Located in Jefferson County, Terral is an incorporated community situated east of U.S. Highway 81, twenty miles south of Waurika and one mile north of the Red River. The town was named in honor of John Heidelburg Dace Terral, its founder and first postmaster. The post office was established August 8, 1892, when Terral was located in Pickens County, Chickasaw Nation, Indian Territory.
John H. D. Terral moved to the present townsite from Montague County, Texas, in 1892. He did so after learning that the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway would span Oklahoma and Indian territories south from Wichita, Kansas, to the Red River. Terral leased land from Emily Colbert Fleetwood, a Chickasaw, and platted his town with the assistance of Hugh Schoolfield. The first lots were sold in May 1892.
Terral grew as an agricultural community and had 583 residents in 1907. That year local farmers grew an abundance of watermelons. Other important commodities were cotton, cattle, and hogs. Local ranchers marketed their livestock at Fort Worth, Texas, ninety miles away. Terral had more than twenty businesses in 1908, including a lumberyard and two cotton gins. Early community newspapers were the Terral Times, Terral Weekly Times, and Terral Tribune.
Little had changed in Terral by 1930. The town's population was 593, and farmers continued to grow cotton and bumper crops of watermelons and cantaloupes. There was a consolidated school for the children, a civic auditorium, three churches, and nearly one hundred telephone connections. The Rock Island Railway and a bus line provided transportation.
Terral's population declined from 636 in 1970 to 386 in 2000. The Terral High School was closed in 1987 with only twenty-eight students enrolled. Agriculture, however, remained the backbone of the local economy. Since 1965 Terral's farming heritage has been celebrated with the Terral Watermelon Jubilee each July. At the turn of the twenty-first century Terral had no newspaper.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Jim M. Dyer, History of Jefferson County, Oklahoma (N.p.: N.p., 1957). Hunter James, "Terral, Oklahoma, Fruit Growing Center," Sturm's Oklahoma Magazine 7 (September 1908). "Terral," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Jon D. May
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