TEMPLE – On a recent Thursday morning, at the TH Rogers lumber store, on the edge of downtown in this Cotton County town, manager Micah Lipscomb was holding court with friends and colleagues.
“I’ve been here 62 years,” Lipscomb said. “I was born and raised in Cotton County.”
An affable, easygoing man, Lipscomb said he has worked for TH Rogers for more than three decades. He has seen businesses come and go in Temple.
Lipscomb and his companions recollected how the Union Pacific Railroad used to run a spur through Temple, and serviced the two cotton gins that were in Temple in those days. But save for some old rails that are still visible through the center of town, the tracks were mostly taken out in the past 15 years or so, Lipscomb and the others confirmed.
“Why didn’t they pull up all the irons,” asked an unmasked man to his masked companions.
“They ain’t worth anything now,” another replied, his voice muffled through the mask material.
These days there are several large grain elevators in Temple. One of them was active when we came by, with semis taking in loads to take elsewhere. Temple, which is not far from the Red River and the Texas border, is a flat area, with great soil and plenty of farms and ranches surrounding its environs. It makes sense that when Temple was founded in 1902, its nickname was “Gateway to the Big Pasture.”
Lipscomb said most folks in Temple work or worked in Lawton (at the Goodyear plant) or Duncan (with Halliburton), while still living in Temple.
Word has it that the best steak in southwest Oklahoma can be found at the Rock-in’ H Land & Cattle Company at 116 N. Commercial Street. As they claim on their website, “Rock-in’ H is serving up hearty, cowboy-style dinners in a rustic, intimate atmosphere. The meals at Rock-in’ H are big and each one packs plenty of flavor. Steaks are the specialty here, all of them served tender and juicy with a hand-dipped onion ring on top.”
Across the street is the Temple History Museum, which is housed in a large building near downtown. The museum highlights the historic families of Temple and the former Pleasant Ridge School, which was open from 1901 to 1948 and now is where community and club meetings are held.
Another building, the Temple Senior Citizens Center, at the corner of Minnesota Street and Walnut Avenue, once housed the Temple Masonic Lodge, which originally opened in 1968.
Near the Pleasant Ridge School and TH Rogers Lumber is the equally pleasant Tab & Helen Dowlen City Park. No one was in the park on a weekday morning, as dogs barked in the distance and birds chirped in nearby trees. There were plenty of benches to sit on and a well-used swing set for children to enjoy. The setting was peaceful and welcoming.
Tab and Helen Dowlen were an important couple in Temple. They are now both buried in the Temple Masonic Cemetery.
Most folks do not know that Temple was named for a noted trial lawyer who worked the circuit in Oklahoma Territory – Temple Lea Houston – the youngest son of Gen. Sam Houston, who helped lead the Texas Revolution.
Meanwhile, Micah Lipscomb explains that the high price of lumber these days has actually been due to COVID-19 and more young people seeking to build houses, among other reasons.
Last year was a record year in TH Rogers’ 100-year history,” said Lipscomb.
Temple clearly had been a big town in Cotton County in the early and mid-20th century. But as economics, mobility and population patterns changed going into the 21st century, Temple lost population, but it still has a big heart, as evidenced by the welcome we received.