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Oklahoma City's Original Hero

Picture this: it’s 1910. Oklahoma is young and … thriving?

As legend has it, thriving isn’t exactly an accurate depiction of the scene — especially in Oklahoma City. Leadership had failed to recruit a major industry to the area, causing panic as an anchor employer was nowhere in sight.

In an effort to turn Oklahoma City’s fate, town leadership got the bright idea to write letter to the northern packing companies, requesting they come take a tour of the “next best location for their business endeavors.”

Packing plant owners agreed and the businessmen met in the city hub, which we now celebrate as Downtown, just miles away and certainly visible from where the stockyards property sits today.

The crew loaded up in the only car that graced Oklahoma City’s “streets” to begin their trek to the proposed site. While site visits today may be elaborate recruitment tools, our Oklahoma City forefathers didn’t have such luxuries. In fact, the infrastructure could more accurately be likened to the Wild West! To be more precise: it took two days to survive the voyage, with a brief run-in with quick sand and a river crossing.

The trip looked to be doomed as the important, wealthy businessmen were sure to be unimpressed by the unfortunate series of events. But when the folks got to the site, the packing plant owners said something to the effect of, “sure, we’ll come … on a few conditions …”

“ … such as: we’d like to remain unincorporated in the city limits of Oklahoma City, we’d like free water for a specified amount of time, and we’d like to be paid $300,000 — cash.”

Other requests made the list too, and much to many’s present-day surprise, the Oklahoma City leaders were amendable to the “conditions”.

The packing plants began to build in Oklahoma City and with them came their terminal market counterpart: the Oklahoma National Stockyards.

In those days, transportation was an issue. Most cattle were brought in by rail and it simply didn’t make sense after they were sold to ship them again to where they’d be harvested. Instead, having the market geographically accessible was a strategic business decision to cut further costs to processing the animals. Livestock could simply be moved across the street instead of through miles of undeveloped prairie (remember — quicksand).

Today, the packing plants have relocated as modern transportation removes the proximity necessity. Industry dynamics have also shifted as cattle no longer go directly to the packing plant and instead have other steps along their journey, meaning ONSY is no longer a terminal market.

However, it’s a title the stockyards doesn’t want to forget, as it acts a resounding symbol of the industry changes the market has survived.

The Oklahoma National Stockyards is the last terminal market still selling cattle.

The story serves as a reminder of all that the stockyards is, and has always been, for Oklahoma City.

We were here creating jobs and impact when nobody else would answer the call.

We are still a significant employer.

We play a critical role in the beef supply chain.

We matter to Oklahoma City, to Oklahoma and to our Nation.

Let’s not ever forget it, folks.

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