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Beginning of Woodford
The little town of Woodford is located at the foot of the Arbuckle Mountains. This little town was started when two bachelor brother, by the name of Bywater, came to this part of the world and established a small log store and a blacksmith shop. This was about the year of 1874. Their places of business were located about two hundred yards east of the present post office. These two brothers stayed in business here for four years, and Mr. George Akers bought them out. A few years later he established a small grocery store where the post office is now located. This store was built of Bywater’s old building and a part of the lumber was hauled from Gainesville, Texas with teams and wagons. Woodford was first called Bywater because the Bywaters were the first to settle here.
About the year of 1877 Mr. Wood Smith came to this little town and established a United States Post Office. The building was also built of logs cut and hauled from the Arbuckle Mountains. This building is now used by Mr. Arthur Presley. This little town was afterward called “Woodford” for its first postmaster.
The old settlers of this community seem to disagree as to where the first schoolhouse was established. Some say it was about three miles north of where the Hickory Dam is now located, while other say it was about one quarter mile west of the post office. There was in time a schoolhouse located one-quarter mile west of the post office, but whether it was the first one or not is not known. This building was destroyed by a storm and was afterwards moved to the southern part of the little town where the high school now stands. Miss Susie Love was the first teacher of Woodford and Mrs. Jimmie Speake, formerly Miss Tarver was the second.
The cemetery is located about one-quarter mile west of the post office, on top of a hill. Some of the old settlers of this community say a child by the name of Job was the first to be buried in this cemetery while other say an outlaw was the first. This outlaw was said to be hiding out and was captured by two U.S. Marshals from Fort Worth, Texas and was shot under a tree, a few hundred yards east of the cemetery.
A very pretty sulfur springs marks the general appearance of Woodford. The exact time of this spring’s beginning in not known. It originated from a broken water stream in the Arbuckle Mountains. This spring has supplied practically all the people of Woodford ever since its origination. Until about statehood this spring was walled with a hollowed-out log. It was fenced with hewed logs which were fixed by the first settlers. The users of this spring got to it by means of a step-ladder over the fence made of sawed-off logs.
The first roads through this part of the country were almost no roads at all. They were mere trails which were made by cattlemen. These roads did not have any particular course; they led in most all directions across the hills and hollows. The first road from Woodford to Ardmore led straight across the country southeast to Ardmore. Before statehood, there were no section lines in this country. Ira and J. M. Redding and Mr. Finch were the men who put the first wire fence in this country.
There were hardly any crops raised here during the early days. What land that was owned by individuals living here was mostly used for pasture. There were some few small patches of land cultivated by settlers. These were very small and were mostly worked by hand.
Woodford’s first gin was established about one mile southwest of the little town. This first gin was owned by Cummie Littleington and the next by Jim Alverson.
Mr. John Wood established the first drug store at Woodford and Mr. J. M. Hill the first hotel, in the eastern part of town where he now lives.
The first constable of Woodford was Bird Pruitt. Mr. Williams was the first Justice of the Peace and Mr. Holmes Akers, a brother to Mr. George Akers, was a deputy Sheriff.
A few of the earliest settlers of Woodford were: Mr. Fahgan, Lewis McKinley, Edd Chicken, Joe Murray, Wood Smith and the two Bywater brothers.
Early Occupations and Industries of Woodford Community
Before statehood there were very few homes in this community. What few homes that were located here were very rude little huts or cabins. These were built of logs cut and hauled out of the Arbuckle Mountains. The logs were notched five or six inches from the ends so that they would fit closely together. The cracks between these were daubed with a mixture of sod and water. These houses were usually just one-roomed but sometimes a two-roomed house was built with a hall between. In the one-room house there was usually one door and a window while the two room houses there were more. These homes were covered usually with very rough lumber but it was often the case to see them covered with sod or sheet iron.
The furniture which was used in these homes was as rude as the homes themselves. The average family’s furniture consisted of one or two wooden beds, three or four chairs, a homemade dining table, a mirror which hung on the walls instead of a dresser, and sometimes a wood stove on which they cooked their meals, but usually though cooked on fireplaces.
