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
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.