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Ward the Ville: Wardville, Oklahoma

Updated: Sep 7, 2023

The bank at Wardville where, in 1914, two men robbed it of currency and silver.

Wardville, Oklahoma is a ghost town but don't call it that.

Wardville, Atoka County, Oklahoma sits off the Jefferson Highway on OK 131 between Kiowa (Pittsburg County) and Stringtown (Atoka County) near the Coal County line . It started out as Herbert, but by 1906, it became Wardville, Atoka County, Indian Territory (now, Oklahoma). During that same year, this small settlement had a cotton gin, a bank, a barber shop, and at least two grocery stores. Most of the people in Wardville raised cattle, though. One of Wardville's famous residents included "Marvin McMillan, the cowboy roper."

For such an innocuous town, there has been quite a bit of excitement in its history. In 1914, "two unmasked men" on gray horses robbed the bank and absconded with "$800 in currency and silver." In 1949, a man from Wardville man and a chicken thief from Kiowa assaulted and almost killed two men from nearby Limestone Gap with a "knife, rock, and coke bottle." Must be the reason why there's a state prison in Stringtown now...

That coke bottle may be evidence why Wardville crowned itself the "soda pop guzzling capital of the world" in 1941. A proprietor of a store in Wardville, Gorman Kelly, boasted as having sold "over 100,000 bottles of soda pop in the past two years" and that the favorite brand was Pop Kola, bottled in the county seat of Atoka. Said Kelly: "Wardville folks are... either all the good and go to church regularly or do not foll around with part-way intoxication." According to Kelley, Wardville-ians either drank soda or "the canyon run whiskey which flows from home-made" stills in the hills around Stringtown. Perhaps they needed chasers!

In 1917, the town erected a stone school, and Wilburn Cartwright of Lehigh in Atoka County became its principal. The school still stands, as does its ghostly playground equipment.

By 1940, the town hoped to see a "crow-flight highway from Kiowa to Ardmore" be built by the Works Progress Administration but I don't believe this happened, as it's kind of a bear to drive from straight from Wardville to Ardmore now.

Today, there are inhabited houses, a volunteer fire department, and some GREAT tractors in Wardville, but no open school nor commercial places can be found. There's not even anyone one to sell soda here, anymore. But when I mentioned that Wardville was a ghost town on a Facebook post, I caught a lot of flak. Even though Wardville has no school, no post office, no stores... it has a lot of defenders, so I reckon it's not really a ghost town. Or maybe perceptions just differ, and that's cool.

Wardville in 1906 (Fire map, OHS).

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