Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Town of Foss

Turkey Creek.  In a normal year, water fills it bank
to bank.  Now the creek bed is hidden in the shadows.
Foss Lake was named for the nearby town of Foss. Our trip from Foss Lake to Clinton Lake took us through Foss, and for those that asked for a little bit about Oklahoma, if there is a great example of what settlers in this area went through, Foss is it. The Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation was established in 1892. The town began with a group of settlers moving four miles north from the area around the Wilson Post Office to build a town on the north bank of Turkey Creek where they felt they would be more secure from the Indians

Turkey Creek flows by in the foreground.  The meadow
is where Foss stood before being swept away by the flood of 1902.
The folks wanted to call the town Graham, but the postal service nixed that because that name was already used, so it was changed to Maharg. The first school was in a dugout along the creek, and had ten students. In 1895, a 12 X 14-foot one-room school was erected. By 1900, attendance had grown to 100. The town charter was one year old when on May 2, 1902, Turkey Creek flooded and swept away 35 homes and nine people. It was decided to move the town north of the railroad tracks on higher ground. J. M. Foss Cordell was instrumental in founding the new town, and became its post master. The new town would be given his name.

The First Baptist Church, built of native stone, still in active
use, and still minus its bell tower and steeple.
They had established a Baptist congregation in 1900, and the church building, built in 1902, was funded through $2000 subscriptions and erected with donated labor. The owner of the saloon offered to donate the land for the church, but there was a big argument over accepting the fruits of the Devil’s money. Nearly anything can be rationalized with enough thought, so the offer was accepted when they were able to agree that no better use of the Devil’s money could be found than using it to do God’s work. During World War II, the church’s steeple and bell tower was removed to donate the metal to the war effort, and has never been replaced.

The new town of 1902 got a new two-story six-room school, which was used until the last school was built in 1923 of brick on School House Hill.
All that remains on School House Hill are the school's
front steps, and a couple planters and benches.
The Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad became the Rock Island Railroad, and it fostered the town's growth until it was the largest trade center between Oklahoma City and Amarillo, TX. The town’s first surge of growth was 1905 when the population numbered between 900 and a thousand, and commerce had grown to two banks, three cotton gins, two hotels, an opera house, and the saloon. The town also now sat only a half-mile off the new Route 66. However, in August, 1908, a fire destroyed an entire block of the town, and then only a year later, another fire destroyed many more buildings. The heyday of the town was between 1915 and 1930 with a population of 1,600, a blacksmith, grain elevators, livery stables, doctor’s office, grocery, hardware store, funeral home, and an electric power plant. Finally, in 1939 yet another fire swept the town, and between that, the Depression, the Dust Bowl years of the 1930, and World War II, the town never fully recovered. By 1957, school population had dwindled so much that the brick school was demolished.

Though the school has been gone 55 years, a few floor
tiles still cling tenaciously to the concrete floor.
If they had only waited two years, the school would have been needed again in 1959 following the construction of an Air Force installation at nearby Burns Flat. This brought a short revival to the town in the 1950’s and 60’s. When that installation then closed, people and businesses again began moving to other towns.  That was it. The last bank left in September, 1977. By the 2010 census, a population at 151 definitely showed the town had shrunk to a bedroom community.

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