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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


Straddling the line between Roger Mills County and Beckham County, Sweetwater is situated near Sweetwater Creek, a tributary of the North Fork of the Red River. The town lies five miles east of the Oklahoma-Texas state line and sits at the intersection of State Highways 152/6 east-west and 30 north-south. Sweetwater's beginnings were made in and after the Cheyenne-Arapaho land opening in 1892. A Sweetwater post office was established on September 27, 1894. By 1910 the community, which was centered in the corners of Sections 13, 14, 23, and 24 of Township 11 North, Range 26 West, had an estimated population of 50. At that time the town had two general stores, a dry goods–grocery store, a doctor, and a cotton gin and fuel company. The Sweetwater Breeze newspaper published the local news from 1909 until at least 1912. Although residents anticipated the construction of a railroad through or near their community, none materialized, and the town has remained small for its entire existence. Methodist and Christian churches were joined by a Baptist church in 1910 and an Assembly of God congregation in 1929. As an agricultural service center for the surrounding township, Sweetwater grew to approximately 100 by the time of World War I and had four general stores as well as a garage/auto repair shop. The Sweetwater Gin, Mill, and Elevator Company still operated, and a public school served children in town and in the immediate area. In the 1930s the postmaster estimated the number of residents at 150. As with most dispersed rural communities, between the world wars Sweetwater declined in size as automobile transportation carried business south to Erick or east to Elk City in Beckham County, a trend that continued after the war.

From the 1950s into the twentieth century Sweetwater persevered. A large volunteer fire department, organized in 1985, has served the town and environs, and the Sweetwater Public School continues to offer instruction for kindergarten through twelfth grade. Its 2003 enrollment was 70. Educational funding comes from petroleum gross production revenue. The town incorporated on May 13, 2003. Four years later, on May 7, 2007, an EF-3 tornado devastated Sweetwater, destroying eight houses and damaging the school and a church. Businesses in 2010 included a post office, a convenience store/restaurant, a mechanic's garage, a Baptist Church, a school, and the Sweetwater Volunteer Fire Department's station house. The 2000 population was estimated at 103. The U.S. Census of 2010, the town's first, recorded 26 inhabitants in Roger Mills County and 61 more in Beckham County, for a total of 87 within the city limits. Nearly 85 percent of residents commute to work in larger towns, in the oil field, or in agribusinesses in the region. In April 2020 the census found 102 residents.

Dianna Everett

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Learn More

A 100-Year History of Cheyenne and Roger Mills County (Rich Hill, Mo.: Randy and Ellen Bell, 1995).

Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey House Publishing, 2003).

R. L. Polk & Company, Oklahoma State Gazetteer and Business Directory (Detroit, Mich.: R. L. Polk & Company, 1909–18).

George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974).

The Next Thirty Years: The History of Roger Mills County, 1972–2002 (N.p.: Roger Mills County Historical Society, 2002).


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Dianna Everett, “Sweetwater,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=SW008.

Published February 11, 2015
Last updated March 29, 2024

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