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Elk City, Oklahoma facts for kids

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Elk City, Oklahoma
Location in Beckham County and Oklahoma.
Location in Beckham County and Oklahoma.
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Beckham
Founded 1901
 • Total 16.4 sq mi (42.5 km2)
 • Land 16.2 sq mi (41.9 km2)
 • Water 0.2 sq mi (0.6 km2)
Elevation 1,919 ft (585 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 11,693
 • Estimate (2015) 12,717
 • Density 712.6/sq mi (275.1/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CDT (UTC-5)
ZIP codes 73644, 73648
Area code(s) 580
FIPS code 40-23500
GNIS feature ID 1092527

Elk City is a city in Beckham County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 11,693 at the 2010 census, and the population was estimated at 12,717 in 2015. Elk City is located on Interstate 40 and Historic U.S. Route 66 in western Oklahoma, approximately 110 miles (180 km) west of Oklahoma City and 150 miles (240 km) east of Amarillo, Texas.


European exploration

Coronado Sets Out to the North, by Frederic Remington, 1861–1909

In 1541, Francisco Vásquez de Coronado became the first known European to pass through the area. The Spanish conquistador was traveling northeast across the prairie in search of a place called Quivira, a city said to be fabulously wealthy with gold. Because Coronado's route across the plains is speculative, it is quite possible that the expedition passed through present-day Elk City or the nearby area.

Founding to statehood

Elk City's history dates back to the days immediately following the opening of the Cheyenne-Arapaho reservation in western Oklahoma Territory on April 19, 1892, when the first white settlers made their appearance. Prior to this time, many early ranchers had driven cattle over the Great Western Cattle Trail from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas, the present townsite of Elk City being in the direct path of that famous trail.

The creation of Elk City was an idea conceived by land promoters from Weatherford, Oklahoma, when they learned that the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (CO & G) was coming to the area (in 1898, the CO & G Railroad completed its western route to Weatherford; beginning in 1901, it continued building west). They formed the Choctaw Townsite and Development Company. These men with great foresight determined that the area at the source of Elk Creek would be an ideal location for a town, so they came to the area to purchase lands from the homesteaders who had claims along the railroad.

Probably the most important day in Elk City's history is March 20, 1901, the date the first lots were sold by the Choctaw Townsite and Development Company. By this time, hundreds of prospective purchasers had built a tent city. On that day, the townsite company sold $32,000 worth of property (about $870,000 in 2012 dollars) and continued doing a good business for some time thereafter.

There is some confusion about how Elk City got its name. Elk City was so named because it is located at the head of Elk Creek, which in turn was named by U.S. Army Captain Randolph B. Marcy who was leading an expedition to explore the Red River in 1852. Marcy and his troops had left the Wichita Mountains and the waterway which he named Otter Creek during his exploration, and they were traveling northwest along the North Fork of the Red River. On May 31, in the official journal of the expedition, Marcy wrote about the productive soil, the dense grass, and the vertical red clay banks of a "bold running stream of good water." Continuing, he wrote, "From the circumstance of having seen elk tracks upon the stream we passed in our march today, I have called it 'Elk Creek'. I am informed by our guide that five years since, elk were frequently seen in the Wichita Mountains; but now they are seldom met with in this part of the country." Confusion also stems from the early post offices that served the residents of the town. Even though the town of Elk City has had only one name, its early settlers were served by a post office named Crowe, and later, one named Busch. Consequently, on many early maps of Oklahoma Territory the names of "Crowe" or "Busch" are seen instead of "Elk City". Finally, on July 20, 1907, shortly before statehood, the Busch Post Office had its name officially changed to Elk City Post Office.

