The first known people to inhabit what is now Tillman County were the Plains Indians, primarily Kiowa and Comanche. This land was only a small part of a great expanse of hunting grounds that they roamed. Leading a nomadic life, the Indians moved with the seasons, dependent on the vast buffalo herds which provided them with food, shelter, clothing.
Their relatively peaceful existence was irreparably disrupted by the advent of the white man. The first to come in numbers were the adventurers, often only passing through on their way to the gold fields in California. They were followed by a trickle of settlers, which was soon after to become a mainstream of pioneers going west. U.S. Army soldiers were sent to protect the white man from the Indians who were determined to hold their land inviolate. (Camp Auger was established on the Red River, in what would become Tillman County, as an outpost from Fort Sill. Its purpose was to keep an eye on the roving Kiowa and Comanche.)
Bloody battles were the result of the meeting between Indian and Army. The Indians won victories, but, more often, they suffered defeats and were gradually brought to submission. Coerced into "peace" treaties, the Kiowa, Comanche,, and Plains Apache were assigned to a reservation of 4639 square miles, and area the size of Connecticut, All of Tillman County, as we know it, was included in the reservation.
Meanwhile, great cattle empires were being established in north Texas, and, before long, the cattle barons were enviously eyeing the fertile pasture land allotted to the Indians north of the Red River. These influential men, primarily W. T. Waggoner and Burk Burnett, began making contacts and soon negotiations to lease the Indian lands were made. Most, if not all, of Tillman County was leased by Waggoner and Burnett, so during the next several years the history of this area was the story of big cattle operations: Cowboys, round-ups, brandings, and trail-drives.
As the pioneers continued their trek west, pushing the boundaries of civilization before them, other white men began to eye this land, too, but with another idea in mind. The homesteader wanted to settle on it and raise crops. Congressmen were petitioned to favor the settlers' cause, and in 1892 a commission negotiated and agreement. In lieu of communal holding of the entire reservation, the Indians accepted individual allotments of land. Surplus acres remaining after each Indian received his share were to be given away for settlement under the homestead laws. The cattlemen opposed the homesteaders, knowing they would lose their pasture leases, and they managed to forestall the settling until 1901.
But on August 6, 1901, at Lawton the land lottery was held. About 200,000 people registered, either at Fort Sill or El Reno, in person or by proxy, the number being more than fifteen times as many as there were available places. The land to be drawn for included what is now Caddo, Comanche, Cotton, Kiowa, and Tillman Counties. Roughly, there were 13,000 tracts of 160 acres available. There was more land than this, but what was supposed to be the most choice lands had been reserved for the Indians. The largest of these, about 440,000 acres, was the Big Pasture. There were three other smaller areas also set aside for the Indians.
Among the 13,000 who drew the lucky numbers were people of all professions, both men and women. A Mr. Woods drew #1 and am Miss Beale drew #2. Both chose sites as close as possible to Lawton, then a City of tents. Our section of the land included in the lottery, the extreme southwest part, was among the last chosen by the number holders. In fact, many places in this area were not filed on before the end of the 60-day period allowed. These were grabbed up, however, when opportunity permitted others to file.
A person who filed on a tract had six months in which to settle and make improvements. This was called "proving up." Failure to do so allowed others to contest the claim at the end of the grace period. Shortly after the 1901 land opening, six government town sites were designated in our area: Thacker, Jarrell, Gosnell, Manitou, Hazel, and Olds or Texowa (which became Davidson.) Except for Jarrell, northeast of Frederick, and Thacker, two miles west of Manitou, the town sites were to be located on the Blackwell, Enid, and Southwestern Railroad (BES, later the Frisco) which was rapidly laying tracks north from Texas.
Davidson is considered by many to be the oldest town in Tillman County because the BES arrived there first. The town's name was changed from Olds by Charles E. Hunter, town site agent for BES, Davidson being the name of a railroad official. Hunter was convinced to put the railroad through Gosnell instead of nearby Hazel by citizens voting to re-name Gosnell after Frederick VanBlarcom, the son of a BES official. Fledgling Hazel then moved to Frederick.
Hunter decided that instead of putting a railroad depot at Manitou, he would place it a Siboney, two miles north of Manitou. An intense rivalry resulted that finally ended in 1906 when Siboney, the depot included, was moved, 42 buildings in all, to Manitou.
The Big Pasture and three other smaller pastures opened for settlement in 1906. This opening was a radical departure from previous ones in that it was done by sealed bids. Bids were submitted to and opened by officials in Lawton. With the addition of Big Pasture lands, what would become Tillman County almost doubled in size.
The opening of the Big Pasture brought three more government town sites to this area, Eschiti, Isadore, and Quanah. Eschiti and Kell, an "illegal" town since it wasn't government designated, united to become Grandfield; Isadore and Quanah withered.
With the coming of the Katy Railroad, Loveland, Hollister, and Tipton sprouted on the prairie. About the only objections that the settlers in this rich new land had were that Oklahoma was still a territory, and it was at least a two-day trip to Lawton, the county seat, since this was a part of Comanche County then. These situations were remedied by 1907 statehood and the creation of Tillman County, with Frederick as the county seat. Seven bustling towns were thriving in the new county: Davidson, Frederick, and Manitou on the Frisco line, Grandfield, Loveland, Hollister, and Tipton on the Katy. Tillman County entered the twentieth century with great expectations!
Frederick Press 1975
Cities and Towns
- Kiowa County (north)
- Comanche County (northeast)
- Cotton County (east)
- Wichita County (south)
- Wilbarger County (southwest)
- Jackson County (northwest)
As of the census2 of 2000, there were 9,287 people, 3,594 households, and 2,487 families residing in the county. The population density was 4/km² (11/mi²). There were 4,342 housing units at an average density of 2/km² (5/mi²). The racial makeup of the county was 74.21% White, 9.02% Black or African American, 2.68% Native American, 0.32% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 10.61% from other races, and 3.12% from two or more races. 17.67% of the population were Hispanic or Latino of any race.
There were 3,594 households out of which 30.50% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 55.10% were married couples living together, 10.70% had a female householder with no husband present, and 30.80% were non-families. 28.80% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.80% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.48 and the average family size was 3.05.
In the county, the population was spread out with 26.70% under the age of 18, 7.20% from 18 to 24, 24.00% from 25 to 44, 22.80% from 45 to 64, and 19.30% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 39 years. For every 100 females there were 96.10 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 90.00 males.
The median income for a household in the county was $24,828, and the median income for a family was $30,854. Males had a median income of $23,039 versus $18,724 for females. The per capita income for the county was $14,270. About 17.30% of families and 21.90% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.20% of those under age 18 and 15.40% of those age 65 or over.
Cities and towns
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