By Mrs. Ruby Robinson, Mrs. K.R. Rutherford, Mrs. Jess Taylor and Mrs. W.I. Perry about 1976.
Meridian is located in Roger Mills County, three miles north and three miles west of Sweetwater, Oklahoma. Many Indian artifacts have been found in the Meridian Lake area, as well as along the Meridian Creek, Freeze Out Creek and Sweetwater Creek, all of which cross the Meridian area. Artifacts such as arrowheads and other types of weapons were found in most all of the fields. Other Indian made articles were hammers, notched hammers, knives of many types, including a diamond shaped knife, and a weapon which was similar to a sledge hammer head, made of stone and tied with a leather strap around it. It was used in killing buffaloes. They killed buffalo and other animals mostly with their bow and arrows. They depended on the wildlife for food and used skins for clothing and other purposes.
By the time of settlement in Meridian, most of the Indians had left western Oklahoma. By the Adams-Onis Treaty in 1819, the western boundary of Oklahoma was the 100th Meridian. After the Civil War, eastern Oklahoma was designated as Indian Territory and western Oklahoma as Oklahoma Territory. The division remained as such until Oklahoma became a state in 1907.
In the 1870’s or early 1880’s, a stagecoach line crossed the Meridian area from east to west, following the Sweetwater Creek. At that time, these were wagon and horse trails. The line ran from Ft. Elliott, West of Mobeetie, Texas, which was a Military Fort (It was there to assist in keeping down riots by the Indians) and went on to Ft. Sill, Oklahoma, another Military Fort. The coach house was located 1 ½ miles north of now Highway 152 and about ¾ mile west from the Oklahoma-Texas line.
In the later part of the 1800’s, so the story goes, a rancher would have many acres of land for running cattle. This land was leased from the United States Government for 25 cents and 50 cents an acre. Some of the land was bought from the government by a Land Company for a few dollars an acre. They built drift fences, which were 50 miles long, usually. An early day settler said they used the flat ribbon wire that is still seen in a lot of fences around the Meridian area.
Two of the ranches that extended from Texas into the Meridian area were the J.D. Ranch and the W.J. Miller Ranch. The J.D. Ranch, with the headquarters north of the Sweetwater Creek about one mile over in Texas, extended across the southern part of the Meridian Area into the red hills to three miles or less, west of Sweetwater. The W.J. Miller Ranch extended from the J.D. Ranch north past the Meridian Lake area as late as 1900. He had a headquarters five miles east from Wheeler, Texas and one at the Meridian Lake.
In the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, people began coming into the Meridian area to file on a 160 acre claim for a homestead. The new frontier was grassland, with some sagebrush and shinnery. There were cottonwoods and native elms along the creeks and rivers. There were very few houses, no schools, churches or towns nearby.
People came from south Texas, eastern Oklahoma, Kansas,, Arkansas and some from the northern states. Single men and women filed on a claim as well as married couples. Many came in wagons, bringing their families and belongings with them. Others shipped their household furnishings, farm implements and livestock by rail car, bringing their families on the train to Mangum and later to Sayre. They would travel the rest of the way by covered wagon.
In 1929 the 100th Meridian Highway was established, following what is now Highway 30 from south to north. Mr. O.R. Wilhelm, of Erick started out from the Oklahoma line to the wouth with the new highway signs in his Chevrolet car, placing the signs at the designated places. Some of the signs are still in existence. The 100th Meridian Museum has two of them. When Mr. Wilhelm arrived at the Canadian River in the Durham area, a man was at the river with a team of horses to pull him across if needed. However, the Chevy car made it on its own. There were few bridges at that time.
There were no roads; creeks and rivers had to be forded. The first thing after they filed on their claim, they built a dugout or a half dugout to live in. Maybe built a corral or shelter for the livestock from tree limbs or brush, since there were few fences. The first implements for farming were a walking, breaking plow, or sod buster; a planter; cultivator and maybe a harrow and drill. These were pulled by horses or mules.
The early settlers used wood burning stoves for cooking and heat, carrying their water in buckets from a creek, spring or river. They used kerosene lamps and slept on corn shuck mattresses. Women did their washing on a rub board, with the water in a tub, carrying the water they used. Maybe sometimes they took their wash tub and homemade lye soap to the creek to wash. They hung the clothes either on bushes or a barbed wire fence. All wearing clothes were starched and ironed with flat irons heated on the cook stove. The water for their weekly bath ws heated on the stove. They used the washtub to bathe in also.
