Toward the back of the Woodward County Courthouse is a big room that contains land records dating as far back as 1893, when Oklahoma was still a U.S. territory.

All four walls of the room are filled with heavily bound leather books, newer metal bound books and still newer vinyl bound books -- all of them containing records about land in Woodward County, who owns it and how much.

Of the 803,200 acres that make up Woodward County, every one is on record and owned.

All of the land, excluding the city of Woodward, is divided into sections, townships and ranges.

“We have the original patents” of much land that dates back to the late 1800s, said County Clerk Ron Hohweiler. In those days, “the government had a deal where people could prove up their claim by living on property for five years. They then received a patent from the government,” which served as proof of ownership.

Information about these settlers can be found in the land records at the courthouse.

The courthouse land record library contains 2,074 books. Mortgage records are included in that number along with indexes.

“The oldest books have been recreated,” Hohweiler said. “Copies of the originals can now be pulled out and looked at or copied. The first book goes back to Nov. 11, 1893.”

Many of the records are now recorded on microfilm, but much history still can be found among the pages of the older books.

For example, thousands of acres once belonged to big ranches, like the Cooper Ranch and the Selman Ranch, Hohweiler said. All of this property is on record and is now divided up.

Descriptions of property also can be found.

In one entry, a recorder wrote the land consisted of “rolling prairie and the soil is second-rate.”

In 2003, the county began recording land records on computers.

However, the records have paper back ups, which in 2003 suffered from theft.

Oil company employees sent to photograph records of mineral rights and property owners confiscated pages from the books, Hohweiler said.

“They started pulling the pages out,” he said, “but by then the information was on computers. For protection, “we installed cameras. It’s against the law to steal records.”

Hohweiler said the situation resolved itself after the county planned not only to prosecute the culprits, but their employers.

While the county is divided into townships, ranges and sections, the city of Woodward and other communities in Woodward County are divided into lots and blocks.

“Every piece of property has a designation,” Hohweiler said.

All of this property -- county and city owned -- can be looked up in indexes, which show where to find information about land ownership and size. The indexes are now on microfilm.

“As funding permits, we will have them refilmed, because new pages have been added,” Hohweiler said.

Not only does the county have indexes, ownership is recorded alphabetically by name.

“Genealogy people use these names to look up the old homestead,” Hohweiler said. “We make them copies of documents they may want to take with them.”

While everything is recorded on paper, the county in 2003 began entering the information on computers. Every day, documents are entered that date back farther and farther.

“Eventually, everything will be on computer,” Hohweiler said. However, “as long as I’m here, the information will still be available in books too. We’re blessed with an abundance of space to keep land records.”

Woodward County is 36 miles wide and 45 miles long at its highest point.

As the county prospers and grows, “we’re there to make sure everything is recorded properly,” Hohweiler said. “People come in from around the state and out of state and compliment us on our records. We have a really good, concise record system.”

Hohweiler contributed the good record keeping to past county employees and current ones -- Charlotte Waggoner, Marie Kirkwood and Rachelle Rogers.

“Rachelle back enters data (into the computer banks) prior to 2003,” he said. “She’s on October of 1999.”

Computers are available at the courthouse for looking up property information.

Information about land ownership in Woodward County also is available on the Internet. But actual documents are not be shown.

“The documents have Social Security numbers on them,” Hohweiler said. “We just put out basic information about them.”

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