Sunday, September 14, 2014

Jackson County, Oklahoma (1)

Ladies and gentlemen, county number #1!  The order of the counties is completely random, and so if you are from here, congratulations!  You are oh so very, very lucky to be the first to be viewed by my hordes of fans.

No, those are NOT crickets you are hearing.  Round 1, ahead!

This entry is the first of the counties to be covered.  The randomly selected county is...

Jackson County, Oklahoma

Founded:  1907
Population:  26,446
Total Area:  804 sq. miles
County Seat:  Altus

Senators:  Tom Coburn (R), James Inhofe (R)
Representative:  Frank Lucas (R)

Oklahoma's 3rd Congressional District

(1) The current county seat of Jackson County, OK is the city of Altus.  The town was founded in 1886 as a settlement on the bitter creek of about 50 people, serving as a trading post on the Great Western Trail.  The population of the county consistently grew, even growing during the Great Depression due to an irrigation project and the nearby air force base.  Eventually, the railroads made this town an important stop, further increasing it's population to a peak of just over 23,000 in the 1970's.  Should you choose to visit Altus, there are some highlights including the Plaza Theater.

Come in the beginning of October for the great Cotton-Pickin Chili Cookoff!

(2) Just four miles east of the city of Altus is the Altus Air Force Base.  The base is host to the 97th Air Mobility Wing, whose mission is to provide formal and advanced training for the C-17 Globemaster and the KC-135 Stratotanker.  The base supports about 2,000 permanent military personnel along with another 3,000 who live off base, while the base supports about 2,500 jobs from the surrounding communities.

The base was also home to the 577th Strategic Missile Squadron during the cold war with the Soviet Union.  With a mission of nuclear deterrence, the squadron consisted of 12 missile silos holding SM-65F intercontinental ballistic missiles.  During the Cuban Missile Crisis, all silos were placed on the highest level of alert.  The squadron was inactivated in March of 1965 as part of a phaseout, eventually demilitarized and sold to private ownership.

Finally, the air force base was frequently a stop for the space shuttle as it was ferried across the country.  Lucky them!

(3)  At the eastern edge of the county, at the base of the Navajo Mountains, lies the ghost town of Navajoe, OK.  The town was built to take advantage of the Great Western Cattle trail and developed a Baptist church, a post office, general store, and over 200 families settled there.  The town deteriorated when the railroads bypassed the town as they pushed west, and a majority of families and their businesses moved to the surrounding railroad towns and junctions.

The only functional part of the ghost town that remains is the Navajoe Cemetery, a picturesque, well kept cemetery at the base of the Navajo Mountains.

(4)  Jackson County is home to Western Oklahoma State College, formerly known as Altus Junior college.  The college offers programs for associates degrees in 24 different subjects from the arts, sciences, and applied sciences to just over 1,500 undergraduate students.

The school has also built an extremely successful baseball program in recent years, noted in its success for recruiting Latino players from northeastern cities like New York and Philadelphia, as well as recruiting players from Latin American countries.  In 2011, the school's baseball team won the junior college Division II national championship.

(5)  The old Fullerton Dam rests on the Turkey Creek, running right by the small town of Duke, OK.  A farmer built the damn on the creek in the 1890's to irrigate his crops, making him the first European settler to build a damn in Western Oklahoma.  As the region was so dry, it relied on irrigation to support its agriculture, making Fullerton Dam an important innovation in the region.  Unfortunately, the dam began to fail in 1905 and eventually broke in 1919 during a regional flood.  Nearly 100 years after the flood, the ruins of the dam remain in the same condition and can still be visited as a National Historic Place (view it on google maps at 34°37'27.0"N 99°29'27.0"W).

Chili cook off?  Space shuttle visits?  Historic ghost towns and championship baseball team?  This sounds like my kind of place!

One last fun fact.  While Democrats outnumber Republicans in the county as registered voters 51% to 38%, the county voted for both Mitt Romney and John McCain both times 75% - 25%.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, and get ready for the next county visit.

No comments:

Post a Comment