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OLUSTEE

Located on State Highway 6, Olustee lies fourteen miles southwest of Altus in Jackson County, formerly part of Old Greer County. Seven miles northwest of Olustee William J. Fullerton dammed Turkey Creek in 1893 and had one of the first irrigated farms in the area. Fullerton Dam is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 76001562). Olustee (a Seminole word meaning "pond") was established in 1895 and named after the Battle of Olustee in the Civil War. The post office opened on February 27, 1895. In 1901 the first school, a twenty-six-by-sixty-foot wooden structure, was supported by a six-hundred-dollar bond issue. A cotton gin was built in 1902, and in 1905 the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway constructed a line through Olustee, which soon became a center for trade and real estate activity.

A promoter constructed the Frisco Hotel but left town after being convicted of forging school checks. The townspeople persuaded an Anadarko hotelkeeper to move his furnishings to Olustee, and the establishment became the Bentley Hotel. During peak traveling periods the proprietor's wife required that every bed be occupied by two persons of the same gender, whether or not they knew each other.

In 1903 the first newspaper, Olustee Outlook, issued glowing accounts about the community. Beginning in fall 1903 excursion trains arrived every other week, bringing prospective settlers. Townspeople held dances for the travelers' entertainment. The first automobile in Old Greer County was purchased to transport potential buyers to look at the available land. Seating sixteen people, the vehicle startled horses, causing accidents and spills.

As homestead laws required improvements on the land, lumberyards did a booming business during the first decade of the twentieth century. Before 1907 statehood Olustee had a large department store, three drug stores, six physicians, an opera house, and a music studio. In 1908 a serious race for the Jackson County seat resulted in 2,077 votes for Altus and 1,365 for Olustee. At 1907 statehood the population stood at 552 and in 1910 peaked at 850. The town had water service by 1912 and electricity by 1923. The Outlook, the Democrat, and the Chieftain informed the citizens. At the turn of the twenty-first century Olustee had 680 residents, public schools, and an active community life. It served as a center for marketing farm products, especially wheat.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Cecil R. Chesser, Across the Lonely Years: The Story of Jackson County (Altus, Okla.: Altus Printing Co., 1971).

Tal Oden

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