Elk City, Oklahoma: Wikis


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Elk City, Oklahoma
—  City  —
Location of Elk City, Oklahoma
Coordinates: 35°24′10″N 99°25′26″W / 35.40278°N 99.42389°W / 35.40278; -99.42389
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Beckham
Founded 1901
 - Total 14.9 sq mi (38.6 km2)
 - Land 14.6 sq mi (37.9 km2)
 - Water 0.3 sq mi (0.7 km2)
Elevation 1,919 ft (585 m)
Population (2000)
 - Total 10,510
 - Density 718.8/sq mi (277.5/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 - Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 73644, 73648
Area code(s) 580
FIPS code 40-23500[1]
GNIS feature ID 1092527[2]
Website http://www.elkcity.com/ http://www.elkcitychamber.com/

Elk City is a city in Beckham County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 10,510 at the 2000 census. Elk City is located on Interstate 40 and Historic U.S. Route 66 in Western Oklahoma, approximately 110 miles west of Oklahoma City and 150 miles east of Amarillo.



Elk City is located at 35°24′10″N 99°25′26″W / 35.40278°N 99.42389°W / 35.40278; -99.42389 (35.402694, -99.423812)[3], elevation 1,928 feet (588 m).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 14.9 square miles (38.6 km²), of which, 14.6 square miles (37.9 km²) of it is land and 0.3 square miles (0.7 km²) of it (1.88%) is water.


European Exploration

Coronado Sets Out to the North, by Frederic Remington, 1861-1909

In 1541, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado became the first known European to pass through the area. The Spanish conquistador was traveling northeast across the prairie in search of a place called Quivira, a city said to be fabulously wealthy with gold. Because Coronado's route across the plains is speculative[4], it is quite possible that the expedition passed through present-day Elk City or the nearby area.

Founding to Statehood

Elk City's history dates back to the days immediately following the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation in western Oklahoma Territory on April 19, 1892, when the first white settlers made their appearance. Prior to this time, many early ranchers had driven cattle over the Great Western Cattle Trail from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas, the present townsite of Elk City being in the direct path of that famous trail.

The creation of Elk City was an idea conceived by Beeks Erick, M.G. Robinson, Charles H. Dewaide, J.N. Cook, and B.C. Hendricks—all of whom were land promoters from Weatherford, Oklahoma—when they learned that the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (CO & G) was coming to the area (in 1898, the CO & G Railroad completed its western route to Weatherford; beginning in 1901, it continued building west). They formed the Choctaw Townsite and Development Company. These men with great foresight determined that the area at the source of Elk Creek would be an ideal location for a town, so they came to the area to purchase lands from the homesteaders who had claims along the railroad.

Probably the most important day in Elk City's history is March 20, 1901, the date the first lots were sold by the Choctaw Townsite and Development Company, which company had, a few days earlier, purchased the site for the business district from J.M. "Joe" Allee, a settler who homesteaded the land.

By the date of the sale of the lots, March 20, hundreds of prospective purchasers had built a tent city. On that day, the townsite company sold $32,000 worth of property (about $820,000 in today's money), and continued doing a good business for some time thereafter. A legal document in the Beckham County clerk's office certifies that the city was surveyed and platted into lots, blocks, streets, and alleys, on March 18, 1901, just two days prior to the sale of the lots.[5]

There is some confusion about how Elk City got its name. Elk City was so named because it is located at the head of Elk Creek, which in turn was named by U.S. Army Captain Randolph B. Marcy who was leading an expedition to explore the Red River in 1852. Marcy and his troops had left the Wichita Mountains and the waterway which he named Otter Creek during his exploration, and they were traveling northwest along the North Fork of the Red River. On May 31, in the official journal of the expedition, Marcy wrote about the productive soil, the dense grass, and the vertical red clay banks of a "bold running stream of good water." Continuing, he wrote, "From the circumstance of having seen elk tracks upon the stream we passed in our march today, I have called it 'Elk Creek'. I am informed by our guide that five years since, elk were frequently seen in the Wichita Mountains; but now they are seldom met with in this part of the country." Confusion also stems from the early post offices that served the residents of the town. Even though the town of Elk City has had only one name, its early settlers were served by a post office named Crowe, and later, one named Busch. Consequently, on many early maps of Oklahoma Territory the names of "Crowe" or "Busch" are seen instead of "Elk City". Finally, on July 20, 1907, shortly before statehood, the Busch Post Office had its name officially changed to Elk City Post Office.