Their next implements were riding ones still pulled by horses or mules and only one row implements. Travel was by horseback, buggy, hack or in the wagons. Crops were mostly corn at first. Later, broomcorn, cotton and milo were raised, some wheat or rye. Next came the two row implements, still horse drawn. Later, came the Farmall tractor days with steel wheels, followed by different types of tractors with rubber tires.
Naturally schools, churches, country stores all came into existence after people began to homestead the area.
The Meridian first school house was built in 1905 or 1906.
Highway 33 was a coast to coast highway, made of dirt, at least in this area. It crossed through Meridian Crossroads on its way to Texas. Some referred to this as the Ft. Elliott Highway. When Highway 41 came through Sweetwater, and on toward Texas, the Meridian area bordered on the road to the south, which became the Roger Mills-Beckham County line. Highway 33 discontinued when this highway was built. (When Highway 152 was built it followed more or less the same path across the country as Highway 41; therefore, the highway name was changed to #152.
By the early 1940’s the area was well settled. People began going to California to find work. The Plains around Earth, Hereford, and Lubbock, Texas was sparsely settled. Many families from the Meridian area moved out there for a new frontier and to establish their homes.
With the coming of larger farming equipment, older people retiring, and a smaller population, many of the small farms would be worked by only one farmer.
MORE ABOUT MERIDIAN by E.L Fowler (February 2009)
The community of Meridian was named such as it was near the 100th Longitude of the world. The first trading center was located on the Meridian Lake along side the 100th Meridian. It was nothing more than a few staple food items like flour, corn meal, beans and salt pork. There were only a few cattlemen in the area at this time who needed supplies. The larger trade center was later moved to two miles north of the Beckham County line and east of the 100th Meridian. They established a one room school and a trading center across the road to the west with a upper story and lower story and a basement by Mr. Kelly who owned the quarter section of land on which it was built. The upper story was used for a lodge hall and social gatherings. Mr. Kelly sold farming tools and plows (horse drawn, of course). Much later another room was added on to the school and it was used as a social gathering place and a church; with different denominations taking turns each Sunday. One of the teachers at Meridian School was Miss Mae Elizabeth Jennings (mother of E.L. Fowler).
During this era, the Kelly store burned to the ground and was never rebuilt. Later E.L. Fowler’s father, Levi Fowler and Mr. Charley Peterman built a new store in 1918. Levi ran the store for six months and decided he did not like to be confined to the inside of a building all the time and moved back to his farm on the 100th Meridian near the Texas State line. He sold his part of the store to his brother, Alfred Ware Fowler and his wife Vula. Ware was later killed on the very corner across the road going to church one night carrying his six month old son. A car hit him just about dusk, a rib punctured his lung. His son, Vancil Ray Fowler was thrown to the side and survived. Vula continued to run the store until marrying Jim Goodwin. The Fort Elliott Highway ran by the store going to Pampa, Texas to Elk City, Oklahoma. It was the main route to Texas until the Old Highway 41 (later named Highway 152) was built. Of course it was only a dirt road at the time.
J.L. Jennings built his home across the road to the west and Mark Barker lived in the two story home that the Kelly’s had built to the northwest across road. Later the Meridian School was moved ½ mile west of the Meridian Store and in 1921, they had a high school. In the meantime, J.L.Jennings built another home across road and another building later which became a grocery store. Another home across the road adjacent to the Fowler Store and to the east a garage and Black Smith Shop were located. Then east of that building which was used to test cream and buy eggs. To the east of the Fowler Store was built another cream testing station and a feed mill for grinding for the public. East of the store was an ice house to keep ice cold and to the east of this building was a ramp to drive cars up to change oil and work on. One-fourth mile to the east of the Fowler Store was another garage an four dwellings, owned by Mrs. Lena Witt. She took families in to live around her.
As time went by, the Meridian Store that Levi Fowler built was owned and operated by several people, such as Levi Fowler, Ware Fowler, Vula Fowler, Jim Goodwin, E.T. Wilson, Wade Anderson, J.G. Anderson, Bill Cotts, Jimmy Fowler, and John Hardy. E.L Fowler, while a Junior in high school, tested cream and stock groceries in the summer months at the store.
The Meridian Lake flows south and form the Meridian Creek which flows through the (now) Doug Fowler farm, which is 3/4 miles east of the 100th Meridian.
The Post Office was located one mile north, ½ west of the Fowler Store and later moved to Harrington. Harrington was located on Highway 30 seven miles north of the town of Sweetwater, Oklahoma. Mr. Wilson carried the mail in a hack with mules pulling it. Another Post Office was located south of Meridian Store, two miles south on the Carl Fourier place in the mile adjoining the Beckham County Line. The Stage Coach Station was a mile west along side of the Sweetwater Creek, just near the post office mention above on the 100th Meridian.