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Washita County, Oklahoma

ERASMUS G. THURMOND. The sixteen years that have elapsed since the opening of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservations on April 19, 1892, have witnessed a remarkable development of this part of Western Oklahoma. The region that up to that time had been a vast grazing country was soon turned into many productive areas where corn, wheat, cotton, broom corn and other staple crops enriched thousands of settlers from near and far-off states. The counties of Blaine, Custer, Dewey, Roger Mills, Beckham, and Washita are notable as well for their splendid progress in the past as for their tremendous possibliities (sic) of the future.

With regard to the business interests of this section, much that is of historical value may be written from the record of the activities of one man and his family. Throughout this section of the state the name of Eramus G, Thurmond is practically synonomous (sic) with business on a large scale, with sound credit in finance, and with public spirit in the prosecution and extension of business affairs. "Uncle Jube Thurmond," as he is popularly known, is a pioneer of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservations, was one of its first merchants and cattlemen, and now in connection with his sons is at the head of a chain of eleven banks that forn1 the financial basis for a large proportion of the business carried on in western Oklahoma.

His career both before and after coming to Oklahoma has unusual interest. Born in Wayne county, Kentucky, in 1844, when nine years old (1853) he moved with his parents to Tarrant county, Texas, to a ranch northwest of Fort Worth. At that time Fort Worth was still a fort, with a small settlement about it, and Birdville was the county seat and most important town. Mr. Thurmond was identified with the frontier until the frontier was wiped out by the advance of settlement, and is one of the most typical and successful of the rugged characters who developed the southwest country. The cattle business being the most important industry of northwest Texas in those days, he was connected with it from boyhood. During the Civil war he enlisted in Company E of the Fifteenth Texas, under Colonel Sweet of Galveston, who subsequently became a famous newspaper man of that state. After a service throughout the rebellion, he participated in the struggle against the Indians of northwestern Texas, and was one of the builders of Fort Richardson in Jack county, where he made his headquarters several years. For nine years before moving across the line into the new country of Oklahoma, he was a cattleman of the Texas Panhandle, living on a ranch at Mobeetie.

With the opening of the Cheyenne and Arapahoe reservations in 1892, he made the run into the country and has lived here ever since. Taking up a quarter section near Cheyenne in Roger Mills county, and subsequently acquiring more land in that vicinity, he continued to engage in the cattle business. Then with his older sons he became one of the pioneer merchants of Cheyenne, and the success of this business was the foundation far the increasing commercial and financial interests that are now associated with the name of Thurmond.

In 1898, with the establishment of the Cheyenne State Bank, the Thurmonds entered the field of enterprise to which they now give their principal attention. The Cheyenne bank is the parent institution of ten other banks, all owned by Mr. Thurmond and sons, giving them the largest banking prestige of any firm in the western portion of Oklahoma. Their leading institution, and the one which is their business headquarters, is the First National Bank of Elk City, which was established September 4, 1902. The First National, of which Mr. Thurmond is president, has a capital and surplus of $100,000, and has had a growth in keeping with the wonderful development of Elk City and its rich surrounding country, where the rare resources in the production of broom corn, cotton, wheat, corn, etc., make this particular region one of the marvels of the new state. Far about a year before the establishment af the bank at Elk City the Thurmonds had a mercantile business there, but are no longer connected with this form of business. However, they still have large landed interests in Roger Mills and Beckham counties. The nine other banks of the firm, besides the two mentioned, are: The Citizens National of Cordell, the First National of Clinton, the First National of Foss, the First National of Sayre, the First State of Erick, the State Bank of Canute, the State Bank of Dill, the First National of Texola, and the State Bank of Grand in Ellis county.

The growth to wealth and high standing of the Thurmond family make a more remarkable record when it is considered that they were in very modest circumstances when they came to Oklahoma in 1892. They have made their fortune through hard work, honest efforts, square dealing with their patrons, and by keeping pace with the development of this country. The five sons are O. H., A. L., E. K., I. C., and John Peter. There is one daughter, Florence, the wife of C. E. Gannaway, cashier of the bank at Clinton.

Source: Hill, Luther. A History of the State of Oklahoma, Volume II. New York: The Lewis Publishing Company, 1908, 410-411.

Contributed by Marti Graham, August 2003. Information posted as courtesy to researchers. The contributor is not related to nor researching any of the families mentioned.


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