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SOPER

Located in southwestern Choctaw County on U.S. Highway 70, Soper is situated eleven miles west of Hugo. In 1902 dwellings and businesses began to spring up in the area when the Arkansas and Choctaw Railway (A&C) built a line through present southern Choctaw County. The young community was named for Pliny L. Soper, an attorney for the A&C. The post office was established April 12, 1903, with Malcom E. Walker as the first postmaster. That same year Walker built the first hotel and bought what was known as the Snippee Store. The store building soon housed a general mercantile, the post office, the Hicks Confectionery, operated by Walker's brother-in-law, L. W. Hicks, and a telephone office, operated by Walker's future wife, Lizzie Lee.

By 1904 Soper's first religious institution, the Methodist Church, was organized, as well as its first school, a one-room affair taught by a Professor Amos from Athens, Arkansas. In 1906 the Bank of Soper was established with Thomas E. Oakes as president and J. T. Jeter as cashier. Capital assets were said to have been twenty-five thousand dollars. The bank building stood on the northeast corner of Main Street and U.S. Highway 70. In 1918 another bank was built on the west side of Main Street about halfway between Highway 70 and Paris Avenue. Both banks operated until 1923. After the Bank of Soper closed, the building housed several other businesses, including a dance hall, a café, several bars, a movie theater, and a series of grocery stores. In 1981 Jack Beavers and his wife operated the Soper Grocery in the seventy-five-year-old building, when it was destroyed by fire.

By January 1, 1907, Walter L. Garner had founded the first newspaper, the Soper Herald. In 1914 Garner sold the newspaper to Roy E. Crossett, who named it the Soper Democrat. After thirty-three years of operation Crossett ceased publication and sold the equipment to W. E. Schooler of Hugo.

Some of the businesses advertising in the early issues of the Soper Herald included Ellis Brother's Shoe Store, Dry Goods, and Apparel, C. L. Harris Dry Goods, Soper Drug Company, W. E. Larecy Store, L. W. Hicks Loans, Insurance, Renting, and Collection and Real Estate, Nail and Walker Furniture Store, and Jeter and Jeter Insurance.

At 1907 statehood Soper had 296 residents. By 1920 the population had reached 538. The town supported two doctors, two banks, four churches, a newspaper, and a new three-room school and had water and electric utilities. Agriculture provided the economic basis for the community, cotton being the main crop. At its economic peak the town had three restaurants, three cotton gins, two barbershops, and two hotels.

The 1940 census recorded 481 residents, a number that declined to 322 in 1970. In 1960 a tornado destroyed most of the downtown brick buildings. By 1990 the cotton fields had been converted to pasture land. The town had only one industry, a manufacturer of hay-baling equipment, but supported a grocery store, two convenience stores, a service station, two cafés, four churches, and two beauty shops. According to the 2000 census three hundred people lived in Soper.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Ruth Balch Harris, "The Coming of the White Man to McCurtain, Choctaw, and Pushmataha Counties" (M.A. thesis, East Texas State Teachers College, 1956). George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974). "Soper," Hugo (Oklahoma) Daily News, 1 July 1977.

Altha Alder

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