Union City is located towards the middle of the southern portion of Canadian County, eight miles south of El Reno and just north of the South Canadian River. The town is at the intersection of U.S. Highway 81 and State Highway 152. The post office of Union was established in 1889. In November of the following year Thomas A. and Mary L. Leslie filed the Union townsite plat, initiating the community that has become known as Union City.
A boom for the new townsite was the presence of the main north-south line of the Chicago, Kansas and Nebraska Railway, which, although not yet complete across the territory, arrived in the Union area in 1890 (after 1891 owned by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific system). Agriculture quickly formed the basis of Union City's economy. Within four years the town boasted thirty-five businesses, including three grain elevators and a farm machinery dealership. In 1909 locals claimed a population of around 300. In 1910 the brick Richardson Building (NR 83004164) was constructed in the downtown area for use as a bank. In the mid-1920s, Union City had two elevators and a cotton gin. Additionally, commercial buildings anchored the four corners of the state highway east of downtown. The highway, subsequently U.S. 81, was popularly called the Meridian Highway and was completed across the United States in 1924 with the spanning of the South Canadian River just south of Union City. Throughout the decades farming remained the economic force, with one elevator remaining in operation to the present time. However, as early as the 1970s the community also sought to diversify by facilitating the construction of a prison in the area. In the late 1990s a privately owned juvenile detention center opened on the northeast edge of town. Due to administrative problems, the facility shut down after only a few years, leaving the large complex vacant.
By 1926 Union City had a population of about 300. Remarkably, the number of residents in 1950 was 301. Growing slightly, by 1960 Union City had 329 citizens before falling to just above the 300 mark again in 1970. Despite a devastating tornado in 1973, the town grew to number 558 in 1980. Nearly doubling, the 1990 population was an even 1,000, and in 2000 the town burgeoned to 1,375.
Union City has not had a newspaper since the first two decades of the twentieth century. The first paper, published between 1894 and 1895, was the Union City Leader. Briefly in 1902 the Union City Advocate served the community. The longest-running newspaper was the Union City Alert, which lasted from 1908 through 1914. The Union City Progress was published for less than three months in 1910. At the turn of the twenty-first century the town was administered through a commission form of government.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: History of Canadian County, Oklahoma (El Reno, Okla.: Canadian County History Book Association, 1991). Sanborn Fire Insurance Map of Union City, November 1926. "Union" Plat, 1890, Register of Deeds, County Clerk Office, Canadian County, El Reno, Oklahoma.
© Oklahoma Historical Society