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First Presbyterian Church Chickasha, Oklahoma - History

History, Part 1 - The Background

The Rock Island Railway had been built as far south as Minco, twenty miles north of Chickasha, by December, 1891. During that winter there was much talk as to where that railway would establish its division point. Rush Springs had hopes of persuading the Rock Island to establish its yards there; the small village of Fred, eight miles to the west, consisting of a blacksmith shop and two or three shacks, had hopes, too. But as the steel was laid, the Rock Island decided to lay out a new town site on the southern banks of the Washita River. Here the river would insure a plentiful supply of water and the level country would facilitate the erection of the necessary buildings and the laying of many tracks.

The birthday of Chickasha was April 2, 1892, when the first Rock Island train pulled into its new terminus. The village of Fred was abandoned over-night. Rush Springs, however, did not lose its existence, for on April 22 work was commenced on the laying of tracks to the south of Chickasha, which, passing through Rush Springs, ensured its permanent survival.

From the very beginning Chickasha was a thriving town. That first summer of 1892 was a wet one, with the result that there were splendid crops. The Washita teemed with fish (the water was clear in those days) and there was a plentiful supply of game.

The pioneers were very proud of the new town and affectionately called it "The Queen of the Washita"; later it was known as "The Cotton Capital of the Southwest." The name "Chickasha" of course was derived from the Chickasaw nation of Indians, one of the Five Civilized Tribes in whose territory the town was situated.

Being Indian Territory, no white man could hold a clear title to land, only what was known as "Squatters' Rights"; a seven dollar permit was necessary to stay in the Territory. In the town, however, corner lots in the business district were sold for $266.00; inside lots for $200.00.

The first bank, The Gilmore, was opened with a capital of $2,000.00 which, by the way, had been borrowed, and 24 per cent to 36 per cent interest was charged on loans. A crisis in the affairs of the bank compelled the citizens to take over the management and it became known as The Citizens Bank.

Although in wet weather the main street was a quagmire and deep with dust in dry weather, business from the very beginning was brisk. Seven lumber yards were soon established which indicates the amount of building that was going on. The first home was built by James Speed on Kansas Avenue in the midst of forty acres. The United States marshal was responsible for all government.

Not only did the town depend on the railway people and their dependents for its trade, but soon after the town had come into existence many Indians of the Kiowa, Comanche and other tribes came, pitched their tents and bartered with the local merchants; trading furs, pieces of craftwork, horses and cattle, for food, brilliantly colored calico cloth, shawls, etc.

Some of the Indians would pitch their tents outside the town, some within; the ground that is now the present site of the Episcopal Church was a popular campground for the Indians, and there, occasionally at night, the citizens of Chickasha would gather to witness the fascinating and colorful Indian ceremonial dances.


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