to 239 in 1940.
May declined during World War II as residents joined the military or sought employment elsewhere. The exodus continued into the postwar years, causing businesses to close. The town's population dropped from 143 in 1950 to 91 in 1970. The high school closed in 1957, and in 1970 the May School District was divided between Laverne, Fort Supply, and Gage. The local MK&T line was abandoned in 1972. May had forty-two inhabitants in 1990 and thirty-three in 2000. Five commercial enterprises operated there in 2002, including two construction firms and two businesses related to the petroleum and natural gas industries.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Harper County Historical Society, Sage and Sod: Harper County, Oklahoma, 1885-1974, Vol. 2 (N.p.: Harper County Historical Society, 1975). "May," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Jon D. May
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