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WRIGHT CITY

Wright City, formerly known as Bismark and Wright, is located ten miles northeast of Valliant and two miles north of Little River on State Highway 98 in western McCurtain County. The Choctaw Lumber Company, a subsidiary of the Dierks Lumber and Coal Company, founded the town around 1909 as the site for a major processing plant that utilized abundant timber harvested from the region's virgin forests.

On March 24, 1910, a post office charter was issued for Bismark, a name chosen by the Dierks brothers, company founders, for a Nebraska town where they formerly operated a lumber outlet. The name of the town and post office changed to Wright during World War I because of public association of the Bismark name with that of the former German chancellor. The new name was chosen to honor William Wiley Wright, the county's first war casualty. On May 18, 1920, the name was altered to Wright City.

The "company town" included a sawmill, planer, railroad maintenance shops, housing, and stores, a bank, hotel, and ice factory, and provision for fire and police protection. The lumber conglomerate also provided land for construction of a school and churches. The company, then known as Dierks Forests, Inc., divested itself of residential and other properties unrelated to the primary mission on August 13, 1965. In 1966 the town achieved incorporation and elected its first officials. As Wright City was no longer just a "mill town," citizens took the initiative to create an independent, distinctive municipality. A business district was developed, utilities were upgraded and expanded, and new schools, a community building, and a medical center were built.

In 1969 the Weyerhaeuser Company of Tacoma, Washington, purchased the Dierks's holdings, including the Wright City production complex and continued the operations, which remain the primary economic base of the community. The town population initially was included in a large census tract and not counted separately until 1950 when the residents numbered 1,121. In the 1920s the population was estimated to be less than five hundred. In 1980 the count stood at 1,168 but by 1990 had decreased to 836. At the turn of the twenty-first century the town had 848 residents.

Wright City hosts one of the oldest continuous rodeos in Oklahoma, known as Little Cheyenne, held each July 1 through 4. In 1933 a few local cowboys started it as a rodeo, barbeque, and dance. Since 1935 the American Legion William Wright Post Number 74 has sponsored the event.

SEE ALSO: FORESTRY, MILL TOWNS, SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: William Arthur Carter, McCurtain County and Southeast Oklahoma (Fort Worth, Tex.: Tribune Publishing Co., 1923). McCurtain County: A Pictorial History, Vol. 2 (N.p.: McCurtain County Historical Society, 1999). McCurtain (Idabel, Okla.) Gazette, 1 July 1974. George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed., Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974).

Cecilia Westbrook

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