The community of Newcastle is located in northwestern McClain County. It is situated at the intersection of U.S. Highway 62/277 and State Highway 130, nineteen miles south of Oklahoma City and seventeen miles northwest of Norman. Newcastle originated with the opening of its post office on March 26, 1894. The mail office was established on the Minco to Norman road in Section 11, Township 9 North, Range 4 West. Eulalie V. Kelley was the first postmaster. In 1905 postmaster Alonzo Haun moved the facility to his general store in Section 14, Township 9 North, Range 4 West.
Newcastle lay in the Chickasaw Nation. The community's first residents included Choctaw, Chickasaw, and individuals who had married into those tribes. Many were involved in ranching. By 1907 statehood the community had a subscription school, a cotton gin, two stores, and two blacksmiths.
Changes spurred Newcastle's growth during the 1920s. In 1920 the town's post office was relocated one mile east, where land was donated for a public school and a church. In 1922 work started on a South Canadian River bridge. The structure was Oklahoma's first federal aid project and a part of the Ozark Trail that was to link Oklahoma City to Amarillo, Texas. Although the trail was never completed, the bridge stayed. It opened on April 23, 1923, and cost $321,393.38 to build. The bridge attracted businesses and allowed for the construction of Highway 62 through Newcastle in 1927.
During World War II Newcastle's population was about 100. During the war five local men gave their lives in defense of their country. Another was captured in the Philippines and spent more than three years as a Japanese prisoner. Soon after Japan surrendered, a tornado swept through Newcastle and destroyed the school and much of the business section. The twister touched down the evening of September 25, 1945, moving from the southwest to the northeast.
Newcastle's local government did not exist until the 1960s. Fearing annexation from Oklahoma City, Newcastle residents formed their own government. On January 18, 1962, the McClain County Board of County Commissioners proclaimed the incorporation of "South Newcastle." Then, through annexations of its own, South Newcastle grew to some 16,000 acres. On July 28, 1965, a petition was submitted to change the town's name to Newcastle. The request was granted on September 6, 1965. Newcastle's next big event was the tornado of May 3, 1999. The tornado entered the west side of the city limits and stayed on the ground until it crossed the South Canadian River northeast of town.
Newcastle had a population of 1,271 in 1970. That number increased from 3,076 in 1980 to 5,434 in 2000. Cotton, ranching, and the dairy industry, once important to the local economy, declined with the subdivision and commercial development of agricultural lands. At the end of the twentieth century the public school system was Newcastle's largest employer.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Joseph E. King, Spans of Time: Oklahoma Historic Highway Bridges ([Oklahoma City]: Oklahoma Department of Transportation, Planning Division, 1993). "Newcastle," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Joyce Rex, ed., McClain County, Oklahoma: History and Heritage, Vol. 2 (Purcell, Okla.: McClain County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1986).
Alan Davenport and Jason Davenport
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