A look at how Mattie Beal helped Lawton in early days

Mattie Beal is a name seen often around Lawton. But who was she, and what did she do for the city?
Published: Aug. 3, 2023 at 3:12 PM CDT
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LAWTON, Okla. (KSWO) - Lawton is celebrating its 112th birthday on Sunday, August 6th. As birthday celebrations are underway, 7NEWS is taking a look at who and what made the city what it is today.

One well-known name is Mattie Beal. A little more than a week before Lawton was founded, her name was drawn to receive 160 acres in the land lottery.

Beal’s name was the second one to be drawn in the 1901 Lawton land district. The land she received is in the middle of what we know as downtown Lawton from Railroad to 11th Street and from Lee Blvd. to the alley between I and J. Abby DeBaca, the vice president of the Lawton Heritage Association, said while she was lucky, others weren’t.

“There were thousands of tents with people coming, hoping to get a little land,” DeBaca said. “They were not having any luck getting lots.”

She said that’s when city fathers came to Beal and asked her if she’d be willing to break up her land into lots for settlement.

“She thought about it,” DeBaca said, “and she went and talked to some of the people at the tents and asked them, ‘if you could get land cheap, would you stay?’ They said yes, they would.”

Not only that, but she also gave land for Lincoln Elementary School, Beal Heights Presbyterian Church, and Union Park. She said one misconception people have is that Beal was rich.

“She wasn’t rich,” DeBaca said. “Yes, she had land, but she had to pay taxes on the land and then when she broke the land up into lots, she again had to pay taxes, so she never really made a lot of money on the sale of the land.”

DeBaca said most of the money to build the Mattie Beal Home, which is open for tours several days a week, came from her husband, Charles Payne and his business adventures. She said it’s important for children and adults to know Lawton’s history.

“This is where we started,” she said. “This is where Lawton started, and now look where we are. Mattie would be proud. She’d be very proud that we are still having this house open for the public, still having parties like she did when she lived here, and all kinds of activities. She’d be very proud, I think.”