Alfalfa County, Oklahoma

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Not to be confused with Alfalfa, Oklahoma.
Alfalfa County, Oklahoma
Alfalfa County Courthouse
Cherokee, Oklahoma 11 July 2007
Built in 1921
Map of Oklahoma highlighting Alfalfa County
Location in the state of Oklahoma
Map of the United States highlighting Oklahoma
Oklahoma's location in the U.S.
Founded 1907
Named for William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray
Seat Cherokee
Largest city Cherokee
 • Total 881 sq mi (2,282 km2)
 • Land 866 sq mi (2,243 km2)
 • Water 15 sq mi (39 km2), 1.7%
Population (est.)
 • (2013) 5,847
 • Density 6.5/sq mi (3/km²)
Congressional district 3rd
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5

Alfalfa County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 5,666.[1] Its county seat is Cherokee.[2] Alfalfa County was formed in 1907 from Woods County. The county is named after William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, the president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention and ninth governor of Oklahoma, who was instrumental in carving out the county from the original larger Woods county.[3] [4]


Early history[edit]

Indigenous peoples inhabited and hunted in this area for thousands of years. By 1750, the Osage had become a dominant tribe in the area. About one third belonged to the band led by Chief Black Dog (Manka - Chonka). Before 1800 they made the Black Dog Trail starting east of Baxter Springs, Kansas and heading southwest to their summer hunting grounds at the Great Salt Plains in present-day Alfalfa County.[5][6] The Osage stopped at the springs for its healing properties on their way to hunting at the plains, which attracted migratory birds and varieties of wildlife. The Osage name for this fork of the Arkansas River was Nescatunga (big salt water), what European-Americans later called the Salt Fork. The Osage cleared the trail of brush and large rocks, and made ramps at the fords. Wide enough for eight men riding horses abreast, the trail was the first improved road in Kansas and Oklahoma.[7]


The treaties of 1828 and 1835 placed what would later become Alfalfa County within the Cherokee Outlet, which was owned by the Cherokee Nation. Ranching became the primary economic activity from 1870 to 1890 as cattle companies which were part of the Cherokee Strip Live Stock Association leased grazing land from the Cherokee. Prominent rancher, Major Andrew Drumm operated the "U Ranch" here as early as 1870. Its headquarters were southeast of Driftwood on the Medicine Lodge and Salt Fork rivers.[3]

Alfalfa County was originally part of the much larger Woods County, which was created in September 1893 with the opening of the Cherokee Outlet. Alfalfa County itself was created in 1907, as part of statehood.[3] The county was named after William H. "Alfalfa Bill" Murray, who served as the president of the Oklahoma Constitutional Convention and would later be elected as the ninth governor of Oklahoma.[4]

Statehood years onward[edit]

The city of Cherokee, became the county seat through an election held in January 1909. Other towns receiving votes for the honor were Carmen, Ingersoll, and Jet.[3]

Alfalfa County's population was primarily of European origins. European immigrants and their children were numerous in early 1900s. Germans from Russia (ethnic Germans who immigrated to American from Russia), many of whom were Mennonites, settled near Ingersoll, Driftwood, Cherokee, and Goltry. Early censuses also reveal a considerable number of Bohemians (also Germans). At the turn of the twenty-first century nearly 17 percent of county residents claimed German ancestry.[3] One Mennonite church (in Goltry) remained as of 2006.[8]

Early railroad construction, from The Choctaw Northern line(1901), The Kansas City, Mexico and Orient (1901), The Arkansas Valley and Western (1904), and The Denver, Enid and Gulf Railroad Company (1904), contributed greatly to the county's early prosperity and caused many small towns to flourish. They would compete as wheat-shipping points and agribusiness centers for many years therafter.[3] However, by 2000 only one rail line, the Burlington Northern Santa Fe, served the county.[3]

Agricultural pursuits, including wheat farming and livestock raising were major contributors to Alfalfa County's economy during the twentieth century. Small-scale agriculture in its early years made possible dozens of towns and dispersed rural communities, many of which no longer exist. Towns bypassed by rail service, such as Carroll, Carwile, Keith, and Timberlake, did not long prosper. Others, Ingersoll and Driftwood for example, remained incorporated for decades, but after the abandoning of their rail lines, saw a declining population which made it difficult to sustain educational and city services. Ingersoll (founded 1901) peaked in 1910 with 253 inhabitants and Driftwood (founded 1898) in 1930 with 71. By 1980, neither of these towns were still incorporated. Aline, Amorita, Burlington, Byron, Carmen, Cherokee, Goltry, Helena, Jet, and Lambert remained incorporated as of 2000.[3]


