This small town located in Carter County may have a total area of less than six miles but it once served as the trading center for many smaller communities in the region. Rich in history, the city still stands strong with the town dedicated to preserving the past and promoting the future.
"Wonder City of Carter County"
Wilson is located in Carter County along U.S. Highway 70, 16 miles west of Ardmore and 35 miles east of Waurika. The town was established in the early 1900’s by Jake Hamon and John Ringling. Hamon was an attorney, oilman and politician, while Ringling was part owner of the extremely successful Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus. Wilson was named in honor of Charles C. Wilson who was Ringling’s personal secretary. Hamon had inspiring dreams of developing a railroad to the west coast, which inevitably led him to the town of Wilson. While traveling in New York City, Hamon unexpectedly met Ringling at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel. They enthusiastically discussed Hamon’s desire to construct a railroad and quickly formed a business partnership. On September 22, 1913, a contract was signed for the construction of a railroad depot in Wilson. By January 1914, Wilson was considered to be the ‘Wonder City of Carter County’ with businesses growing town-wide, including a newspaper, telegraph service, oil supply houses, two hotels and half a dozen restaurants with a growing population of 1,500. A post office was established in early 1914 and a public library was opened in 1917.
South Ward was the first school built in Wilson and was opened as a two story building in January 1915; it housed all Wilson students until a three story high school was built in 1918. The Wilson High School sports teams were originally known as “The Drillers” reflecting the oil boom, then in 1927 were renamed the “Fighting Eagles” as a representation of an eagle’s fighting spirit. Over time, the symbol for the school as well as for the town of Wilson became known as the Eagle.
By the mid-twenties, Wilson had a flourishing population of 5,000 with several businesses including banks, refineries, medical offices, over 60 retail stores and a variety of hotels. Wilson was recognized as a first class municipality and destination.
Over time, the economic depression led to the loss of many businesses in Wilson and the population is currently less than 2,000. The years after WWII and the increased use of automobiles gradually left the town with economic challenges, but a rich history.
The Wilson community proudly celebrated its Centennial on November 5, 2014, and even though the railroad ceased operation in 1976, the strong town spirit of Wilsonites lives on. In recent years, Wilson has seen the opening of the Wilson Historical Museum, a general store, a new splash pad, and revitalization of the city swimming pool. Several businesses are currently thriving in Wilson, including Blondell’s Flowers & Gifts, the Wilson Public Library, American National Bank, Jimmy D’s Catfish, Des’ Veggies Garden Center, Black Gold Casino and many more.
Visit the Wilson Historical Museum for interesting artifacts and archives from the early 1900s to present day. Walk the same streets as Chuck Norris did as a child visiting Wilson. Stop by Blondell’s Flowers & Gifts for a unique treasure to take home, and don’t forget to catch a bite at the locally owned Jimmy D’s Catfish for a meal to remember! Finally, you might want to enjoy a gaming experience before heading out of town at Black Gold Casino. Wilson is a welcoming community, full of town spirit and southern charm, this is definitely a historical hot spot to place on the travel map in Chickasaw Country!
The Wilson Historical Museum opened in November 2001 under the Wilson Historical Society, which was established in 1998. The museum features artifacts and exhibits in a renovated mid-1920’s building, located on Highway 70A at 8th Street in Wilson. Over a thousand photographs, artifacts, and newspapers dating from 1915 to present day tell the history of Wilson and western Carter County. Currently, a weekly column “Museum Memories” is printed in The Wilson Post-Democrat. The museum also offers a shop available in-store and on their websitewww.wilsonhistoricalmuseum.org.The Centennial Cookbook, which contains biographies, pictures and recipes from Wilson citizens, is also recently available at The Wilson Historical Museum. Hours will quickly pass by as you become engrossed in the vast array of historical legends, documents and photographs!
Chuck Norris, who was born in Ryan, Oklahoma, often visited his grandmother in Wilson. As a child his family was in and out of Wilson and when he was almost a teenager, they moved to California. The internationally known martial artist and movie star's mother still makes her way back to Wilson to visit once or twice a year.
In the 1990s a Chuck Norris Museum opened in Wilson, in which he visited during the grand opening. The Museum is currently closed but "Home Town of Chuck Norris" remains painted on the Wilson water tower.
Blondell's Flowers & Gifts is located on Main Street in Wilson off of Highway 70. This charming shop opened its doors over twenty years ago and remains a thriving business in the area. The store features several floral arrangements for all occasions, unique gifts and home decor. The owner and employees are always welcoming, and Blondell's Flower's & Gifts also presents a pet friendly destination. So, bring your furry best friend on a road trip to visit a business that offers more than a shopping experience, but a historical stopover as well.
Jimmy D's Catfish is a family owned restaurant located in Wilson on Highway 70 at Cimarron Road in Wilson. Catfish lovers can't get enough of Jimmy D's! Reviews say toss out the tartar sauce, it's not needed at this joint. Known for their weekend buffets overflowing with everything from their famous catfish to ribs, sausage and mini shrimp, this local restaurant also features American cuisine and diner style options such as chicken fried steak and burgers. Stop by and catch a bite atJimmy D's Catfish!
Black Gold Casino is located in Wilson on highway 70, conveniently open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week and is adjacent to the Wilson Travel Stop, where visitors will find a several snacks and convenience items. The gaming facility features over 200 electronic games covering 3,744 square feet and you will find the customer service always up to speed! Black Gold Casino will celebrate a decade since its establishment at the end of this year. The facility also offers a variety of entertaining promotional events and features a gaming experience you won't want to miss!
Wilson is a venture worth its weight in scrumptious homemade catfish and historical charm! I look forward to visiting this welcoming quaint town again in the near future.
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