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Secession In The Air And The Voting Booth

August 14, 2002

Almanac Transcript

Secession in the air and the voting booth, this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.

Hello, Iím Steven Knoche Kite.

The physical borders of Oklahomaís 77 counties have always been less than permanent. There are numerous cases of counties changing shape or being reduced or enlarged in size; still the experience of Grady County in southwest Oklahoma is certainly out of the norm for even Oklahoma history.

Grady County is a long rectangle running bordered on the north by Canadian County and Stephens County in the south. There began in the early 1930ís a movement by residents of southern Grady county to secede from Grady and join Stephens County. The section of land in question was a four-mile-wide strip across the bottom of Grady County known fittingly enough as Four Mile Strip. Some of the residents of Four Mile Strip believed that their interests would be better served by Stephens County.

Those in favor of secession argued that they were closer to the county seat of Stephens County, Duncan, than the county seat of Grady County, Chickasaw. Those proposing the change also argued that for too long, Grady County had ignored the building and improvement of roads in the southern part of the county, leaving farmers there with less than adequate transportation routes.

Both counties -- for tax revenues and government assistance purposes -- wanted to claim the Four Mile Strip, and in April of 1935 there was held in the questioned region a vote of the people. It was decided by a decision of 513 to 171 to remain a part of Grady County. Unknown to most voters at the time was the fact that even if Grady County residents had voted to leave, Stephens County would have had to conducted a special vote to decide whether or not to annex the strip putting the Four Mile Strip in a state of limbo during the interim.

Five short years later the issue came up again and a petition circulated with the intention of putting the issue to a vote once more. In this case there were enough people signing an anti-secession petition that the issues for and against canceled themselves out with no vote being held.

In 1950, fifteen years after the first try, residents still dissatisfied with their life in southern Grady County gathered enough signatures to put the secession question once again before the people. It was in this week of 1950 for the third and final time that residents voiced their opinion for or against leaving. By a vote of 344 to 84 it was decided that the Four Mile Strip would remain, for the foreseeable future at least, in Grady County.

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