Located in western Grady County abutting the Caddo County line, Verden lies nearly halfway between Chickasha and Anadarko on U.S. Highway 62/State Highway 9. A number of Plains tribes settled in the area prior to the Civil War, including Comanche and Caddo. A rural community called Cottonwood Grove emerged, named for a large stand of the trees. At this location in 1865 representatives from the Five Civilized Tribes and the Caddo, Delaware, Kiowa, Comanche, Apache, Cheyenne, Arapaho, and Osage signed a peace compact and committed to stand united against any unjust demands made by the federal government with the impending end of the Civil War. This was known as the Camp Napoleon Compact. In 1867 the Medicine Lodge Treaty established the Kiowa and Comanche Reservation, with Cottonwood Grove on the eastern edge. The community had a stage stand that served travelers from Boggy Depot to the Kiowa Agency, Fort Sill, and Fort Cobb. The Half Moon Ranch, owned by W. G. "Caddo" Williams, operated in the area. Around 1900 his son-in-law Charles Campbell, owner of the 7BC Ranch, and E. B. Johnson purchased the Half Moon.
In 1900 the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway (CRI&P) laid tracks through the area from Chickasha to Mangum. When the tribes of the Kiowa Agency took their allotments, James N. Jones and his family claimed the land surrounding Cottonwood Grove. In 1899 a short-lived Verden post office was designated and discontinued in 1900. In 1902 the Post Office Department appointed William Heim postmaster at Verden. The name had changed, because a Cottonwood Grove already existed in the territories. In 1904 the town was platted, and A. A. Hiatt sold the lots for the CRI&P townsite division. In 1907 the Caddo County Commissioners of Oklahoma Territory declared Verden an incorporated town. Later that year, after Oklahoma statehood, the community became part of Grady County and had a population of 312.
By 1910 the population had climbed to 524, and the residents supported two banks, a newspaper, the Verden News, a telephone connection, an electric company, a grain elevator, a cotton yard, a cotton gin, a milling company, a lumberyard, and several retail outlets. The Kern Mercantile store, established in 1906, served the town for more than fifty years. Agriculture has been the key to Verden's economy, and the town served as an important shipping point for the area farmers and ranchers. Unlike many Oklahoma communities, Verden has had no large spikes in its population, but has comprised four hundred to five hundred residents for most of the twentieth century. Its U.S. Census low was in 1960 at 405, and in 1980 the population registered 625. The town survived a 1908 fire in its business district, as well as several floods that plagued the Washita River Valley.
In 1931 the Oklahoma College for Women (later the University of Science and Arts of Oklahoma) erected a historic marker honoring the Camp Napoleon conference. The Verden News, although it had changed ownership, served the town from 1905 until 1961. In 2005 a fire destroyed the building and the two-page press that produced the newspaper. The town's public school began in 1905 and absorbed a Caddo County district in 1917. In 2000 the school enrolled 278 students. Verden's 2000 population stood at 659.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mary Hewett Bailey, "A History of Grady County, Oklahoma" (M.A. thesis, University of Oklahoma, 1937). Gwen Jackson, Trails, Rails, and School Tails: A History of 125 Schools and Communities of Grady County (N.p.: 1995). Hunter James, "Verden, In Fertile Washita Valley," Sturm's Oklahoma Magazine 7 (October 1908). Anna Lewis, "Camp Napoleon," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 9 (December 1931). Verden (Oklahoma) News, 19 July 1957.
© Oklahoma Historical Society