On August 13, 1901, the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad (purchased in 1904 by the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railroad in 1904) laid its last rail on the so-called "Choctaw Route", bringing rail access to Elk City. The first regular train service commenced seven days later on August 20, and city folk rejoiced, predicting that the dugouts, claim shacks, and prairie stables would soon disappear and be replaced by handsome residences, commodious barns, and granaries. Later, in 1910, the Wichita Falls and Northwestern Railway, one of the Frank Kell and Joseph A. Kemp properties, reached from Wichita Falls, Texas, into the wheat-growing area of western Oklahoma. By 1912, the northern terminus was in Forgan in Beaver County in the Oklahoma Panhandle. The route through Elk City was abandoned in 1973, as Altus became the new northern terminus of the railroad, which was absorbed in 1923 by the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad. The remaining 77-mile (124 km) link between Wichita Falls and Altus was absorbed in 1991 by the Wichita, Tillman and Jackson Railway.

By January 1902, Elk City had more than sixty businesses and a population exceeding 1,000. Paving the streets with bricks also began in 1902. Though not yet a year old, the town had become one of the largest in western Oklahoma. Even with two devastating fires (one on October 28, 1903, which destroyed more than a dozen businesses, and the other in March 1906 which burned sixteen businesses to the ground), Elk City continued to grow into a major transportation and commercial hub, and by statehood in 1907, the population had more than tripled to 3,000 people. The prairie community had become a boomtown.


Elk City is located in northeastern Beckham County at 35°24′10″N 99°25′26″W / 35.40278°N 99.42389°W / 35.40278; -99.42389 (35.402694, -99.423812), elevation 1,928 feet (588 m).

According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 16.4 square miles (42.5 km2), of which 16.2 square miles (41.9 km2) is land and 0.23 square miles (0.6 km2), or 1.37%, is water.


Elk City experiences a humid subtropical climate (Köppen Cfa) with cool, dry winters and hot, much wetter summers.

Climate data for Elk City, Oklahoma
Month Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec Year
Record high °F (°C) 84
Average high °F (°C) 46.8
Daily mean °F (°C) 34.5
Average low °F (°C) 22.1
Record low °F (°C) −12
Precipitation inches (mm) 0.85
Source #1: NOAA (normals, 1971–2000)
Source #2: The Weather Channel (Records)


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 3,165
1920 2,814 −11.1%
1930 5,666 101.4%
1940 5,029 −11.2%
1950 7,963 58.3%
1960 8,196 2.9%
1970 7,323 −10.7%
1980 9,569 30.7%
1990 10,428 9.0%
2000 10,510 0.8%
2010 11,693 11.3%
Est. 2015 12,717 8.8%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2010, there were 11,693 people residing in the city. The population density was 718.8 people per square mile (277.6/km²). There were 4,973 housing units at an average density of 340.1 per square mile (131.3/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 88.95% White, 3.06% African American, 3.02% Native American, 0.54% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 2.25% from other races, and 2.15% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 5.96% of the population.

There were 4,159 households out of which 34.4% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.4% were married couples living together, 12.2% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.2% were non-families. 28.1% of all households were made up of individuals and 12.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.47 and the average family size was 3.02.

In the city, the population was spread out with 27.2% under the age of 18, 9.5% from 18 to 24, 27.3% from 25 to 44, 20.5% from 45 to 64, and 15.5% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 92.2 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 89.3 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,268, and the median income for a family was $35,383. Males had a median income of $28,380 versus $18,977 for females. The per capita income for the city was $15,654. About 15.4% of families and 19.1% of the population were below the poverty line, including 27.2% of those under age 18 and 5.0% of those age 65 or over.


National Register of Historic Places

  • Casa Grande Hotel
  • Hedlund Motor Company Building
  • Storm House
  • Whited Grist Mill

Stops on Route 66

  • National Route 66 Museum Complex


  • Elk City features five museums: the Old Town Museum, the National Route 66 Museum, the National Transportation Museum, the Farm and Ranch Museum, and the Blacksmith Museum. There also is another, the Anadarko Basin Museum of Natural History but it is currently closed due to lack of funding.
  • Elk City - Rising from the Prairie, Western Oklahoma Historical Society (2007)
  • Prairie Fire, Western Oklahoma Historical Society (1978)
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