Temple is located in Cotton County, five miles south and five east of Walters on State Highway 5. According to George Shirk's Oklahoma Place Names, the town's appellation honored Temple Houston, son of Sam Houston. Bird V. Cummins ordered the plat for the town, and John S. Lazier completed the survey May 19, 1902. Comanche County Commissioners incorporated the town September 2, 1902, making Temple one of the first towns to be incorporated in present-day Cotton County. Circa 1906 Temple developers advertised the town as "Gateway to the Big Pasture." Some claimed that Temple was surrounded by more good tillable acres than any other town in America and that it would someday have a population of ten thousand. Temple never reached that lofty number but had 852 in 1910, 1,182 in 1930, 1,442 in 1950, and 1,146 in year 2000.
Born in Temple in 1904, John "Pepper" Martin became a nationally known baseball player, learning baseball and football in the community. The B&O Cash Store, "Wonder Store for the Giant of all Small Town Merchandising Successes," made Temple stand out in southern Oklahoma. Bob and Otho Mooney built the business with thirteen hundred dollars of borrowed capital beginning in 1906. By 1922 they drew trade from a 150-mile radius. The store was a unique business built primarily on farm trade but with an international mail order business. It had fifty-seven departments. In 1929 Sears, Roebuck and Company bought the store, which it operated until the late 1950s. Sears donated the building to the town. From 1957 to 1989 Walter A. Yeilding, local clothing store owner, arranged for Haggar Apparel Company to lease the building under the name Temple Manufacturing Company. The company employed three hundred. Since Haggar's closed, the building has been leased for short periods but has never been fully utilized. In March 2003 a Chinese company, Shanghai Oliver Enterprise Company, Ltd., announced that it would use the site for manufacturing down comforters and would employ thirty employees initially and ninety within two years.
Temple supported two newspapers, the Temple Tribune (1902-75) and the Temple Times (1977-80). The town's business community has steadily declined in recent years. Farm families that once crowded its commercial street on Saturday and Thursday (livestock sale day) no longer come to town. The few farmers remaining in the community have small families. Good cars and roads and large stores at Lawton and Duncan, Oklahoma, and Wichita Falls, Texas, now draw people and businesses out of town. More than forty-four businesses operated in Temple in the 1940s and 1950s compared to only fourteen establishments in 2003.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Joe D. Haines, Jr., "Pepper Martin: The Wild Horse of the Osage," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 80 (Winter 2002-03). George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974). Walters (Oklahoma) Herald, 21 January 1937.
Harold W. Powell
© Oklahoma Historical Society