August 13, 1901, was another great day for Elk City. On that date, the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (later purchased by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in 1904) laid its last rail on the so-called "Choctaw Route", connecting Elk City with the outside world. The first regular train service commenced seven days later on August 20, and city folk rejoiced, predicting that the dugouts, claim shacks, and prairie stables would soon disappear and be replaced by handsome residences, commodious barns, and graineries. (Later, in 1910, the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway Company (WF & NW, acquired by the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad in 1911) completed its northern route to Elk City.)

By January 1902, Elk City boasted more than 60 businesses and a population exceeding 1,000.[6] Paving the streets with bricks also began in 1902, due to an effort from the many people the city employed.[7] Though not yet a year old, the town had become one of the largest in Western Oklahoma. Even with two devastating fires (one on October 28, 1903, which destroyed over a dozen businesses, and the other in March 1906 which burned 16 businesses to the ground), Elk City continued to grow into a major transportation and commercial hub, and by statehood in 1907, the population had more than tripled to 3,000 people. Elk City, the new town on the prairie, was truly a boomtown.


Historical populations
Census Pop.  %±
1910 3,165
1920 2,814 −11.1%
1930 5,666 101.4%
1940 5,029 −11.2%
1950 7,963 58.3%
1960 8,196 2.9%
1970 7,323 −10.7%
1980 9,569 30.7%
1990 10,428 9.0%
2000 10,510 0.8%
Est. 2009[8] 13,000 23.7%

As of the census[1] of 2000, there were 10,510 people, 4,159 households, and 2,819 families residing in the city. The population density was 718.8 people per square mile (277.6/km²). There were 4,973 housing units at an average density of 340.1/sq mi (131.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.95% White, 3.06% African American, 3.02% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.25% from other races, and 2.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.96% of the population.

There were 4,159 households out of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.2% were non-families. 28.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the city the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,268, and the median income for a family was $35,383. Males had a median income of $28,380 versus $18,977 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,654. About 15.4% of families and 19.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.2% of those under age 18 and 5.0% of those age 65 or over.


Today, Elk City is the principal center of trade for Western Oklahoma and much of the Texas Panhandle, with a 60-mile trade radius that serves more than 50,000 people. Petroleum, agriculture, wind energy, tourism, manufacturing, and healthcare all contribute to Elk City’s economy.

Since Elk City lies in a rich oil and natural-gas area on the shelf of Oklahoma’s Anadarko Basin, the petroleum industry is the heart of the city’s economy. Because of this, the city is the self-proclaimed “Natural Gas Capital of the World”, complete with Parker Drilling Rig #114, located downtown. The rig dominates the Elk City skyline, and at 180 feet in height, is the world’s tallest, non-operating oil rig.[9] Elk City has enjoyed significant growth due to the opening and location of oil field services and drilling companies in the city.

Agriculture doesn’t play as much of a prominent role as it did in the 20th century, with the only remaining viable agricultural market being the livestock auction. Nevertheless, Elk City still serves as a vital retail center for farmers and ranchers in the area.

In early 2009, Acciona Energy commissioned the Red Hills Wind Farm [2], located approximately eight miles north of Elk City. The Red Hills Wind Farm includes 82 wind turbine generators that produce 123 MW of clean energy, enough to power more than 40,000 homes.[10] This is the first wind farm in the area, with more wind farms being planned for the future.

Given that Historic U.S. Route 66 runs through Elk City, a sprawling museum complex has developed, which includes the National Route 66 Museum, the Old Town Museum, the Transportation Museum, the Farm and Ranch Museum, and the Blacksmith Museum. Each museum is housed in separate buildings, which altogether depict a mockup of early Elk City, complete with general stores, bank, a railroad depot and train caboose, opera house, and other buildings. Elk City is also in close proximity to many other attractions in Western Oklahoma, including the Flying W Guest Ranch, Foss State Park, the Washita National Wildlife Refuge, Black Kettle National Grassland, the Wichita Mountains, the Antelope Hills, the Quartz Mountains, the Washita Battlefield National Historic Site [3], and the Black Kettle Museum.

