Dover Oklahoma

Dover around the World by Lorraine Sencicle
by kind permission of the Dover Mercury, (KMG )
published :January  2008

Dover, Oklahoma, is a small town 41 miles north west of Oklahoma City in Kingfisher County. Oklahoma means “red people“ and was so called by Allan Wright, Principal Chief of the Choctaw nation of Native Americans, in the 19th century. It was accepted as the on 16 November 1907.

The earliest evidence of Native Americans was some 10,000 years ago and by the early nineteenth century the Comanche and Osage nations occupied what is now the State of Oklahoma. However, in 1803 a policy was introduced to relocate the Native American nations to the west of the Mississippi and in 1834, what is now the State, was declared 'Indian Territory'. Known as the 'Five Civilised Tribes', thousands of Choctaw, Creek, Cherokee, Chickasaw and Seminole people, were forcibly removed from their homelands. During the bitter winter of 1838-9, some 15,000 Cherokee were marched on what became known as the 'Trail of Tears'. Some 4,000 died of cold and hunger.

Nonetheless, in 'The Indian Territory' the authority of the Native American nations was assured. Albeit, after the American Civil War (1861-1865), a series of treaties saw the 'The Indian Territory' Native American nations being forced to cede the western half to provide homelands for other Native Americans. Further, although Europeans were forbidden by law to settle in the territory, violations frequently occurred.

Around 1861 Colonel William H Emory (1811-1887), arrived at what is now Dover, which was on the 'Indian Frontier'. His job was to protect the cattle drovers and to help them, and no doubt to provide a lucrative income for himself, he set up a staging post with a stockade for cattle and named it Red Fork. So named because of the colour of the soil and the fact that the cattle and the stage coach trails went in different directions.

Nearly thirty years went by and both the Native Americans and Red Fork thrived, Then at noon, on 22 April 1889, The Indian Territory' was opened to white settlers and nearly 50,000 flooded in on the first day. Even before then, thousands of 'Sooners', as those who 'jumped the gun' were called, had already settled. It was they that gave the State and its people, the nickname.

That year also saw the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad, better known to most of us as the Rock Island Line, reach Red Fork and a station was built. It also saw William L. Taylor moving into Red Fork and buying much of the land and went on to build several cotton mills. It was he who changed the name from Red Fork to Dover and went on to proclaimed the township, the 'Cotton Capital of the World'! In an attempt to achieve this, William had houses built to attract workers and those that he could not fill, he sold to new residents. I am told that many of these square 'Taylor Houses' still in existence today.

In 1890 Kingfisher County, of which Dover is a part, was created and with the help of the railway, cereal growing as well as cotton, became the mainstay of the economy. However, on 18 September 1906, the northbound train from Fort Worth to Caldwell, Kansas, was crossing the Cimarron River, outside of Dover. At the time there was heavy rain and the river was in flood, and as the train crossed the bridge, it was swept away. All but the last four coaches plunged in. The reports of the number dead were, and still are, wildly exaggerated. In reality four people died although a child died later of pneumonia following exposure, while a porter's body was found six months later several miles down stream.

At the beginning of the twentieth century, the town, like the rest of Oklahoma, became the breadbasket of the US and at one point boasted of an opera house. But the inter-war period saw most of Oklahoma devastated by over-farming, drought, tornadoes and crop failures; a situation immortalised in John Steinbeck's 'Grapes of Wrath.' . It was at this time that the Dover bank was subject to a 'Bonnie and Clyde' style machine-gun robbery. Both officials and customers were locked in the vault but no one was hurt.

Rock Island and Pacific Railroad line

Rock Island and Pacific Railroad line

Mount Snow 

ski area

Mount Snow ski area

Oklahoma train crash

Oklahoma train crash

Church and post office

Church and post office

Thanks to:
Jeremy A. Inge, Kingfisher Pioneers, Oklahoma.