I am researching the Guthrie family for my book and, like many other local families, they have always been as closely linked to Kenefic as Caddo. So today I thought I would give you a brief history of our neighbors. If you had relatives in Kenefic and need more, let me know.
From Chronicles of Oklahoma
Located in northern Bryan County, Kenefic lies on State Highway 22 approximately seven miles west of Caddo. The area has a considerable history in the Choctaw Nation. Near the present town stood Fort McCulloch, constructed in 1862. Nail's Station on the Butterfield Overland Mail route, which ran from 1858 to 1861, was also located near Kenefic. Both properties have been listed in the National Register of Historic Places, the fort (NR 71000659) in 1971 and Nail's Station (NR 72001059) in 1972. The community held the postal designation of Nail from 1888 to 1910.
When the Missouri, Oklahoma and Gulf Railway (MO&G) laid tracks through the region in 1908-10, the MO&G Land Improvement Company promoted the town, advertising lots for sale in a variety of state newspapers, including Oklahoma City's Daily Oklahoman. In 1910 the postal designation changed to Kenefic, named for William Kenefick, president of the MO&G. Throughout its history the town has been referred to as Kenefick and as Kenefic. Its lone newspaper, published in the 1910s, had the title Kenefick Dispatch. By 1911 the community had an estimated population of 250 and supported the newspaper, a bank, a hotel, a doctor, and a number of retail stores. By 1913 the town had added another bank. In 1920 there were 413 residents.
In 1930 the population stood at 284, and it declined further to 115 in 1950. The town continued as an agricultural community. Pioneer aviator Ira Clarence Eaker lived in Kenefic as a young man. In 1990 residents successfully fought to keep the Union Pacific Railroad, which owned the tracks at the time, from removing the rails of the abandoned line. The 2000 population was 192, and Kenefic served as a "bedroom" community for the region's larger towns, as 95.5 percent of workers commuted to their jobs.
History of Kenefic
By Betty A. Owens (Written, December, 1966)
Kenefic, a small town in the northwest former of Bryan County, has a vast history written mainly in the hearts of the people who live there. There are several residents who well remember when Kenefic came into existence 57 years ago. Mrs. Thanie Shipmen, who moved into the area 12 years before the town began, says “It just seemed to spring up overnight.” She recalls that he first living quarters in the town were the tents put up by the men who were building the railroad there.
The railroad was the cause of the towns beginning. Being one of the richest farming areas in southern Oklahoma, the land produced an abundance of corn and cotton. Mr. Kenefick, a contractor with the M. O. & G. railroad, saw the prospects for such an area. He was the person instrumental in getting the railroad through.
Mr. George Lowry was the sole owner of the land in 1909 when the town began. It is said that Mr. Kenefick helped to sell the lots. Of course the town wears his name. The “K’ was removed from the end of the name by the post office.
Two cotton gins were constructed in the town- the Ferguson gin and the Choctaw Oil Company gin. They were run on steam engines. The Ferguson gin burned in 1926. The Choctaw gin remained until the early 30s when it burned. It was then moved to the location on which the gin now stands. Elmer Hopkins bought the gin from the Choctaw Company and then later sold it to K. Bass. It is now owned by Mr. Bass and Garland Washington. Mr. Washington reports that the gin work was lots harder and the wages not near as good in the 30s. The pay was $1.50 per day and overtime began at midnight.
One of the first businesses in Kenefic was the Guthrie drug store. It was moved there by W. L. Guthrie in 1909 when the town began. He ran it until July 1921 when he sold it to his brother, Lloyd. W. L. then became vice-president of the First National Bank there.
The town was booming within three years after its beginning. People came from miles around on Saturday evenings for trades day. When the crowds were gathered many thrilling events took place. There were contests in everything from “tug-o-war” to rodeo events, and prizes were given the winners. It was reported by Thanie Shipman that trade slowed down at times because in rainy weather the streets would become so muddy that it wasn’t unusual to see farmers coming to town for groceries with only the front wheels of their wagons hitched to their horses. Sometimes even that would have to be pushed out of the mud.
Another person who can testify to the fact that the town “sprang up overnight” is Mrs. Lloyd Guthrie, wife of the late Lloyd M. Guthrie, the town’s well-loved pharmacist of 49 years. She came to Kenefic when it was only 10 years old. She was then Miss Mamie Boyet, a grade school teacher. When she arrived here in 1919 there were two banks, two drug stores, a hardware and furniture store, two dry-goods stores, a hotel, two restaurants, several grocery stores, and two cotton gins. There was also a train depot. Two passenger trains came through every day. There was also a “dinky” that carried the mail.
