Located in northern Garvin County eight miles north of Pauls Valley at the junction of U.S. Highway 77 and State Highway 145, Paoli served as a watering station on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Railroad officials built the depot on land owned by rancher James Dulin, who objected to naming the town "Doolinville." Engineers chose Paoli, a town in eastern Pennsylvania, for the name of the new train station. George D. Thompson served as the postmaster when the Paoli post office opened on June 27, 1888. Before 1907 statehood the area around Paoli was part of the Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory. Archaeological digs by the University of Oklahoma have produced several Indian artifacts from the region.
Emigrants from Texas and other southern states made Paoli a thriving and growing community. By the time the railroad arrived in 1887, families had established extensive ranches and farms in the fertile Washita River valley. The Dulin ranch covered more than three thousand acres and Jack Florence, Joe A. Camp, and Lawrence P. Wigley built large cattle businesses nearby. Cotton, broomcorn, wheat, alfalfa, and peanuts were raised on the local farms. In 1916 petroleum and natural gas companies successfully drilled wells in the area. Farming and oil-field businesses continued as the economic base for Paoli into the late twentieth century.
Two hundred twenty-nine people resided in Paoli in 1907, and the population grew steadily through the following decades. By 1920 twenty-nine residences and businesses had electric lights. The U.S. Census listed 363 residents in that year, and by 1940, 423 citizens supported an industrious downtown that housed two banks, a variety of shops, and a hotel.
The population of Paoli declined from 423 to 353 during the decade of the 1940s when World War II took families away from the area. The town rebounded in the 1960s, adding more than one hundred residents by 1970 and another hundred from 1970 to 1980. In 2000 the population reached 649. Former residents retiring from work and returning to Paoli and the proximity of medical care, recreational facilities, and larger communities contributed to the late rise in population.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: "Paoli," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City. Pauls Valley Chamber of Commerce, From Bluestem to Golden Trend: A Pictorial History of Garvin County, Covering Both the Old and the New (Fort Worth, Tex.: University Supply and Equipment Co., 1980). Julia Westfall and Wanda Prinz, eds., Proud of Paoli (Paoli, Okla.: Paoli OK Historical Society, 2001).
D. Keith Lough
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