During this time the people were not definitely engaged in farming or any other occupation. Cotton and corn were their most common crop. Cotton sold for only three or four cents per pound. Cottonseed couldn’t be sold at any price so this enabled the farmer to haul it back home for cattle feed. They would very often have more seed than they could make use of. When this was the case the seed was burned or destroyed in some way. Corn sold for twelve and one half cents per bushel. Most of the land around Woodford is well suited for both cotton and corn.
Ranching was another important industry here at this time. There were only a few ranchmen here before statehood. Some of these owned their ranches and others rented them. Stock law hadn’t been organized here at this time. Most of the stock ranged on the outside. When branding time came the ranchers and cowboys would round all their cattle up in small rail corrals, which had been built for this purpose. Three or four men would be at the corrals ready to brand the cattle. When the cattle were ready for shipping they were rounded up and driven across the mountains to the nearest shipping point. When this required more than one days’ drive the ranchmen would camp on some creek for the night. Sometimes the cattle wouldn’t be very worried from traveling and would give quite a bit of trouble during the night. In these days cattle were allowed to run in stalk fields and pastures during the spring and winter time until branding time. It was often the case that someone came along and caught the calves and took them home to their ranch and pasture and claimed them.
The farmers were all poor people. They would usually put in an average crop, which never produced an enormous amount of products. These crops were a lot more difficult to raise and gather than they are today. This was due to the lack of improved farm machinery, with which we are now equipped. The highest and best grade of seeds were not in use then. The crops were then fenced with rails split by the farmer himself. The farmers very often owned a herd or at least had a few hogs. Since the farmers were well-supplied with wild hogs they had to keep their hogs closely confined. This was very difficult. The farmers finally developed a method of fencing which proved to be very successful. This was a fence built of rock and clay. Trenches were dug about one foot deep, large rocks placed in this and smaller rocks and clay were put on top of this to make it secure. These rock fences usually were about three or four feet high and on top of this two or three barbed wires were placed.
Mr. Sheridan Joines began a ranch in the Arbuckle Mountains about the time of statehood.
Mr. George Faulkner established the first dipping vat in this community for the purpose of getting rid of ticks which were a very dangerous pest to stock.
Labor was also cheap in early days. A girl by the name of Mary Spencer washed dishes for a family in Woodford for fifty cents per month.
Mr. McLish owned a ranch and homestead at this time, about four miles northwest of Woodford. It is now the “Morrow Ranch”.
Early Government of the Woodford Community
The first laws in the Woodford community were the gun laws. Later the United States marshals came here, some of them were from Fort Worth while others were from Paris. The Federal officers were the first enforcement of laws of this community. Some of the other officers were Mr. Holmes Akers first sheriff, Mr. A. W. Speake first County Commissioner, Mr. Jerdy Akers was the delegate to the Constitutional Convention from Woodford. Other officers were J. F. McCants first representative to the State Legislature. Bird Pruitt was the Justice of the Peace, Williams was the first constable of the Woodford community.
The early roads from Woodford to Ardmore were southeast in a straight line from Woodford. These roads were poorly constructed. When the roads were improved the people had to do it themselves.
In the early days the people had to pay taxes according to the business in which they were engaged. The people who were engaged in farming and other forms of small business did not have to pay as much taxes as those who were engaged in a larger business. Harris McClane was the first tax collector for the Chickasaw Nation.
As soon as District 36 was organized the people of the Woodford community voted bonds to build an addition to the old schoolhouse in order to have a high school. The schoolhouse was built in 1921.
Doctor Taylor and Mrs. Speake served on the first school board. Mrs. Taylor was one of the early school teachers; while she was teaching school here Doctor Taylor got acquainted with her and later they were married.
Both of the churches of Woodford were built in 1907, while the Methodist Church was rebuilt in 1929.
The first doctor of the Woodford community was Doctor Miller, later Doctor Taylor came to Woodford and began his practice. Doctor Amerson was another doctor who practiced medicine in Woodford.
Present Day Woodford
The present population of Woodford has decreased very much in the last few years. The people of Woodford have settled down to an almost strictly farming district. There are a few more different occupations here; Mr. Greer owns a “goobernut plant”, this gives Woodford a manufacturing plant.
At present there are two churches in Woodford, a post office, two stores, and a garage.
Woodford has an accredited high school. There are five teachers in the school system.
Two miles north from Woodford there is a lake built by the city of Ardmore. This lake supplies Woodford and Ardmore with water.