TILLMAN COUNTY HISTORY

Tillman County is located in southwestern Oklahoma, approximately 140 miles southwest of Oklahoma City. It is bordered on the south by the Red River, (boundary line between Oklahoma and Texas) and the north fork of the Red River forms most of its western boundary. The land area is 861 square miles with a 2003 estimated population of 8,835.

Tillman County has been described as "where cotton and wheat meet," being a large producer of cotton and wheat. It also produces alfalfa, Milo, peanuts, gaur, Sudan, soybeans, vegetables, melons, and fruit, while producing plenty of lush grassland for raising cattle and horses. The fertile lands are comparatively level and slightly rolling and dotted with oil wells both old and new.

Lake Frederick, a nine hundred acre lake, smaller lakes, farm ponds and boundary rivers afford fishing for our sportsmen. There is an abundance of wildlife for the delight of hunters and photographers. Dove, quail, wild turkey, duck, geese, crane, crow, bobcat, raccoon, rabbit, coyote, squirrel, red fox and deer are all found here. Many hunters come into the county for the quail and dove seasons. Probably the most famous hunter coming here to hunt for wolves was Teddy Roosevelt. The hunt was conducted at Panther Springs.

During World War II, and Air Force training base for B-25 bomber pilots was located in Frederick. It was a large base with a concrete runway. It was quit claim deeded to the City of Frederick in 1944. This is now used as an auxiliary airfield by Sheppard Air Force Base, Wichita Falls, Texas, and also by the local airport.

The Historical Society and Arts and Humanities Council have restored many buildings and opened a museum in Frederick, The Old Ramona Theatre building has been renovated and restored to its beautiful original condition. It is registered as a National Historic Site.

The county seat was born when the last frontier in Oklahoma was opened for settlement. It sprang out of the prairie when the Kiowa-Comanche-Apache lands were allotted in 1901. A railroad official for the St. Louis and San Francisco Railroad came through on a tour of inspection of the company’s new properties and named the new town for his son, Frederick.

In 1906 came the opening of the big pasture which included the eastern part of the county. In 1907 came statehood and the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention created the County of Tillman, which has previously been a part of Comanche County. It was named for Senator Ben Tillman of South Carolina, who had no part in Oklahoma history. In 1910 and 1924 part of Kiowa County was added to the north side of the county. The present courthouse was built in 1921.

The area in the vicinity of Frederick was among the last of the Oklahoma Territory land to be opened to settlement. The "Big Pasture" area was not apportioned for settlement until 1906, at which time it was divided and sold to the highest bidders.

About this time, the Frisco Railroad was completing the final link to its system covering the far southwest portion of the territory. There were two small settlements about this time, Hazel and Gosnell. True to form, the railroad built its station between the two, causing a feud between them. After some negotiations, the company conductor came up with a solution. By merging the two towns and naming the new town after his son Frederick, the problem was solved. As an added incentive, he donated an iron flagpole and flag to the new town, so now we have a new town, a new name, a promised flagpole, and Frederick was ready to look to the future! Six decades passed before the Frisco Railway became aware of the historical promise of their employee and the pledge made so long ago was fulfilled. The iron flagpole was mounted on a granite base, made and inscribed by Century Granite Co. of Frederick with the history of the pole, and was dedicated on August 11, 1962 commemorating the naming of the city. The city was actually and legally established as Frederick on December 26, 1902.

For more historical information on Tillman County call the Tillman County Historical Society at 580-335-5844 or go to the Historical Society link on our home page.

 

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