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W. Thomas Yoakum

W. Thomas Yoakum. Among the men whose work is of statewide importance in Oklahoma, W. Thomas Yoakum figures prominently as he is federal and county farm demonstration agent for Coal County, his headquarters being at Coalgate. The necessity for improvement in agricultural conditions in this section became imperative in 1914 when the principal industry of mining was interfered with by reason of the high cost of the production of coal, many of the mines in the Coalgate district being shut down. Since that time special attention has been given to the agricultural resources of the county and remarkable strides have been made in that direction. As the soil is naturally fertile and the rainfall usually sufficient the only vital factor lacking in agricultural development was the general education of farmers. This work Mr. Yoakum has had in charge since the latter part of 1914 and as he brought with him in this office of farm demonstration agent a scientific education and the experience of many years of practical application of principles his efforts have been fraught with most gratifying success.
W. Thomas Yoakum was born in Hill County, Texas, in 1874, and he is a son of Jacob C. and Mary (Jones) Yoakum, the former a native of Missouri but for many years a pioneer farmer in Texas. With his mate, Jacob C. Yoakum was lost in a shipwreck off the coast of Calhoun County, Texas, in April, 1901, at which time he was engaged in the coast traffic business. The great-grandfather of the subject of this review was a major in the Continental army in the Revolution and lost his life in battle. Dr. W. T. Jones, maternal uncle of Mr. Yoakum, was a surgeon in the Confederate army during the Civil war.
After a preliminary education in the public schools of Texas Mr. W. Thomas Yoakum attended the Culberson Select School at Hillsboro, Texas, and also Baylor University of Waco. Subsequently he was a student for two years in the manual-training department of the University of Kansas; for one year he attended the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Texas, at College Station; and for a like period was a student in the Agricultural & Mechanical College of Oklahoma. On reaching his majority he began to teach school and he was successfully employed in that manner for five years in Texas and for eleven years in Indian Territory, having charge of the Choctaw & Chickasaw School in the latter section for several years and of the Euchee Government Indian School near Sapulpa for three years, being principal of the latter institution.
Mr. Yoakum entered farm demonstration work in Hughes County, Oklahoma, in 1907, and since that time has devoted his attention exclusively to that line of endeavor. He has a valuable farm in Hughes County and it was the marked success he achieved on this land through scientific methods that attracted the attention of the United States Department of Agriculture and resulted in his appointment as federal and county farm demonstration agent. Mr. Yoakum purchased the above farm on credit and the manner in which he made it pay for itself in a few years is splendid proof of the fact that he is a practical, thoroughgoing, educated man in agricultural lines.
The loss to Coal County of a large part of its normal income from mining activities in 1914 and the failure of the county commissioners to make an appropriation for agricultural improvement work caused J. G. Loving, cashier of the Coalgate State Bank, and S. A. Maxwell, cashier of the Citizens State Bank of Coalgate, to become interested in the work with the result that they guaranteed the county’s half of the expense of maintaining the demonstration department. This assistance came at a critical and most opportune time and more credit is given by Mr. Yoakum to these two men than to any other agency in making the work a pronounced success.
Under the direction of Mr. Yoakum interest in scientific agriculture has grown apace and there are now 421 farmers in Coal County applying modern methods. He estimates that it would require the service of seven men to answer the demands upon him for information and personal demonstration. There are seven federal demonstration farms in the county, as follows: the farm of W. H. Stevens, near Debs; A. L. McCarter, near Centrahoma; F. M. Mowdy, near Coalgate; Luther Taylor, near Olney; C. L. Duncum, near Clarita; Patsy Grinan, near Owl; and Edward Perry, near Coalgate. In addition to this line of work there are country clubs for the special information of boys and girls, of whom 376 are enrolled. These clubs give directions about the growing and caring for kaffir, cotton, corn, pigs and poultry and for the canning of fruits and vegetables and for the making of bread. Mrs. L. S. Morse has charge of the canning work.
As a result of Mr. Yoakum’s efforts interest has been created in crops not heretofore given much attention in the county. Alfalfa is now a profitable crop and in the last year or two the increase in the acreage of wheat has been 500 per cent; the acreage of oats three times that of 1914; the acreage of kaffir has doubled; and that of peanuts has increased from 200 acres in 1914 to 1,200 acres in 1915. The shipping of farm products has advanced many fold. To increase interest in marketing and to get the best possible markets and prices the Coal County Farmers Products Association was organized in 1914, with Centrahoma, Olney, Tupelo, Clarita and Bromide as shipping points and the following men as directors: B. B. Sanders, of Coalgate; D. Binns, of Parker; A. L. McCarter, of Centrahoma; and J. M. Moore, of Olney. Modern dairying methods are being introduced and the growing of thoroughbred stock is encouraged. One of the best evidences of the value of agricultural education in the county is found in the fact that in 1915 100 grain binders have been sold in the county, this being of special interest in view of the fact that hitherto this region has been devoted almost exclusively to the raising of cotton and corn. A county fair association has been organized and it has become an important incentive in furthering the agricultural work. Another evidence of the value of the work is that the county commissioners, after having formerly declined to do it, are now making annual appropriations to pay half the expense of the demonstration department. In 1915 the legislature made the demonstration agent a county officer and assigned to him the management of all agricultural improvement work and put the department of county fairs under his jurisdiction. The agent works in harmony with the Agricultural and Mechanical College at Stillwater and farmers of the county are given the benefit of all research and demonstration work carried on at this school.
From the foregoing it will be seen that great strides have been made in the improvement of agricultural conditions under the able supervision of Mr. Yoakum in one short year and at this rate what he will accomplish in the future is almost beyond comprehension. His success is due to his untiring efforts as combined with his expert knowledge of methods and his thorough familiarity with the territorial conditions as they exist in this county. Although he has but a small section of the state under his jurisdiction his work is proving a stimulant to farmers in other sections and a general improvement in agricultural affairs is going on throughout the state. Oklahoma farmers have a great friend in him and they are showing their appreciation of his efforts by working in hearty co-operation with his ideas.
At Dustin, Indian Territory, was solemnized the marriage of Mr. Yoakum to Miss Annie Dudley, in 1900. Three children have been born to this union, namely: Muzette, Kenneth and Juanita.
Mr. Yoakum fraternizes with the Independent Order of Odd Fellows, in which he has filled all the chairs including Noble Grand, and he is likewise a member of the Anti-Horse Thief Association. Formerly he was a member of the Farmers Union and for a time was business manager of that organization in Hughes County. He is a man of high-minded principles and one who is ever anxious and willing to lend a helping hand to a fellow man in distress. His residence is at Coalgate and there he commands the high esteem of all who know him.