1915 account tells Frederick history
The early history of Frederick was a tale of two towns – Hazel and Gosnell.
The towns sprang up after the land opening of August 1901 and were located only a half-mile apart. Homes and businesses were established in both communities, and each hoped to secure the railroad depot, thus ensuring its future.
Gosnell, located in the area that is now the central part of Frederick, was the eventual winner but that victory came at a price. The depot was awarded to Gosnell, but half of Gosnell’s city lots were given to the railroad company (which they sold for a tidy profit) and the town was renamed “Frederick” in honor of Frederick Van Blarcom, son of a railroad official.
Hazel, located a half-mile south of Gosnell, ceased to exist. Hazel buildings were jacked up and moved to Frederick.
In May 1915, when the city of Frederick was less than 14 years old, a history of the two towns was written for The Frederick Press by Mrs. J.M. Smith, Sr. She had been a resident of Hazel, so recalls life in that town. Her account also boasts about the progressive town of Frederick in 1915.
NOTE: Mrs. Smith’s 1915 article was printed in the Tillman County History Vol. II (1978), pages 90-92. The Fifth District Federation of Oklahoma, to which she refers, is an event that was scheduled for Frederick on May 6, 1915.
In order for you to appreciate Frederick and its rapid growth, I will first tell you some of the trials the first settlers experienced.
On August 6, 1901, when this country was opened for settlement, there were two towns started: Hazel and Gosnell. In September, 1901, the first house was built in Hazel, and in a short time, the following businesses were established: one lumber yard, one dry goods store, one hardware store, one racket store, one newspaper, one drug store, one livery barn, two hotels, one saloon, and a meat market. (There was an old man living in Vernon who thought perhaps we were growing tired of dry salt bacon and hardtack, so he would bring fresh meat to town once a week).
About 50 people and 1000 prairie dogs settled in Hazel. In order to reach the town, it was necessary to take the train from Vernon to Davidson, and on arriving in Davidson, take the old stagecoach the rest of the way.
We had four houses, four tents, and one dug-out in Hazel. During that first spring, it stormed almost every night. In the wee hours of morning, we could see lanterns and hear voices calling, “Storm is coming! Everybody to the dug-out!” I used to wonder which would be the easiest death: staying at home with the house rocking back and forth, expecting to blown to the four ends of the earth at any minute, or making the trip to the dug-out amidst hail, rain, snakes, centipedes, and tarantulas.
Another thing we Hazelites had in common was the town well. In order to get a bucket of gyp water, it was necessary to arise at 4 a.m., take a bucket, walk a quarter-mile, stand in line, and hope to get water before the well was pumped dry.
The first school house was located in Hazel in 1901, but the town had no depot or post office. One had to have his mail sent to Gosnell, buy a railroad ticket there, and then walk the half-mile back home to Hazel.
We will now take up the village of Gosnell, the present site of Frederick. On August 25, 1901, the people who filed on this land built the first house and soon after had the post office located there and named Gosnell. All different kinds of businesses were represented in Gosnell, and I suppose there were about 40 people and 800 prairie dogs residing in the village.
The railroad was given about one-half the town lots, making it to its advantage to pull for Gosnell over Hazel. The BES built a depot and named the town Frederick.
The people of the two villages thought of what Lincoln said, “United we stand; divided, we fall,” and decided to go together and build one great town that would be known from ocean to ocean and from the Great Lakes to the Gulf.
So, after six months division, in 1902, the people of Hazel moved to Gosnell. The first settlers ran all the risk in building as this land was not proved upon and deeds could not be issued. One was told to select a lot, build upon it, and when deeds could be issued, he “would be treated right.” He had no idea what the lot would cost.
Frederick was platted September 30, 1902, and after the lots were listed and the price was put on each one, a person was given the privilege of purchasing the lot at the named price – or moving off his building, fences, trees, children, and household goods.
The city of Frederick, situated almost in the center of the county, has a population of 4000, with everyone pulling together to make it the best city in Southwest Oklahoma.
All the country around Frederick is occupied with a family located on every quarter section of land; there is almost no waste land. (I am anxious for you to take a drive out in the country and view our waving wheat fields, blooming alfalfa, fine corn and cotton, and you will agree with me that this is the “garden spot” of Oklahoma.)
Frederick was the first city in the territory to vote out saloons and pool halls, and since statehood, it has been the leading prohibition town in the state. I remember in 1903 seeing the town officers make a bonfire in the middle of Main Street out of the pool tables and other gambling paraphernalia.
The first brick building was built in 1903, but we had many substantial frame buildings.
On March 17, 1904, the entire business portion of the town was consumed by fire, and about a year later, we had another disastrous fire. Since then we have purchased everything necessary for a good fire department. Our firemen are so efficient that unless the walls and roof are falling in, they can save the building.
Our police department is small in number but large in size. Frederick is very peaceful; there is very little crime committed. We have a $20,000 town hall, a jail, and a town calaboose.
Our school houses are as fine as can be found in any city twice this size. We have a high school and central building and three ward schools. These buildings cost $65,000 and are all modern with steam heat, water, electric lights, and sewage. The light afforded pupils is good. Every room has a sufficient number of windows to give light on cloudy days. We employ 30 teachers and have had such a successful term the present year that patrons have urged us to continue a few months longer, with them agreeing to pay extra tuition.
The handmaidens of good schools are good churches, and in this particular, Frederick is among the “top notch” cities of the state. Almost every branch of the Protestant church is represented. The church valuation (with parsonages) is $75,000.
