Watonga, Oklahoma

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Watonga, Oklahoma
Location of Watonga, Oklahoma
Location of Watonga, Oklahoma
Coordinates: 35°50′57″N 98°24′42″W / 35.84917°N 98.41167°W / 35.84917; -98.41167Coordinates: 35°50′57″N 98°24′42″W / 35.84917°N 98.41167°W / 35.84917; -98.41167
CountryUnited States
 • TypeAldermanic
 • Total4.10 sq mi (10.62 km2)
 • Land4.09 sq mi (10.59 km2)
 • Water0.01 sq mi (0.03 km2)
1,516 ft (462 m)
 • Total5,111
 • Estimate 
 • Density698.85/sq mi (269.85/km2)
Time zoneUTC-6 (Central (CST))
 • Summer (DST)UTC-5 (CDT)
ZIP code
Area code(s)580
FIPS code40-78950[4]
GNIS feature ID1099426[5]

Watonga is a city in Blaine County, Oklahoma, United States. It is seventy miles northwest of Oklahoma City. The population was 5,111 at the 2010 census.[6] It is the county seat of Blaine County.[7]


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".[8]

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.[8]


Watonga is located in central Blaine County at 35°50′57″N 98°24′42″W / 35.84917°N 98.41167°W / 35.84917; -98.41167 (35.849249, -98.411591).[9] 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.[6]


Historical population
Census Pop.
Est. 20182,859[3]−44.1%
U.S. Decennial Census[10]

As of the 2000 census,[4] 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.


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.[11] The plant subsequently closed in 2007.[12] The city has hosted the Diamondback Correctional Facility, owned by the Corrections Corporation of America since 1998, but it rioted in May 2004 and closed in May 2010.[13]


Watonga has an aldermanic form of government.[8]

Arts and culture[edit]

The city hosts an annual cheese & wine 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.[12] The festival has continued even after the closing of the factory in 2007.[12] In 2013, a wine competition was added to the festival.[14]

Notable people[edit]

One of Watonga's most notable citizens was Clarence Nash (1904–1985) whom Walt Disney hired to be the voice of Donald Duck in the 1930s.[15] Nash provided Donald's voice exclusively for over 50 years.[15] A street in Watonga is named for him.[15]

Robert J. Helberg, who was born in Watonga, was awarded the Public Service Medal by NASA for his contributions to the Lunar Orbiter program.

Harold Blackledge, an agricultural pilot from Watonga, was interviewed and featured in the National Public Radio (NPR) story, "Drought Keeps Oklahoma Pilot Grounded." Blackledge was also severely affected by Tropical Storm Erin that destroyed much of Watonga's Municipal Airport in 2007.[16]

Thompson B. Ferguson moved to Watonga in 1892 and began publishing a newspaper, the Watonga Republican. President Theodore Roosevelt appointed him as the eighth governor of Oklahoma Territory in 1901.[8]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ 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.


  1. ^ "2018 U.S. Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved February 12, 2020.
  2. ^ "2010 Census Redistricting Data (Public Law 94-171) Summary File". American FactFinder. United States Census Bureau. Retrieved May 31, 2012.
  3. ^ a b "Population and Housing Unit Estimates". Retrieved June 4, 2019.
  4. ^ a b "American FactFinder". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  5. ^ "US Board on Geographic Names". United States Geological Survey. October 25, 2007. Retrieved January 31, 2008.
  6. ^ a b "Geographic Identifiers: 2010 Demographic Profile Data (G001): Watonga city, Oklahoma". U.S. Census Bureau, American Factfinder. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  7. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved June 7, 2011.
  8. ^ a b c d Crawford, Terri. "Watonga," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  9. ^ "US Gazetteer files: 2010, 2000, and 1990". United States Census Bureau. February 12, 2011. Retrieved April 23, 2011.
  10. ^ "Census of Population and Housing". Census.gov. Retrieved June 4, 2015.
  11. ^ Spicer, Leon J. "Dairy Industry," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  12. ^ a b c Bates, Richenda Davis. "Watonga Cheese Festival," Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, Oklahoma Historical Society, 2009. Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "History of Cheese & Watonga," Watonga Cheese & Wine Festival, Retrieved April 15, 2015.
  15. ^ a b c "From Donald Duck to Tom and Jerry, this duck tale started in Oklahoma". Jimmie Tramel, Tulsa World, February 2, 2020. Retrieved February 2, 2020.
  16. ^ Arndt, Deke. "Erin Strengthens Over Land to Tropical Storm Strength". American Association of State Climatologists. Retrieved December 16, 2012.

External links[edit]