If you really want to learn about Wayne, Oklahoma, speak to Elaine Arnold, a former school teacher.
When mentioned that there are significant differences between her little town and Wayne, New Jersey, she responds while laughing, “Oh my, you don’t know!”
Here are some rough numbers. Wayne, New Jersey, is about 25 square miles. While in Wayne, Oklahoma, you can walk the whole, one square mile length in 15 minutes. “That’s exactly right,” Arnold says.
Populations? How’s this for a disparity? About 55,000 residents to 700.
“I have records that show that we started having meetings at the City Council in the 1890s,” Arnold says about her town’s humble beginnings. However, Wayne, Oklahoma, was officially platted in 1902, so perhaps a special 220th anniversary celebration is in order.
Arnold, who is originally from Wayne and after a brief period away moved back in 1977, speaks to the sister city’s early years.
“When the railroad came through, the men who worked on the railroad were from Pennsylvania, and they named the town from where they were from. And so, they had a Wayne, Pennsylvania, and you can see it on the map. People wanted to believe that it was from Mad Anthony Wayne, but they said it really wasn’t. It was just from the railroad workers.”
Wayne, Oklahoma, is nestled in McClain County, Route 77 runs through it, Route 59 along the southern border.
“Since I’ve lived here most all my life, I know so many people,” Arnold says. “I know several generations of people, and I just like the feel of a small town. I like the little businesses here. We try to trade here as often as we can.”
Wayne, Oklahoma, is still a very rural place, while our Wayne is a major location with plenty of roadways and eateries of every kind. Not so in Wayne, Oklahoma.
There is no lodging in town (you have to travel outside of town), but there is a new nifty little place to eat.
“It’s somewhat recent,” Arnold says of The PitStop Cafe, which is owned by Robert and Barbara Harper. “It just came in the spring, and we needed it so badly for somebody to just get a hamburger. And now we have it and everybody is so pleased about it that we don’t have to drive seven miles to Purcell to get something to eat.”
“We sell only fresh local beef from an independent butcher shop,” Barbara Harper said. “I shop each day for the freshest vegetables I can find. We love the town of Wayne and the community around us. Our message is, ‘Remember Jesus loves you, and so do we. We were called to Wayne by God to spread His word and to show His love.’”
Wayne, Oklahoma, is also home to a wonderful farmer’s market.
“Just certain times of the year and they have very good products,” Arnold says. “They have not only their fresh squash and cantaloupe and watermelon and things like that, but they also have things that the women have made.
“There’s one woman who makes the most wonderful salsa in the world. People come here from quite a distance to buy it when she has it. And she’s one of my students, too. We have something called Chow Chow. We don’t like relish - we like Chow Chow,” she said.
There are no nature areas in Wayne, but there is a town gathering spot called Linville Park.
“(Named) just for a lady who lived here,” Arnold explains. “And she was a real community worker and we named the park after her. We put up our Christmas display usually days after Thanksgiving. We decorate the park and then we turn on the lights and have a little ceremony and the countdown.”
Arnold reflects proudly about her home.
“Back in the 1800s, a group of people came through here with covered wagons and horses from the East. They were on their way to California because they just had the ‘49 Gold Rush and they wanted to go out and get a bit of it.
“And so, they came through the town on what is now Highway 59, and as they went through the town, history says, that they said if they didn’t strike it rich in California, they would come back here because they loved the land. We’re near the river and the land is very good for farming.
“And some did; they came back here and started little farming plots. They said this is a place they’d want to be and I guess if that was true in the 1800s or 1849, I guess it’s the same today. I like to think of it as this is the place for those of us who have lived here so long, that this is the place we want to be,” she concluded.
For more information, visit www.townofwayneok.org.
Reprinted with permission of Joe Nicastro with Wayne Life, a division of My Life Publications.
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