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Waurika City

Waurika City Hall is located at 122 South Main Street, Waurika, OK 73573; phone: 580-228-2713.

Beginnings [1]

Located on the 98th Meridian, the dividing line between the Five Civilized tribes' land on the east and the Comanche-Apache-Kiowa lands on the west, Waurika officially came into being in 1902. Previous to this, there was a post office known as Monika (also spelled Moneka) in the area. This post office was designated in April 1895 and discontinued May 1898. Prior to 1895, the post office was called Peery and had been established in May 1890. Both of these post offices were located east of the 98th Meridian in Pickens County of the Chickasaw Nation. As part of the Chickasaw Nation, non-Native American settlement was restricted by the laws of Indian Territory.

On 6 August 1901, the lands west of the 98th Meridian near what would become Waurika opened for non-Native American settlement. As part of the Comanche/Kiowa/Apache lands, the area opened in a novel manner, a land lottery. Although lands east of the 98th Meridian remained restricted for several more years, settlement along the west side of the Meridian began to rapidly occur. A major factor in this was the location of the Chicago and Rock Island (Rock Island) rail line which crossed Oklahoma near the 98th Meridian, roughly following the Chisholm Trail, a popular mid- to late-19th Century path for cattle crossing Indian Territory from Texas. Beginning in 1889, the Rock Island laid track in northern Oklahoma Territory. Reaching as far south as Minco, Chickasaw Nation, the following year, the Rock Island completed its line into Texas in 1892. Although limited settlement occurred along the line prior to the opening of the adjacent Comanche-Kiowa-Apache lands, as evidenced by the Monika post office, the 1901 land opening resulted in more permanent settlements, such as Waurika.

Following the 1901 land opening, the Kingfisher Improvement Company, under the ownership of brothers T.B. Kelley and E.J. Kelley, surveyed and platted the new town of Waurika. A post office for the community was designated on 28 June 1902. Although originally restricted to the west side of the 98th Meridian, additions east of the Meridian were soon added as the Native American allotee Elizabeth Bohannen platted her lands. Development of the town rapidly occurred in a peculiar manner. Described as "...a town that in layout resembles a stadium, its residence section spread out and overlooking an arena of business buildings," Waurika's central business district developed as originally platted west of the 98th Meridian. Despite limited noncommercial development on the west side, the larger residential development occurred east of the 98th Meridian, where it remains today.

Although schools and city governments were important hallmarks of town development, churches were also a significant indicator of a permanent settlement. In the early years of the community, the same buildings often functioned in at least two of these capacities and sometimes all three. In early 1903, the first schoolhouse in Waurika was constructed in the southwest corner of the town site. In May of that year, the first elected city officials were sworn into office. The following year, the First Baptist Church, the first denominational church, began meeting in the schoolhouse.

Waurika as Described in 1941 [2]

Waurika is a town that in layout resembles a stadium, its residence section spread out and overlooking an arena of business buildings. Like many other Oklahoma towns, it has in its short history changed names. When first laid out in 1892, the railroad station was called Monika. It became the seat of Jefferson County in 1908 after a year's fight with the nearby Town of Ryan. Besides farm trade, Waurika is also dependent on the Rock Island Railroad shops at the southern edge of town. West of Waurika are hill pastures covered with nutritious buffalo grass; in the days of the trail drives, cattle were allowed to linger here in order to put on fat quickly.

  1. Cynthia Savage, architectural historian, Savage Consulting, First Presbyterian Church, Jefferson County, Oklahoma, nomination document, 2001, National Park Service, National Register of Historic Places, Washington, D.C.
  2. Workers of the Federal Writers' Program, Works Progress Administration in the State of Oklahoma, Harold O. Hunter, Commissioner, Oklahoma: A Guide to the Sooner State, University of Oklahoma Press, Norman, OK, 1941.
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