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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Located in Washita County ten miles west and eleven miles north of Cordell on State Highway 44, Foss took its name in honor of J. M. Foss, an early Cordell postmaster. The 1892 Cheyenne and Arapaho Opening allowed non-Indian settlement in the region. In 1898 a community known as Maharg, an anagram of the postmaster's last name of Graham, existed in the area. In 1900 the post office at Foss was established. William Radford, a Civil War veteran, served as the first postmaster.

As the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway, affiliated with the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway, built tracks through the town in 1902, it created significant growth and a major trade center. The trade territory extended north almost fifty miles before being interrupted by the Canadian River. The new town of Foss emerged in Turkey Creek Valley just south of the railroad. In April 1902 a massive flood destroyed the thirty-nine homes that had been built in the valley, along with most of the businesses, washing away the depot and more than one mile of track. Nine people lost their lives. The town rebuilt above the floodplain north of the railroad.

By 1908 Foss had grown to support two banks, three hotels, two newspapers, a flour mill, four cotton gins, two grain elevators, a wagon and buggy carriage works, a hay-baler manufacturing company, a machine shop, a bakery, a broom factory, five merchandise stores, two drugstores, three doctors, and several attorneys. The 1910 population stood at 525 but dropped to 348 in 1920. Foss built a reputation as an important agricultural marketing center.

The town experienced growth by 1930, registering 524 residents, but by 1960 had a population of only 289. In 1961, approximately six miles north of Foss in Custer County, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation completed the Foss Dam, creating a lake that provided a needed water supply for Custer and Washita counties, flood control, and recreation. One of the first electrodialysis water treatment plants in the nation was built at Foss Lake to refine the extremely hard mineral water. In 2003 the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality oversaw the construction of a new, updated electrodialysis plant, the only one in the state. The Foss Enterprise ceased operation in the 1930s, and the Foss School District Number Twelve closed in the mid-twentieth century. The 2000 population stood at 127 and the 2010 at 151. In that year Foss continued as a small agricultural center and still derived a small sales-tax income from travelers on nearby Interstate 40. In April 2020 the census reported 101 residents.

Wayne Boothe

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"Foss, The Live Young City," Sturm's Oklahoma Magazine 6 (April 1908).

Carl Jones, Development of Washita County School Districts, 1892–1951 and Financing 1940–1952 (N.p.: Carl Jones, 1952).

"Washita County Museum Report," Cordell (Oklahoma) Beacon, 31 October 2002.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Wayne Boothe, “Foss,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=FO051.

Published January 15, 2010
Last updated March 1, 2024

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