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Chandler - Last Gunfight of the Old West

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Vintage Chandler Oklahoma

Vintage Chandler, Oklahoma



Nestled among the rolling hills in the heart of Oklahoma, Chandler was founded after the 1891 Land Rush. When almost one million acres of land, formerly owned by the Sac and Fox, Iowa, Pottawatomie and Shawnee Indian tribes, was opened for homesteading on September 22, 1891, hundreds of settlers lined the borders of what was then called County A. At a signal given by the military, the pioneers rushed to stake their claims.


The town site of Chandler was surveyed by the government and set aside for public use just six days after opening of the county. Comprising an area of about one square mile, the up and coming town was named in honor of George Chandler, the First Assistant Secretary of the Interior under President Harrison.


In October, 1891 the first county officials were appointed by the governor. In its first general election held on November 8, 1892, the county received an official name Lincoln, and elected its own county officers. Soon a two-story framed courthouse was built on the town square. The small settlement quickly grew with several businesses developing along the main street area including hotels, several saloons, stores and other establishments.

From its beginning until the mid-1920s, the production of cotton and related activities were the most important sources of income for the citizens of Chandler. Beginning at the age six, children learned to pick cotton. Many continued this throughout their lives. Full attendance at school for older children could not be expected before mid-November, after the entire cotton crop was harvested.


A cottonseed oil factory was located at the end of Allison Avenue and 15th Street where oil was made from the cottonseeds not used for planting the next years crop. The cotton oil mill sounded a loud whistle twice a day; at the change of the work shifts. The sharp whistle could be heard throughout the town, at exactly 12 noon and 12 midnight. For many it was their only clock.


On March 30, 1897, young Chandler would suffer a devastating blow when a tornado completely wiped out the business area and many of the new homes constructed near it. Within a just a few minutes, every building that lay within a four-block-wide area was leveled. Fourteen people were killed and scores of others injured.




Bill Tilgman

After surviving decades of tough outlaws, Bill Tilghman was

shot and killed by a corrupt Prohibition Officer in 1924.


Chandler's other major source of income was the growing cattle industry which soon prompted the development of railroads. The Oklahoma City-Sapulpa branch of the Frisco was the first railroad constructed across Lincoln County. These 103 miles of railroad were completed in December, 1898. Other railroads built across parts of the county during the years 1902, 1903 and 1904, including the Santa Fe, Rock Island, Missouri-Kansas-Texas and Fort Smith-Western.


Bill Tilghman, one of the pioneers making the land rush in 1891 and former marshal of Dodge City, was elected sheriff of Lincoln County in 1900. He would later serve as United States Marshal and became known as "Two-Gun Bill." Tilghman was largely responsible for wiping out organized crime in Oklahoma and hunting down Bill Doolin and his gang.


In the early 1920s, less cotton was being grown in Lincoln County and the "cotton picking" families were forced to temporarily relocate to earn a living.  But, at about the same time oil was discovered in the area and the population of Chandler and Lincoln County began to grow. Oil derricks and producing wells quickly began to dot the land of Lincoln County, providing a further boost to Chandler's growth.


Continued Next Page



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Chandler, Oklahoma Downtown

Chandler, Oklahoma today, Kathy Weiser-Alexander, June, 2010.

This image available for photo prints & editorial downloads HERE!


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