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About Cimarron County

Source: The Oklahoma Historical Society

Covering a total land and water area of 1,842.2 square miles, Cimarron County is the farthest west of the three Oklahoma Panhandle counties. Black Mesa, in the northeastern corner of the county, is the highest point in Oklahoma, rising to 4,972.97 feet above sea level. In the county's northern portion the Cimarron River flows eastward turning north into Kansas, while the North Canadian, or Beaver River, traverses the county's southern section. Cimarron is the only county in the United States that touches five states: Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and its own, Oklahoma. Kenton, in the far northwestern corner, is the only Oklahoma community on Mountain Time. The county is served by U.S. Highways 56/65/412 east and west and 287/385 north and south. 

Prior to the Oklahoma Organic Act of May 2, 1890, there was no law in No Man's Land, also called the Public Land Strip (now known as the Oklahoma Panhandle), and scant population in what later became Cimarron County. 

In 1890 the entire Public Land Strip became Beaver County, Oklahoma Territory, and in that year the United States conducted the first census. Only two communities in the area, Carrizo (just over the line, in New Mexico Territory) and Mineral City, had enough residents to bother enumerating. Carrizo claimed eighty-three inhabitants and Mineral City ninety-eight. 

At 1907 statehood Cimarron County was created, and within it were twenty post offices and fifty-six schools. Until the county seat election of June 11, 1908, Kenton, which had previously been named the temporary county seat, held the county records. Boise City won a runoff election over Doby to capture the designation. 

Agriculture and cattle ranching remained the economic base throughout the twentieth century. Wheat and grain sorghum were important crops. After the area recovered from the 1930s devastating dust storms that centered in the Panhandle, the wheat harvest rose to a high of 4.7 million bushels in 1980; grain sorghum also peaked in 1980 at 4.6 million bushels. There were 481 farms in 2000, involving 1,077,004 acres of land. 

In the 1950s the county earnestly commenced natural gas and oil extraction, with 7,411,981 barrels of oil and 1,316,791,103 cubic feet of natural gas produced between 1979 and 1993. In 1959 a large extraction plant at Keyes began taking advantage of rich helium gas deposits beneath the area. 

In 1907 the population stood at 5,927. Census counts have varied since statehood, generally trending lower, with 4,553 in 1910, 3,436 in 1920, 5,408 in 1930, 4,589 in 1950, 4,145 in 1970, 3,301 in 1990 and 3,148 in 2000. In 1930 the populations of the existing towns included Boise City, 746, Keyes, 252, Felt, 136, and Kenton, 96. During World War II 428 men and women from Cimarron County served their country. 

Historical and natural points of interest attract tourists to Cimarron County. Traces of the Santa Fe Trail can be seen at many locations. The remnants of Camp Nichols, a historic military site, is listed in the National Register of Historic Places (NR 66000628) and is a National Historic Landmark. Col. Christopher "Kit" Carson established the camp in 1865 to protect the Cimarron Cutoff. The lack of law enforcement in No Man's Land attracted several outlaws, and one such group, led by William Coe, reportedly built a rock building on top of a strategically situated mesa that became known as Robbers' Roost. Lake Carl Etling, inside the Black Mesa State Park, Rita Blanca National Grassland, and numerous mesas attract many hikers and outdoors enthusiasts to the area. The Cimarron Heritage House in Boise City interprets the county's history. Actor Vera Miles was born in Boise City, and western movie hero Jack Hoxie moved to Keyes after he retired from the film industry. 

Norma Gene Young

© Oklahoma Historical Society

For an expanded history of Cimarron County including early photograghs,
please visit the
Oklahoma Historical Society website.



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My name is LaRae Halsey-Brooks, and my daughter,
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