The Early Days
Woodward County, originally known as N County, was 60 miles square. It was composed of present day Woodward County and portions of Harper, Ellis, and Woods County. Woodward County was the westernmost county of the Cherokee Outlet and adjoined Texas and the Oklahoma Panhandle on the west and Kansas on the north. Political pressure applied by William H. Murray during Oklahoma's Constitutional Convention resulted in the reduction of the size of Woodward County to its present boundaries.

Before its designation as a county of Oklahoma Territory, the U.S. Cavalry had established Camp Supply in 1868 during the “Indian Wars” at the confluence of the Wolf Creek and Beaver River, about 13 miles northwest of present-day Woodward. It played a large part in the settlement of natives on reservations in western Oklahoma. George Armstrong Custer was stationed for a short time in what would become Woodward County. The post closed in 1894 after the area had been settled in to non-natives.

The lush grasslands of the Cherokee Outlet provided ample fodder for Texas cattle en route to rail heads in Kansas during the 1870s and 1880s. The Cherokee Strip Livestock Association was created in 1883 in an effort to lease the prairie lands in the possession of the Cherokee Nation. They were successful until the United States government decided to open the Indian land for settlement.

It was on September 16, 1893, that thousands of hopeful pioneers rushed into the territory to claim prime locations for the chance of a new beginning. Not only would settlers rush in on horses, mules, wagons and bicycles, but they also rode trains into the territory and ran on foot to claim prime town lots. These hardy pioneers built northwest Oklahoma from the ground up. As no trees were readily available, they dug into the virgin soil to build homes and crude shelters until lumber could be shipped in by rail for frame houses.

The railroad served as the lifeblood of the area. It would either “make or break” the towns of northwest Oklahoma depending on their proximity to the rail. Those fortunate enough to lie close to the railroad were given a chance to survive with a steady supply of visitors and traders passing through. Rail lines were so important that towns might even pick up and literally move to a track that bypassed them. It was the railroad that had brought life to the open prairie and created the town of Woodward in 1887.

Soon after the opening of the Outlet, business centers along wide main streets sprang up across the prairie landscape. With the creation of new towns came general merchandise stores, banks, post offices, lawyers’ offices.