The Carter County town of Wilson is situated seventeen miles west of Ardmore, Oklahoma, just south of U.S. Highway 70. Originally known as New Wilson a post office was established on January 17, 1914. It was renamed Wilson on January 28, 1920. The community was incorporated in 1913 just six years after statehood. The area offered good land for agriculture. Principal products were cotton and corn; later, peanuts replaced cotton. However, oil would become a major factor in the growth of the town.
Wilson was named by John Ringling, son of August Rungeling, a Bavarian harness maker, as a tribute to Charles Wilson, manager of the Ringling Brothers Circus. The Ringling Brothers Circus established their winter headquarters west of Wilson. John Ringling and Jake Hamon were involved in starting a new railroad on which to transport circus animals and heavy oil-field equipment. This union formed a combined effort for the Oklahoma, New Mexico and Pacific Railroad, a part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway system. The first railroad spike was driven on January 24, 1914. After a successful run the railroad was abandoned in 1976.
Jake L. Hamon, a Kansas lawyer, came to Indian Territory to seek his fortune. He acquired extensive lease and royalties in western Carter County where he later made his fortune in oil wells and Wilson property. He reportedly purchased eight acres of land before the town was established. Hamon died in Ardmore on November 26, 1920.
Early businesses included forms of communication. In 1908 Dr. W. A. Darling setup the Darling Telephone Company. It was known as the Pioneer Telephone Company in 1915 and became part of Southwestern Bell Telephone in 1920. In 1914 the town's first bank opened, the Wilson News newspaper was printed, a post office was established, and churches were organized. Circa 1914 the population was estimated at two thousand.
The first official census for Wilson recorded 2,286 residents in 1920. Its population peaked at 2,517 in 1930. Following the Great Depression numbers plummeted to 1,700 in 1940. By 1950 the town counted 1,832 citizens. Through the next four decades Wilson's inhabitants numbered between 1,569 and 1,647. At the turn of the twenty-first century local amenities included the Historical Wilson Museum, a senior citizens organization, a good mix of businesses, and prekindergarten-through-twelfth-grade schools. In 2000 Wilson had 1,584 citizens governed by an aldermanic form of town government.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: The History of Carter County (Fort Worth, Tex.: University Supply and Equipment Co., 1957). Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003). "Wilson," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.
Greater Southwest Historical Museum and Carter County Genealogy Society
© Oklahoma Historical Society