According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the county has a total area of 881 square miles (2,280 km2), of which 866 square miles (2,240 km2) is land and 15 square miles (39 km2) (1.7%) is water.[9] It is part of the Red Bed plains. Great Salt Plains Lake and Great Salt Plains National Wildlife Refuge lie within the county. The major streams in the county are the Salt Fork of the Arkansas River and the Cimarron River.[3]

Major highways[edit]

Adjacent counties[edit]

National protected area[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1910 18,138
1920 16,253 −10.4%
1930 15,228 −6.3%
1940 14,129 −7.2%
1950 10,699 −24.3%
1960 8,445 −21.1%
1970 7,224 −14.5%
1980 7,077 −2.0%
1990 6,416 −9.3%
2000 6,105 −4.8%
2010 5,642 −7.6%
Est. 2014 5,790 [10] 2.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[11]
1790-1960[12] 1900-1990[13]
1990-2000[14] 2010-2013[1]
Age pyramid for Alfalfa County, Oklahoma, based on census 2000 data.

As of the census[15] of 2010, Alfalfa County had a population of 5,642 people, down from 6,105 people in 2000. Most of the population (89.1%) self-identified as white. Black or African American individuals made up 4.7% of the population and Native Americans made up 2.9% of the population. Less than 1% of the population was Asian.

The median age of the population was 46 years and 18% of the county's population was under the age of 18. Individuals 65 years of age or older accounted for 20.2% of the population.

There were a total of 2,022 households and 1,333 families in the county in 2010. There were 2,763 housing units. Of the 2,022 households, 23.4 percent included children under the age of 18 and slightly more than half (56.3%) included married couples living together. Non-family households accounted for 34.1% of households. The average household size was 2.27 and the average family size was 2.81.

The median income for a household in the county was $42,730, and the median income for a family was $56,444. The per capita income for the county was $24,080. About 7 percent of families and 11 percent of the population were below the poverty line, including 7.4 percent of those age 65 or over.


Voter Registration and Party Enrollment as of 15 January 2013[16]
Party Number of Voters Percentage
  Democratic 905 29.66%
  Republican 1,881 61.65%
  Unaffiliated 265 8.69%
Total 3,051 100%
Presidential election results[17]
Year Republican Democrat
2012 84.7% 1,539 15.3% 278
2008 83.1% 2,023 16.9% 411
2004 82.4% 2,201 17.6% 470
2000 75.2% 1,886 23.3% 583


NRHP sites[edit]

The following sites in Alfalfa County are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:


  1. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved November 8, 2013. 
  2. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i Dianna Everett, "Alfalfa County," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed January 19, 2016.
  4. ^ a b Shirk, George H. (March 15, 1987). Oklahoma Place Names (Revised ed.). University of Oklahoma Press. p. 6. ISBN 978-0806120287. 
  5. ^ Burl E. Self, "Black Dog (1780-1848)", Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed November 5, 2009
  6. ^ "Full text of "Wah Kon Tah The Osage And White Man S Road"". Retrieved 14 January 2012. 
  7. ^ Louis F. Burns, "Osage", Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, accessed November 5, 2009
  8. ^ Bergen, JW. "Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online - Alfalfa County (Oklahoma, USA)". Global Anabaptist Mennonite Encyclopedia Online. GAMEO. Retrieved January 27, 2016. 
  9. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  10. ^ "Annual Estimates of the Resident Population for Incorporated Places: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2014". Retrieved June 4, 2015. 
  11. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  12. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  13. ^ Forstall, Richard L., ed. (March 27, 1995). "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  14. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. April 2, 2001. Retrieved February 18, 2015. 
  15. ^ "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved 2011-05-14. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ "Dave Leip's Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections". Archived from the original on 4 June 2011. Retrieved 11 June 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 36°44′N 98°19′W / 36.73°N 98.32°W / 36.73; -98.32