Taking its name from the Marlow family – which included the five brothers whose curious, tragic Texas adventures are chronicled in Oklahoma folklore – the town of Marlow serves up a measure of good living for its residents, all while preserving historic roots.
The 2020 U.S. Census revealed a population of about 4,400, but Marlow Chamber of Commerce director Destiny Ahlfenger says city water meter connections since then suggest significant growth.
Ahlfenger says locals are proud of the city’s historic past, its quiet life and its sports traditions that includes recent high school football and wrestling championships.
“We do like our sports,” she says.
There’s much to sample in Marlow, including excellent food, eclectic shopping, recreation and the aforementioned rich history, which starts with the Chisholm Trail. The famed cattle trail brought the first settlers, and a trading post, to Marlow in the late 1800s. The first post office was established in 1891.
Marlow took its name from the family of Dr. Williamson Marlow, who raised six children including five boys. Said boys, once grown, entered the cattle business. The original town name was Marlow Grove and later shortened to Marlow, says Ahlfenger.
Soon enough, the grown-up Marlow boys migrated to Texas but retained roots in their hometown. It was in the Lone Star State where trouble found them and, according to an Oklahoma Historical Society account, they were accused unjustly of animal theft.
A major ruckus broke out, including a jail break, attempted lynching and several deaths, including two of the Marlows. The twisted tale was adapted into a screenplay, and later a 1965 movie titled The Sons of Katie Elder that starred the likes of John Wayne and Dean Martin.
“The screenplay was closer to the real story, but the movie was not close,” says Ahlfenger. “Hollywood privileges” were taken, she says, including a background that didn’t remotely resemble the southwestern Oklahoma landscape.
“But it was still a good movie,” she concedes.
The granite marker that provides historic detail about the Marlows can be found at the entrance to Redbud Park, a 10-acre layout on the Marlows’ original homestead. The park also includes Redbud Chapel, the city’s original Catholic Church that Ahlfenger says is now a popular wedding venue, and features a walking trail, children’s playground, splash pad and community center. A skateboard park was recently added to Redbud Park and has proved popular.
Ahlfenger says Redbud Park is the site of the city’s huge, annual Independence Day celebration that’s climaxed by one of the state’s biggest fireworks displays. Upcoming this year is Marlow’s annual Christmas parade on Dec. 2, which Ahlfenger says is one of the largest in the area.
Did You Know?
A noted aviator and three successful athletes hail from Marlow.
Eula Pearl Carter, a stunt pilot, was later a political activist for the Chickasaw Nation. Family friend and aviation pioneer Wiley Post sparked her interest in flying, and she completed her first solo flight at age 13. Her stunt flying and political activism earned her places in the Oklahoma Aviation and Space Hall of Fame and the Chickasaw Nation Hall of Fame. Her life story was the subject of a movie, Pearl, and her portrait was hung in the Oklahoma House of Representatives in 2014.
Terry Brown played football for Oklahoma State University and the Minnesota Vikings.
Joe Dial is a world record pole vaulter and Oklahoma State alumnus who later had a successful career coaching men’s and women’s track and cross country at Oral Roberts University.
Michael Lightner was a 1971 NCAA wrestling champion at the University of Oklahoma and later an OU assistant wrestling coach.
Main image cutline: A granite marker sits outside Redbud Park and tells the story of the town’s namesake family. Photo courtesy Marlow Chamber of Commerce