Carter County

Oil Rig with trucks

From Wooden Rigs to Test Tube Methods

Oil has been central to Ardmore’s growth, starting with an 1888 discovery in Healdton. Significant exploration began in 1903 by H.B. Goodrich, who found the Wheeler Field, with wells still active today. The Healdton Field boom commenced in 1913, and by the next year, over 275 wells were operational. The Hewitt Field discovery in 1919 and its record-breaking well in 1924 furthered Ardmore’s prominence. Recent efforts focus on rediscovering oil in older fields. Carter County is home to 11% of Oklahoma’s oil wells, equating to 10 wells per square mile. Ardmore houses major oil firms and the Ben Franklin Refinery, the county’s second-largest employer.

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Post Office at Ardmore in 1895

The Good Old Days

On September 1, 1955, J. E. Williams wrote to the editor of the Daily Ardmoreite reflecting on the way life has changed since 1889. He contrasted the limited resources, poor educational system, absence of public infrastructure, and prevalence of diseases of his boyhood in Ardmore, Indian Territory, with the modern advancements enjoyed in 1955. Williams recalled a world without telephones, electricity, or paved roads, where survival amidst diseases and crime was a harsh reality, vastly different from the conveniences and opportunities available to children of his day. Despite hardships, Williams felt proud of societal progress, including improved employment conditions, community support through the Community Chest, and increased church participation. He commended the present advancements in technology and education, hoping for a bright future for the youth of his time.

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Carter County Courthouse

Early History of Carter County Oklahoma

Before 1820, Southern Oklahoma was mostly inhabited by scattered plains Indian tribes until treaties with the federal government ceded lands to the Choctaw Nation, one of the Five Civilized Tribes. The Choctaws moved west of the Mississippi to their new home beginning in 1832 on the difficult trek known as the “Trail of Tears.” Throughout the following decades, the land transitioned from Indian to white ownership, as the Chickasaws purchased the right to establish districts in Choctaw land, later forming the Chickasaw Nation with its own government and counties.

Over time, the increasing presence of white men, such as ranchers from Texas utilizing the permit system for grazing, led to a blend of populations and the gradual erosion of Indian land rights. As railroads and settlers flooded into the area, tensions and conflicts arose, culminating with the Curtis Act and Dawes Committee which all but dismantled communal land ownership, allotting individual plots to tribe members.

Ardmore emerged as a significant settlement in the Chickasaw Nation, becoming the Carter County seat at Oklahoma statehood in 1907. The discovery of oil in 1913 greatly impacted the county’s economy, transforming it industrially and socially. Carter County’s history reflects a complex tapestry of expansion, indigenous resilience, and the evolution of community through adversity.

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