Bar-S Foods Company operates a packaged-meat warehouse and distribution center in Elk City.[11]

Great Plains Regional Medical Center is Elk City’s largest employer, and serves Western Oklahoma and the Eastern Texas Panhandle. The hospital has been named by OKCBusiness and Best Companies Group as one of the “Thirty Best Places to Work in Oklahoma” for three consecutive years: 2006, 2007, and 2008.[12] On May 11, 2007, construction began on a new, $60 million, 151,030 square foot hospital that opened in July 2009.[13]

In June 2009, it was announced that a Wal-Mart Supercenter will be constructed, bringing at least 150 jobs to the city. Soon afterward, a $2.2 million federal grant was provided through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 to help fund the project and bring more jobs to Elk City.[14]

Notable citizens


National Register of Historic Places

  • Casa Grande Hotel
  • Hedlund Motor Company Building
  • Storm House
  • Whited Grist Mill

Recognized places along Route 66

  • National Route 66 Museum Complex
  • Country Dove Gifts and Tea Room


  • Elk City features five museums: the Old Town Museum, the National Route 66 Museum, the National Transportation Museum, the Farm and Ranch Museum, and the Blacksmith Museum [4].


President Jimmy Carter

U.S. President Jimmy Carter has visited Elk City twice. As the Democratic candidate for President, he first came on November 11, 1975, as part of his campaign tour across the United States, and held a press conference with statewide and national coverage at a local hotel. A month after his visit to Elk City, Carter wrote an open letter to the people of Elk City praising the town for the warm welcome he had received. He also wrote, "I promise you that when I am elected President I will not be a stranger to Elk City, nor will you be strangers to me."

True to his promise, President Carter returned to Elk City on Saturday, March 24, 1979, flying into the Air Force base in Burns Flat, Oklahoma and rode in a presidential limo to Elk City. The city had a street parade in his honor, and he then went to the high school gymnasium for a town hall meeting with about 3,000 people. That night, he stayed at a local residence. On Sunday morning, he attended services at the First Baptist Church of Elk City and then flew out of town.

On August 7, 2009, Carter remembered the visit to Elk City fondly when he talked with the Associated Press. "I visited at least 50 places for town hall meetings when I was president, and the best one I ever had in my life was in Elk City," he said.[15]


  • The Elk City Daily News, since 1901
  • Elk Citian, since 2003


  1. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. http://factfinder.census.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  2. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. 2007-10-25. http://geonames.usgs.gov. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  3. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2000 and 1990". United States Census Bureau. 2005-05-03. http://www.census.gov/geo/www/gazetteer/gazette.html. Retrieved 2008-01-31.  
  4. ^ http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/7/77/Coronado_expedition.jpg
  5. ^ http://www.elkcitychamber.com/history-of-elk-city
  6. ^ http://www.elkcitychamber.com/history-of-elk-city
  7. ^ [1]
  8. ^ http://www.elkcity.com/news.asp?S=City&P=BlogLink&M=0&Y=509
  9. ^ http://www.blogoklahoma.us/Marker.asp?id=415
  10. ^ http://acciona-na.com/About-Us/Our-Projects/U-S-/Red-Hills-Wind-Farm.aspx
  11. ^ http://www.bar-s.com/bar-s-about.html
  12. ^ http://www.gprmc-ok.com/news_4.html
  13. ^ http://newsok.com/new-hospital-in-elk-city-opens/article/3385616
  14. ^ http://newsok.com/federal-grant-to-help-fund-elk-city-improvements/article/3375705?custom_click=headlines_widget
  15. ^ http://www.normantranscript.com/localnews/local_story_220011531

Further reading and references

  • Elk City - Rising from the Prairie, Western Oklahoma Historical Society (2007)
  • Prairie Fire, Western Oklahoma Historical Society (1978)

External links

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