The rural community of Seiling is located in north-central Dewey County in northwest Oklahoma and immediately south of the North Canadian River and approximately seven miles north of the "South" Canadian River. The town lies at the intersection of U.S. Highways 183/270/281 and State Highway 3 north-south and U.S. Highway 60 and State Highway 31 east-west and is ten miles from Taloga, the county seat. A mid-nineteenth-century military road passed north and south through the area near the location of future Seiling and toward the site of Taloga. Once a part of the Cheyenne and Arapaho nations' lands, the county was on the pathway for herds going from Texas to Kansas along the Western Trail.
The Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening of April 1892 brought in non-Indian settlers. On May 5, 1894, a post office was designated to be placed in a store operated by Louis Seiling, for whom the town is named, on the homestead he had acquired in the land run. Subsequently, on his quarter-section a town called Hobson was developed by the Hobson Town and Improvement Company. The name Seiling was adopted in January 1899, and the town was platted soon after that.
Despite the fact that Seiling never attracted a railroad and was more than twenty-five miles from the nearest depot at Canton, the community quickly flourished. As the town lay between the two Canadian rivers, which had no bridges until 1905 and 1908, local farmers did business there, rather than traveling to towns across the rivers, especially during flood season. Seiling incorporated on April 5, 1909. By that time the population had reached 352. Residents enjoyed Christian, Methodist, Friends (Quaker), and Presbyterian churches, a public school, two banks, and four hotels. Local industries included two concrete block plants and a sash-and-door factory. The Seiling Guide, established 1901, printed the news, and residents kept their money in the Bank of Seiling and in the First National Bank. Entertainment was provided by a town band formed in 1903 and by horse racing.
The Seiling area has been farming country since the opening of the reservation to non-Indian settlement in 1892. The region's farms were heavy producers of broomcorn and cotton, and a cotton gin and a feed mill provided agricultural services in the early years. Wheat and rye became important before World War I, and in 1918 Fred Sander opened a large flour mill that operated until 1952. Its "White Rose Special" flour was a popular product. The Seiling Milling Company has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 83004167). Agriculture declined somewhat after the war, and by 1920 some of Seiling's residents had left, but the town still sheltered 323 people. The population rebounded to 568 in 1930 despite the ill effects of the Great Depression.
An important seasonal economic activity revolved round horse racing and associated tourism. A horse track operated as early as 1903. A larger track facility was built before World War I, and the Seiling Race Meet was organized circa 1925. The spring and fall three-day race meets also included carnivals and other attractions. The track was complete with grandstands and barns. Seiling came to be known as the Little Louisville of Oklahoma racing. Expanded to six-day meets and conducted under the auspices of the Oklahoma Racing Association, which formed in 1948, the activity was still ongoing through 1951. During the horse-racing season, dog races were also conducted there, making this the state's only dual-purpose track.
In the early twentieth century the Seiling political scene was identified with several national movements. Prohibition lecturer Carrie Nation resided there during the early 1900s. During the Progressive Era D. C. Kirkpatrick, a member of the Socialist Party, was elected to the Oklahoma House of Representatives from Dewey County in 1914, serving one term, and Socialists were elected to five of thirteen county offices.
Seiling's population grew consistently throughout the twentieth century. By World War II it stood at 629, and during the 1950s and 1960s it almost doubled, reaching 1,033 by 1970. Petroleum discoveries during the 1950s extended an oil field southwestward from Major County into Dewey County. In the 1960s, after the Seiling Townsite Number One well was completed, the Seiling Field expanded southward. In 1968 Shell Oil Company and fifty-two other producers constructed a natural gasoline plant west of town. It opened in June 1968 and extracted gasoline from natural gas delivered via the Panhandle Eastern Pipeline Company line from western Oklahoma and the Texas Panhandle. The plant provided employment for a number of area residents, as did facilities opened by Phillips Petroleum Company, Rock Island Oil Company, and Mobil Oil Company in the 1960s.
Renewed prosperity enabled the improvement of city services. An airport, a hospital, a city park, a swimming pool, and a golf course served residents from the 1970s forward. At the beginning of the twenty-first century Seiling remained an agriculture-oriented community of 875 residents. The public school district enrolled 380 students in grades prekindergarten through twelve. The Dewey County Record provided access to local, state, and national news. In addition to the Seiling Mill, the McAllister House is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 97000196). Due in part to its location as a highway crossroads, Seiling remained Dewey County's largest town.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Carolyn Daugherty, Seiling: Crossroads of Northwest Oklahoma (Stillwater, Okla.: New Forums Press, Inc., 1998). Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003). "Seiling," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
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