There were three doctors practicing in Kenefic by 1912. Drs. Kay, Dickey, and Darbison. Dr. Darbison owned the town’s hotel. (Note: Dr. Darbison died unexpectedly in 1919.)
Mrs. Celeste Smith Thomas, still a resident of Kenefic, and Viola Howard, were the first teachers in the school. The building was built in 1912. Mrs. Thomas says that a new teacher was added to the staff each year as the enrollment increased. In 1919 when Miss Boyet began teaching the primary, first and second grades, her group was so large that half of them had to come for morning classes and the other half in the afternoon. The Model school award given to the school in 1927 shows that it received a superior rating.
Mrs. Shipman tells us that her education came before the Kenefic School was built. She attended classes in a one room log building at Center Hill. She quotes “There were a few ‘good’ benches in the room but most of the seats were split logs.” She muses that the lesson they had depend on whatever text book they happened to own.
It is hard to understand just what causes an industrious town like Kenefic to start decreasing in size. As were many other towns around, it was affected by the depression of the 30s. The First National Bank was merged with the Durant National Bank in 1923. The depot was closed around 1930. Residents say that the town descended nearly as rapidly as it rose up.
The last of the original buildings to be torn down was the Guthrie Drug Store. Mr. and Mrs. Guthrie retired in 1960. She had been the postmaster since 1928. The post office was in the drug store building.
The High School was annexed to Caddo in 1958. The Grade School still remains there. Mr. Elmer Kitchens, a graduate of Kenefic High School, and Mrs. Glen Sharpe are the teachers.
Kenefic now has a population of around 150. There are three nice grocery stores there. The Fred Washington and the Whitmire groceries are on the south edge of the town, and the J. D. Fanning store is located west of the town on highway 48. The post office is in the Whitmire grocery and Mr. Whitmire is the postmaster.
The modern Washington-Bass cotton gin is still doing a booming business.
I wish to thank the many wonderful people of Kenefic who have helped to unfold the pages of history of such an interesting place. Betty A. Owens
The Caddo Herald
November 22, 1912
Kenefic Building Up
Contracts have been let for about two miles of sidewalks here, and work has begun. C.E. Blessing has most of the contracts, and they include ten-foot walks in the business section, and four-foot walks in the residence part; they will extend to the north line of town, thence west to the school and church, besides other directions, thus enabling our people to walk with comfort during the bad weather soon to come.
Two new bricks are going up, one for the Farmers State Bank, just north of Guthrie’s Drug Store, and one north of L. C. LeFlore’s for Levi Airington; both are 25x70 feet and will be modern in every particular.
Kenefick has marketed four thousand bales of cotton this season. Still the staple continues to come in.
The Farmers State Bank has opened for business in the Guthrie Drug Store. R. P. Dickey is cashier, and W. H. Morris, of Caddo, has been here since the opening, aiding in getting matters straight. Kenefick gets improvements because she deserves them.
The band boys have reorganized with F. E. Finch as leader. The boys made considerable progress during the summer but interest died down this fall. We hope the boys will take the proper interest, and that our people will give them the necessary encouragement, for a good band comes in mighty handy on trade days and other celebrations, besides furnishing splendid amusement at all times.
J. D. Thompson, from Caddo, is buying cotton here.
H. E. Wells was in town Friday looking after supplies for the box supper which was given that night at Carroll’s chapel.
George Harrison, our next county treasurer and J. R. McKinney, president of the Durant National Bank, were in Kenefick last Friday on business. They remarked at the improvements going on in town.
A deal has been consummated whereby Mr. J. T. Petty sold to J. R. McKinney his interest in the First National Bank and will resign as cashier as soon as his successor arrives. Mr. Petty has not intimated what he will do in the future. We will regret it very much if he should leave us. The bank has made wonderful progress under his management and has been a large factor in the up building of Kenefick.
Business conditions are good. The weather has enabled the farmers to gather their cotton and corn, and soon they will be ready for the wintry weather. The cribs are full, the supplies are bought, and they can sit back and hear the winds outside how, while inside they will hear the crackle of the big log fires and rest content.
Many farmers are coming in, looking for land to rent.
J. E. Cosgrave has become reconciled to the results of the election, and says that if the Republicans will quit making fools of themselves they may get back into power again.
Miss Katie Adams has been clerking in the Stevens’ store during their sale.
D.O. Nail was here from Caddo last Friday making medicine with regard to his appointment as U.S. Marshal for the Eastern District of Oklahoma. Mr. Nail was raised at Nail Crossing near here, most of his property interests are here and he has many friends in Kenefick who have known him from infancy. It is hoped that he will land the plum. He is a staunch Democrat and if appointed will make a good officer. His experience as a cattleman and hunter would be of benefit in the office to which he aspires.