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The Dewey County community of Oakwood is located on State Highway 3/U.S. Highways 270/281, twenty miles southeast of Seiling, within the former Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation. After the reservation opened to settlement in 1892, homesteaders built farms and raised wheat and livestock in the broad plain around the Canadian River. Future Oakwood would be placed in a valley in the southeast corner of the county in Sickle Township, where the population in 1900 reached 1,276. Farm families traded with Milton F. Mills at his trading post and received their mail there.

In 1902, as the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway (KCM&O) built its tracks through Dewey County, developers became interested. The Union Real Estate and Townsite Company, of Jackson County, Missouri, purchased the area and in May 1903 surveyed and platted a fifty-block town. While some area residents wanted to call the new place Edsallville, after a local family prominent in its development, they settled on Oakwood, because of the oak trees nearby.

A business community rapidly developed, and in 1905 the KCM&O finished its line from Fairview to Oakwood. The next year it continued on to Foley. Town lots briskly sold in 1905 and 1906. M. F. Collins set up a blacksmith shop, D. S. Edsall a hardware store, and Jacob Place a general store. The Oakwood Bank opened in 1907. Walter Clem printed the Oakwood News in the early decades. A telephone company operated from 1908, and travelers arriving at the depot, built in 1908, could stay at the Lancet Hotel and rent a rig at the Clay Rogers livery stable. By 1908 an unofficial census registered 200, and in 1910 the U.S. Census officially numbered 199. Agriculture supported the town's economy, with corn of various kinds, wheat, and cotton being produced. Thousands of cattle were shipped each year from a large stockyards area at the tracks. The bustling town incorporated in 1909. Two schools provided education.

Despite a fire in 1912 that destroyed all of Main Street's north-side, wood-frame business buildings, the town rebounded. By 1918 three grain elevators and a cotton gin operated. When population peaked at 266 in 1930, the inhabitants supported thirty-five businesses and Christian and Methodist churches.

As with most small Oklahoma towns, the Great Depression and World War II took a toll. By 1960 only 122 people called Oakwood home. By 1974 only five businesses remained. Four churches still operated, but the schools had closed, the students being served by Canton, Taloga, and Seiling. In 2000 the census recorded 72 residents. Oakwood organized a one hundredth anniversary celebration in July 2003. Four hundred people attended and participated in a parade, a picnic, and tours of historical business and residential sites around town.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bobbie Coleman, "Mainstreet Oakwood [typescript, 1990]", in "Oakwood," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Dovey Roberts Hewitt, "History of Oakwood, Oklahoma [typescript, November 1974]", in "Oakwood," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Spanning the River: Dewey County Family Histories (N.p.: Dewey County Historical Society, 1976).

Dewey County Historical Society

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