Located in southwestern Grady County, Rush Springs is situated at the intersection of U.S. Highway 81 and State Highway 17, twenty miles south of Chickasha. Around 1850 the Wichita placed their village near the springs on Rush Creek, about four miles southeast of the present townsite. The Battle of the Wichita Village occurred there on October 1, 1858. The Chisholm Trail passed east of the springs, which served as a watering spot for cattle.
After Fort Sill was founded in 1869, supplies were shipped there via Rush Springs beginning in 1871. In that year the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway reached Caddo in the Choctaw Nation. From there freight destined for Fort Sill was transported by wagons through Rush Springs where a stage stand was constructed. Freight and stage travel from Caddo to Rush Springs ceased circa 1885.
A post office was established southeast of present Rush Springs at the ranch house of Samuel M. Huntley in July 1883. Designated as Parr, the post office relocated to Rush Springs upon the completion of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway in 1892, and two square miles of townsite lots were surveyed and leased. Rush Springs was incorporated on November 21, 1898. By 1900 the community had 518 residents. At 1907 statehood its population stood at 588. The census counted 823, 768, and 1,340 citizens in 1910, 1920, and 1930, respectively. Numbers rose to 1,422 in 1940 and to 1,402 in 1950. The town's inhabitants declined to 1,303 in 1960 and to 1,381 in 1970. In 1980 the population peaked at 1,451 citizens before dropping to 1,278 in 2000.
Rush Springs's economy has depended on agriculture, ranching, and the oil and natural gas industry. Known as the "Watermelon Capitol of the World," Rush Springs has hosted an annual Watermelon Festival since the 1940s. Manufacturing and retail trade were among the community's largest employers in 1999.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Gwen Jackson, Trails, Rails, and School Tales: A History of 125 Schools and Communities of Grady County (N.p.: N.p., 1995). Hunter James, "Rush Springs, in Great Alfalfa Belt," Sturm's Oklahoma Magazine 7 (October 1908). Hobert D. Ragland, The History of Rush Springs (Rush Springs, Okla.: Gazette Publishing Co., 1952).
Paula K. Brooks
© Oklahoma Historical Society