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WEATHERFORD

Located in southeastern Custer County, Weatherford is situated one mile north of Interstate 40 on State Highway 54. The surrounding area was made available for homesteading during the Cheyenne-Arapaho Opening on April 19, 1892. The town was incorporated on August 3, 1898, and the population stood at 1,017 in 1900. Banker and civic leader Beeks Erick chose the townsite location. The original post office was located about two miles north of the present town, on the homestead of William John and Lorinda Powell Weatherford. Lorinda Weatherford served as postmaster.

Farming and ranching provided the major economic base, with corn, cotton, and maize the major crops. After the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (acquired by Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway in 1902) reached Weatherford in 1898, shipping pens, a depot and platforms, a hotel, and a public water works were built. Weatherford became a tent city overnight, and within six months the town had two thousand residents. By 1907 statehood the population stood at 1,315 and by 1910, 2,118. The 1930 and 1940 censuses reported 2,417 and 2,504, respectively.

Although the town was known as "wild and wooly," permanent residents began to make it a progressive community suitable for rearing families. Churches, schools, and community organizations became a reality. A brick plant, a cement plant, and a broom factory provided jobs and supplies for early residents. In 1901 Mangum, Mountain View, and Granite vied with Weatherford to become home to Southwestern Normal School (now Southwestern Oklahoma State University). With the outcome favorable to Weatherford, the institution celebrated its centennial in 2001.

Route 66 came down Main Street, and some stretches of the old highway remained at the turn of the twenty-first century. During the 1930s the Works Progress Administration provided funding to build the Weatherford National Guard Armory (listed in the National Register of Historic Places, NR 94000492). The 3M Company made a significant impact on the city when the firm decided to move from Minnesota to Oklahoma in the 1960s. Employing people from Weatherford and the surrounding area, the 3M plant houses Imation and Ferrina, with an expansion project in progress at the turn of the twenty-first century. An influx of oil companies and workers moved into the area during the oil boom in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Due to scarce housing, it was not uncommon to find families living in the public park or in their cars. The number of inhabitants jumped from a 1960 figure of 4,499 to 9,640 in 1980. Population peaked at 10,124 in 1990.

The local airport is named for astronaut Gen. Thomas P. Stafford, a Weatherford native, and houses the Thomas P. Stafford Airport Museum. At the turn of the twenty-first century 9,859 residents enjoyed Weatherford's numerous parks and sporting fields as well as golf course, swimming pool, tennis courts, and rodeo grounds. Eighteen churches represented most religious denominations.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Roger Bromert et al., eds., Weatherford, 1898-1998 (Weatherford, Okla.: Centennial History Book Committee, City of Weatherford, 1998). Jerry R. Dickson, Prairie Fire (Elk City, Okla.: Western Oklahoma Historical Society, 1978). Jerry R. Dickson, Prairie Wedding (Elk City, Okla.: Western Oklahoma Historical Society, 1987). History of Custer and Washita Counties, Oklahoma: 1883-1937 ([Clinton, Okla.]: Clinton Daily News, 1937). "Weatherford: The New Metropolis of Western Oklahoma, The Permanent Terminus of the Choctaw Railroad," McMaster's Magazine 10 (December 1898). Weatherford (Oklahoma) Daily News, 26 August 1990.

Vonda Ruchman-McPhearson

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