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OPTIMA

Located in central Texas County, in the Oklahoma Panhandle, Optima lies on U.S. Highway 54, eight miles north of Guymon, the county seat. The Optima community emerged in a ranching area circa 1885 or 1886. An Optima postal designation was made in September 1886, with William H. Miller as postmaster. The name of the place comes from the Latin word meaning "best possible result." By 1898 Optima consisted of E. P. Carter's store, housing the post office. By 1900 most of the approximately 230 residents of Optima Township, the region surrounding the store, were involved in stock raising. The local ranches also employed farmers and farm laborers to grow feed crops for the livestock.

In 1901 the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway extended its line from loading pens at Tyrone, northeast of Optima, across Beaver County and into the Texas Panhandle. The route passed near the rural community, and the Rock Island Pacific Development Company promoted a townsite on the railroad and called it Optima. The store and post office were removed to that location.

By 1910 the township supported 362 persons and the fledgling town, approximately one hundred. The businesses they owned mainly supported agriculture and included a feed mill, two lumber companies, and a grain dealer. They also patronized the customary enterprises to be found in a small town and read the news in the Optimist. By 1918 the First State Bank offered financial services, and four general stores functioned, indicating that a sizeable rural community had grown up. In the 1920s Optima's school district offered education through high school, and Methodist and Lutheran churches drew residents to worship. The Great Depression of the 1930s negatively impacted the local economy but brought federal aid to the area in the form of a 1933-34 archaeological investigation at the Stamper Site (listed in the National Register of Historic Places, NR 66000635). Conducted by Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) crews and directed by University of Oklahoma archeologists, the investigation revealed occupation dating to A.D. 1400 or earlier. Using the product generated by the Hugoton-Panhandle natural gas field, carbon black plants opened in the area in the late 1930s and offered local employment until the 1950s.

Optima's first official census came in 1930 and recorded 115 residents. The number declined over the next decades, reaching a low of 64 in 1960. Despite that, the surrounding agricultural area produced large crops of wheat, and an elevator had opened by 1955. The population climbed gradually to 133 in 1980 during a regional oil boom and deep drilling in the Anadarko Basin. In 1990 Optima had 92 inhabitants, and in 2000, 266. More than half of employed residents were involved in production in Guymon-area industrial plants, including gasoline extraction, feed milling, and hog processing. The local school registered fifty-three students in grades kindergarten through six.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Optima," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003). Virginia Watson, "The Optima Focus of the Panhandle Aspect," Bulletin of the Texas Archeological Society 21 (1950).

Dianna Everett

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