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Ardmore History

Ardmore Historic Santa Fe TrainOriginally a part of the lands assigned to the Chickasaw Indians, Ardmore, in pre-statehood days, was a point of much interest to those of the tribe and to the early white settler.  Prior to 1886 there were scattered ranches in the area, and one of these, the 700 Ranch, had its headquarters on the present site of Ardmore.  The advent of the Santa Fe Railroad in 1887 marked the beginning of Ardmore.   It was named by Santa Fe Railroad agents after Ardmore, Pennsylvania, which had been named after Ardmore By-the-Sea, Ireland and means "high-point" for it's lighthouse.

Ardmore Main StreetThe post office was established in October of the same year, but no city government or law enforcement agency existed.  Non-Indians could not vote, own land or operate a business without a license.  In three years, 1890, the population was approximately 2,500 and by 1900 it had grown to 5,861, as settlers were attracted to the town and the rich farm lands in the area.  Statehood came in 1907 and Ardmore became the county seat of Carter County and grew increasingly influential in Oklahoma affairs.  It has contributed one governor to the State and numerous leaders in political, financial and economic activities of Oklahoma.  Oil was discovered in Carter County between 1910 and 1920, and this further increased the rate of population growth.

Ardmore Main StreetThe first business in Ardmore was Samuel Zuckerman's general merchandise store.  The first drug store, owned by M.L Jemison and John Alexander, was also the first in the Chickasaw Nation.  1888 saw the first church, the first school and the first newspaper.  The church and school were located in the same building.  The church had a membership of 12, and is now the First United Methodist Church.  The school, King College, was what was known as a "subscription" school.  Subscription is known today as tuition.

Historic Ardmore 700 Ranch CabinIn 1889 the first bank, a private bank, was opened by two brothers: L. P. and Charles Anderson.  The next year it received a national charter as First National Bank of Ardmore, I. T. (Indian Territory). 1890 also saw the first session of court.  Ardmore was the seat of the 3rd Division of the U.S. District Court for Indian Territory.

In 1895 the majority of the downtown area was destroyed by a fire.  As a result, the fire department was established the next year.  There was still no city government.  That situation was remedied in 1898 when Ardmore was incorporated as a charter city, with John Galt as its first mayor.  In 1899, the first public high school was established. It was the first public high school in either Indian Territory or Oklahoma Territory (Oklahoma became a state in 1907).

By the early part of the 20th Century, Ardmore was well established, with the largest population in Indian Territory.  Its economic base was cotton.  It was the largest inland cotton market in the United States.  Ardmore Postcard Stanley Blvd c1930Of the total 530,000 acres in Carter County, only 75,000 acres are in cultivation -- the balance is pastureland.  By far the largest segment of Carter County's agricultural economy is the production of livestock, representing approximately 90 percent of the total farm products sold.  The other 10 percent of cash crops include small grains, vegetables, fruits and nuts.  The County, in fact, is one of the main pecan-producing counties in Oklahoma and was the scene of some of the earliest development in pecan improvement in the state.  The Arbuckle Mountains, lying north of Ardmore, offer an excellent barrier against winter frosts and winds, and provide an unusually favorable situation for growers.  The region is adapted also to dairying, poultry and cattle raising.

As the prairie soil depleted and cotton was no longer raised, the Healdton Oil Field was discovered, and oil became the economic base for the community.  Ardmore has been a center for oil and gas production with more active wells in Carter County than any other county in Oklahoma.

See these other historical bits about Ardmore

Ardmore Postcard Tucker Tower c1944

Lake Murray was built during the WPA era and many of the facilities at the campgrounds were built at that time.  Tuckers Tower was built as the State Governor's summer home and stands out dramatically above one of the rock structures the form the Dornick Hills Cliff Hole some 10 miles north.  At Maureen Realty, we have tons of old photos and documents during that era for those that may have interest.  You may find other valuable information at Wikipedia's Lake Murray State Park. or scroll down on our What To Do page.

Arbuckle Mountians Geology  A terrifc documentary of the history of the Arbuckle Mountians, which are some of the oldest mountains in the world (explains why they aren't very tall!)  The exposed overthrusting is one of two locations in the world whereby the some of the oldest rock strata are on the surface.  Driving down the Interstate you can see the veritcal rocks in long lines that look like tombstones.  The Ardmore area has been under the waters of seas at least twice during geologic times and evidence of a great glacier can be seen in the red rock sections exposed when I-35 was constrcuted in the 60's.  Springtime brings a fine display of yellow wid flowers and the prairie can be seen reestablishing in areas the burned in wildfires in recent years where the invasive eastern red cedar has overtaken.  For more geologic information visit the Oklahoma Geologic Society or Wikipedia's Arbuckle Mountains.


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