IThe western half of the Indian Territory assigned to the Choctaw Tribe was given to the members of the Chickasaw Tribe. This land was primarily a rolling prairie ideally suited for ranching and agricultural purposes and included the Washita River watershed. The geographical location proved to be a valuable asset in the development of the center of the future state of Oklahoma.
To meet the needs of transportation across the country, the Rock Island Railroad laid track from Kansas across Oklahoma Territory ending opposite the northwest corner of the future Grady County. Paralleling the Chisholm Trail, the tracks entered the Chickasaw lands of Indian Territory at Minco and continued to the next selected division point on its way to the Red River. The new division point was on the south side of the Washita River on land owned by the James Speed family. Rail workers and pioneers moved to the new rail head. The little communities of Fred and Pensee became ghost towns. The new community of Chickasha began in 1892 when a Post Office was established. To meet the requirement of having improvements on their city lots, the residents in 1898 quickly put up tents or built small wood shacks creating the impression of a shack or rag town.
Chickasha grew rapidly becoming an incorporated city in 1902 with a population of 6,370. New business buildings, houses, churches, and banks were erected. The residents hired a school superintendent in 1901 to create a school system for the pioneer children. Federal rules were changed allowing a city in the Territory to sell bonds for school buildings. In 1904 neighborhood schools were constructed with a high school building then added. This desire to have an outstanding educational system led to the develop ment of the first “Junior High School” program in the State of Oklahoma. A system quickly adopted by other towns and cities.
=The first college established by the first State Legislature in 1908 was located in Chickasha on land donated by J.B. Sparks to honor his late daughter, Nellie. The institution b egan as the Oklahoma Industrial Institute and College for Girls with a High School for young women included. The name was changed to Oklahoma College for Women in 1916. In keeping with the requirements of the changing times, the school became coeducational and assumed the name of Oklahoma College of Liberal Arts in 1965. Later in response to new legislation the name was changed to the University of Science of Arts of Oklahoma and is nationally rated as one of the best buys in education today.
Chickasha quickly became a market hub. The new trading center was financed by five national banks at one point. The bounty of Grady County; the agricultural crops, livestock and dairying, and oil and gas industry, benefitted from the central location and transportation facilities. In addition to the Rock Island Railroad, the Frisco and the Santa Fe, later the Oklahoma Central, connected the area markets. The interconnected local, state, and federal highway system traversed the area frequently mirroring the old cattle trails which the new transportation system had replaced.
The Community rallied to the support of the country’s war effort in the 1940’s. Funding for the creation of an airport with a long runway which became the home of a flying school, land for a military hospital, and facilities for prisoner of war camps was provided. The hospital land and the facilities located at the airport and the fairgrounds benefit the city and surrounding area today.
Promoted as the “Queen of the Washita”, Chickasha has witnessed a steady growth in residents since the rapid beginning while adapting to the changing times. The “All American City” continues its search to secure and expand industrial, educational, and social programs.