The government of the city is in the hands of good businessmen who carefully guard the interests of the town and taxpayers.
In 1901 the first telephone exchange was established with 15 phones. In 1906 there were 195 phones, and in the fall and spring of 1913-14, a drop flash-light battery board was installed, and the exchange was rebuilt at an expense of $11,000. It now takes care of 925 phones, 500 in the city and 425 in the country, and employs seven girls, each working seven hours a day.
The first electric lights were installed in 1905 with a small dynamo and engine in the rear of the gin. There were about 40-50 customers. At the present time, we have a light plant (equipped at a cost of $50,000) with two units, seven miles of line, both night and day currents, and 375 consumers. Our water and sewage system cannot be equaled. Our bonded indebtedness for water is $90,000 and sewer, $20,000. Water is piped form two miles west of town where we have an abundant supply. The water tower holds 80,000 gallons. The city owns eight miles of water main and five miles of sewage pipe, three wells, two pump stations, and 525 water meters.
Frederick was made a first class city on April 2, 1907, and on June 1, 1912, free mail delivery was started. Mail is delivered twice a day in the residential section and three times a day in the business district. We have eight rural routes running out of Frederick. Most all of the carriers use autos in covering their routes.
Frederick has 15 miles of concrete sidewalks and crossings and 75 miles of wide, graded, rolled streets.
Frederick’s ice plant was first opened in 1908 with a 10-ton capacity. In 1910 it was rebuilt and now makes 30 tons a day and ships to all surrounding towns. They make a good quality of ice – it will melt in your mouth!
Frederick’s laundry does such high class work that it is often necessary to look closely to detect the right from the wrong side of the fabric because of the laundry’s fine finish.
Secret orders thrive in Frederick. All the Masonic bodies are represented, also the Odd Fellows, M.W.A. – W.O.W., Elks, Royal Neighbors, Rebekahs, Knights and Ladies of Security, Eastern Star, and perhaps more. Many of the well-known lodge men and women of the state are from Frederick.
Frederick has several clubs, four of which are federated. The first club, the Domestic Science, was organized in 1905. Out of it grew the Merry Wives Club. This club is composed of the “old settlers” and continues to meet regularly. It was first organized with fifteen members. We do not fill vacancies but continue the club with what members remain. The Mothers Club was organized in June 1907, and during that year it purchased a piano and furnished a kindergarten room and paid a teacher. In the fall of 1908, the club turned the piano and furnishings over to the school board. Out of this grew the Twentieth Century Club, which was organized in 1910 and federated at its second meeting. This is a study and refreshment club which always has splendid lessons in history, followed by a four-course luncheon. The Tuesday Club was organized on October 14, 1910, and federated in 1914. It is a study and civic improvement club which has a miscellaneous program. The Alaho Club was organized in 1914 and federated the same year. It is devoted to civic improvement, too. The Oklahoma Farm Women’s Club was organized in 1914 and federated the same year. It is a study club with a miscellaneous program.
Frederick has two newspapers. The first one came here in 1902 and the second in 1906.
We have four gins showing an investment of $50,000. They ginned 12,000 bales of cotton the past year. We have a $100,000 cotton seed oil mill which operates six months during the year.
The first bank was organized May 7, 1902, with about $30,000 deposits. Now Frederick has two national banks and one state bank, with the deposits averaging over one-half million dollars.
We have four elevators that handled 500,000 bushels of grain last year.
Congress appropriated money for a site upon which we will erect a $100,000 federal building soon. There is a Carnegie Library under construction now.
Frederick has a flourmill, an alfalfa mill, a hosier mill, an ice cream factory, and a bottling works.
We have a good business college with a large enrollment, a fine opera house, and three picture shows.
In 1905 Teddy Roosevelt selected one of our springs as a place to hunt and rest. Another place of interest is Watts’ well, two miles south of town. Its waters are very beneficial, and they furnish a fine bath house. Another place of recreation is Williams Lake, one and one-half miles west of town. There you will find a beautiful lake, surrounded by a thick grove of trees. There is a large bath house, and bathing suits are furnished to those who wish them. Another place of recreation is Harris’ “paradise”, located just east of the light and water plant. There a lovely lake is lighted with electric lights, and one can rest on the settees amid banks of flowers and think of the days gone by in the old states.
All the political parties are represented in Frederick. Also, the Suffragettes take an active part in civic life.
In 1909 an auto factory was established in Frederick. We keep three garages to take care of our cars.
There are two railroads running in here, the Frisco and the Katy. They each have waiting rooms furnished with rocking chairs, couches, and tables where people may rest and read all the latest journals.
There are fourteen lawyers in Frederick, and any of them would be glad to look after your legal affairs. We have nine doctors, all of them well-qualified. (They do such a good practice that it is only necessary to keep two undertakers). We have four dentists who guarantee to extract without pain any tooth form a “dog” to a “wisdom”.
Frederick has three hotels, numerous boarding-houses, ten dry goods stores, four hardware stores, one gents’ furnishing store, one shoe store, ten grocery stores, three drug stores, three meat markets, two bakeries, three millinery shops, and other businesses too numerous to mention. In fact, we have over one hundred brick business houses.
We have had many great gatherings in Frederick, including Roosevelt’s visit, the Western Methodist Oklahoma Conference, Masonic cornerstone laying, the townsite banquet, Fourth of July celebrations, May Day picnics, and now the Fifth District Federation of Oklahoma, which I am sure will cause us to begin a greater era. Hereafter, our calendar will date from May 6, 1915, when Frederick was home of the Federation.