Flashback-Fast Forward: Oklahoma National Stockyards Company

Friday, July 15, 2016 9:00 am

For 106 years the Oklahoma National Stockyards Company has been an active embodiment of Oklahoma City’s western roots. Established on Oct. 3, 1910, only three years after Oklahoma was granted statehood, the stockyards have showed amazing vitality in continuing to attract buyers, sellers, visitors, cowboys and everything in between for more than a century.

In 1909, civic leaders Anton Classen and Charles Colcord set out to convince the meat packing industry to locate in Oklahoma City. They approached Morris and Company, a successful meat packing company from Chicago. In 1910, Morris and Company agreed to come to OKC and they built a plant on a 120 acre plot of land west of the river and south of downtown. The Oklahoma National Stockyards Company started its operations as a public livestock market on the same plot of land that same year. Soon after, Amour and Company and Schwartzchild and Sulzberger, two other meat packing companies, also built plants around the stockyards and Packingtown was formed. Packingtown employed 2,400 people during a time when the city had a population of only 60,000.

By 1973, the Oklahoma National Stockyards Company was the biggest market in the nation in terms of livestock handling. With the dawn of the 21st century, most of America’s large stockyards closed. The Oklahoma National Stockyards were one of only six stockyards out of more than two dozen that survived the turn of the century. The others closed due to acquisitions made directly at feedlots or by internet sales. The Oklahoma National Stockyards Company remains the world’s biggest stocker and feeder cattle market.

Today, what was once known as Packingtown is now known as Historic Stockyards City and is on the National Register of Historic Places. While the meat packing plants closed in 1961, many of the same or similar shops around the stockyards are still operational today. Places like Cattlemen’s Steakhouse, the Rodeo Opry, Shorty’s Caboy Hattery and Langston’s Western Wear cater to both visitors and working cowboys. Stockyards City is also the headquarters for the International Professional Rodeo Association. There’s something at Stockyards City for cowboys and cowgirls of all ages.

The Oklahoma City National Stockyards Company is located at 2501 Exchange Ave., just west of Stockyards City’s Main Street. The Oklahoma City National Stockyards Company continues to be a cornerstone of the agriculture industry for Oklahoma City.