Location of Watonga, Oklahoma
|• Total||4.10 sq mi (10.62 km2)|
|• Land||4.09 sq mi (10.59 km2)|
|• Water||0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)|
|Elevation||1,516 ft (462 m)|
| • Estimate |
|• Density||694.45/sq mi (268.15/km2)|
|Time zone||UTC-6 (Central (CST))|
|• Summer (DST)||UTC-5 (CDT)|
|GNIS feature ID||1099426|
Watonga is located on former Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Reservation lands that were allotted to individual tribal members and the excess opened to white settlers in the Land Run of 1892. Watonga is named after Arapaho Chief Watonga whose name means "Black Coyote".
The town began as a tent city on April 19, 1892. A post office opened in Watonga during the same year. [a] However, the first railroad line through Watonga was not built until 1901–02, when the Enid and Anadarko Railway (later the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway) constructed a 60 miles (97 km) rail line from Guthrie.
Watonga is located in central Blaine County at  According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 4.1 square miles (10.6 km2), of which 0.012 square miles (0.03 km2), or 0.28%, is water.(35.849249, -98.411591).
|U.S. Decennial Census|
As of the 2000 census[update], there were 4,658 people, 1,273 households, and 858 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,703.1 people per square mile (656.4/km2). There were 1,507 housing units at an average density of 551.0 per square mile (212.4/km2). The racial makeup of the city was 61.19% White, 15.33% African American, 8.24% Native American, 1.55% Asian, 2.02% Pacific Islander, 4.89% from other races, and 6.78% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 11.91% of the population.
There were 1,273 households, out of which 33.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 51.3% were married couples living together, 11.5% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.6% were non-families. 30.3% of all households were made up of individuals, and 17.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.53 and the average family size was 3.16.
In the city, the population was spread out, with 20.5% under the age of 18, 12.5% from 18 to 24, 36.7% from 25 to 44, 17.9% from 45 to 64, and 12.4% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 34 years. For every 100 females, there were 169.4 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 191.1 males.
The median income for a household in the city was $27,208, and the median income for a family was $31,391. Males had a median income of $23,056 versus $16,146 for females. The per capita income for the city was $10,567. About 12.4% of families and 17.5% of the population were below the poverty line, including 24.1% of those under age 18 and 16.8% of those age 65 or over.
According to one report, Watonga's 42.9% reduction in population from 2010 to 2017 makes it the fastest shrinking place in Oklahoma.
Watonga's economy has largely been based on agriculture since statehood. In the early days, local farmers primarily were producers of wheat. The dairy industry grew in western Oklahoma and led to the opening of the Watonga Cheese Factory in 1941. It was one of the state's five active dairy product plants in 2004. The plant subsequently closed in 2007.
Love's Travel Stops & Country Stores began with a single leased gas station in Watonga in the mid-1960s. Love's is now in 41 states, is approaching 500 travel centers, and employs 25,000 nationwide.
The city hosted the Diamondback Correctional Facility, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America from 1998, and the prison grew to become the town's largest employer. But the prison, housing Arizona inmates, experienced a riot in May 2004, and the contract to utilize the facility was not renewed, resulting in the prison closing in May 2010. This left 300 prison workers jobless or transferred elsewhere. The prison was still vacant as of March 2017.
Arts and culture
The city hosts an annual Watonga Cheese Festival in October. The festival was formed in 1976 by the Watonga Chamber of Commerce because the town had the only cheese factory in Oklahoma at the time. The festival has continued even after the closing of the factory in 2007. In 2013, a wine competition was added to the festival.
The town newspaper, the Watonga Republican, has been in publication since 1892.
Watonga has the T.B. Ferguson Home Museum, which consists not only of the 1901 Victorian-style house of publisher T.B. Ferguson, but also various artifacts of the era.
- Sis Cunningham, musician known for folk and protest music
- Thompson Benton Ferguson, newspaper publisher and eighth governor of the Oklahoma Territory
- Trevon Hartfield, NFL safety
- Robert J. Helberg, aeronautical engineer for NASA who contributed to the Lunar Orbiter program
- Byron Houston, retired NBA player
- Guy Lookabaugh, coach and former player of multiple sports
- Jim Lookabaugh, football player and coach
- Clarence Nash (1904–1985), the voice of Donald Duck in the 1930s
- Patrick Sherrill, perpetrator of the Edmond post office shooting
Parks and recreation
Roman Nose State Park, which opened in 1937 and was one of the state's seven original state parks, is seven miles north of Watonga, off State Highway 8 and 8a. It includes two lakes, the smaller being Lake Boecher, and the larger the 55-surface-acre Lake Watonga. The park includes hiking trails, guided horseback rides and hayrides to a historic natural-rock swimming pool, miniature golf, and an 18-hole par-70 golf course. For lodging, the park has Roman Nose Lodge, built in 1956 and renovated in 2010, along with more than 90 campsites, almost equally split between RV and tent sites.
Watonga is served by Watonga Regional Airport.
- The first postmaster was Thompson Benton Ferguson, who served in this position until 1896. He then became the editor-publisher of the Watonga Republican newspaper until 1901, when President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him to be the sixth governor of Oklahoma Territory from 1906 through 1907.Ferguson then returned to his home in Watonga, where he lived for the rest of his life.
- "2019 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved July 28, 2020.
- "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2012.[dead link]
- "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". United States Census Bureau. May 24, 2020. Retrieved May 27, 2020.
- "U.S. Census website". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
- "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
- "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Watonga city, Oklahoma". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Archived from the original on February 12, 2020. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
- "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
- Crawford, Terri. "Watonga," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
- "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
- "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
- "Fastest Shrinking Places in Every State". Samuel Stebbins, 247wallst.com, July 17, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- Spicer, Leon J. "Dairy Industry," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
- Bates, Richenda Davis. "Watonga Cheese Festival," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
- "Capitalism no good? Tell that to Pawhuska". The Oklahoman, July 28, 2019. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- After losing possible federal contract, Watonga hopes to find a use for Diamondback Correctional Facility, Enid News and Eagle, Cass Rains, June 14, 2011. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
- "Private prison in Watonga closes". John Estus, NewsOK.com (posted on Tulsa World website), May 28, 2010. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- "Oklahoma Watch: Private prison company seeks to buy more halfway houses, shut down Tulsa facilities". Clifton Adcock, Oklahoma Watch, Tulsa World, March 27, 2017. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- "Update: Wal-Mart plans to shutter 269 stores, six in Oklahoma". Anne D’Innocenzio, Associated Press (posted on Tulsa World website), January 15, 2016. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- "History of Cheese & Watonga," Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival, Retrieved April 15, 2015.
- "Homepage". Watonga Republican. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- "T.B. Ferguson Home Museum". Friends of T.B. Ferguson Home Museum. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- "From Donald Duck to Tom and Jerry, this duck tale started in Oklahoma". Jimmie Tramel, Tulsa World, February 2, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
- "Roman Nose State Park RV & Campground Guide". RVshare. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
- "Watonga, Oklahoma". Mapquest. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- "Roman Nose State Park in Watonga, Oklahoma". USA Today Travel Tips. Retrieved March 31, 2020.
- "Lake Watonga". TravelOK.com. Retrieved March 30, 2020.
- "(Former) Ferguson Chapel Presbyterian Church - Watonga, OK". Waymarking. Retrieved April 1, 2020.