Sequoyah County, Oklahoma
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Sequoyah County is named for the Sequoyah District of the Cherokee
Nation and for Sequoyah (George Guess), who invented a syllabary (alphabet) that brought literacy to the Cherokee
in the early nineteenth century. The county abuts Arkansas and Fort Smith, prominent in frontier and Indian history,
on the east, and borders Adair and Cherokee counties on the north, Muskogee County on the west, Haskell County
on the southwest, and Le Flore County on the south. At the turn of the twenty-first century Sequoyah County's incorporated
towns included Gans, Gore, Marble City, Moffett, Muldrow, Paradise Hill, Roland, Sallisaw (county seat), and Vian. Sequoyah
County straddles the Ozark Plateau in the north and Ouachita Mountains region in the south. The Arkansas River
forms the southern border and reduces land to bayous, sloughs, and "bottoms." The county also shares
characteristics of the Prairie Plains. Other waterways include the Illinois River, Lee's Creek, and Robert S. Kerr
Lake. Local features include the Cookson Hills to the northwest and Moffett, Paw Paw, and Redland bottoms to the
south. The county includes 714.88 square miles of land and water. Sequoyah County was part of Lovely's Purchase,
a controversial acquisition of territory in 1816 from the Osage for Arkansas Cherokees who came west before removal.
Part of Arkansas Territory's Lovely County in 1827, the area became part of the Western Cherokee Nation in 1829
when Cherokees in Arkansas, and with them, Dwight Mission, were removed to Indian Territory. While under authority
of the Cherokee Nation, the area first called Skin Bayou District changed to Sequoyah District in 1851. Present
Sequoyah County also comprises part of the old Illinois District. Early Cherokees (Old Settlers) established the
first capital, Tahlonteeskee (Tahlontuskey), operative from 1829 to 1839 near the mouth of the Illinois River,
near present Gore. Tahlonteeskee remained a meeting place for Old Settlers as Cherokee government and the Cherokee
center of gravity shifted to Tahlequah. During the Civil War the area near Webbers Falls (in present Muskogee County)
was a hotbed of sympathy for the Confederacy, fueled by the stealthy successes of Stand Watie, a Cherokee and a
Confederate colonel (later a brigadier general). However, the only significant Civil War action in present Sequoyah
County was Watie's notorious June 15, 1864, capture of the steamboat J. R. Williams by attacking from Pleasant
Bluff, at present Tamaha in Haskell County. The steamboat ran aground on the north side of the Arkansas River,
and Watie and his men looted it, enlivening the Southern cause. Between the Civil War (1861-64) and 1907 statehood,
proximity to Fort Smith made the area especially susceptible to intruders, illegal residents. Three mostly white
communities near the Arkansas border, Paw Paw, Cottonwood, and Muldrow, were almost entirely inhabited by intruders,
although citizenship disputes in Cherokee and federal courts persisted through the turn of the twentieth century.
Intrusion and intermarriage among Cherokees, whites, and African Americans contributed to cultural undercurrents
that lasted into the twenty-first century. Cherokee courts operated, but after the Civil War had no jurisdiction
over U.S. citizens living in Indian Territory, which complicated the intruder issue. The area fell under federal
judicial districts headquartered at Van Buren and Fort Smith in Arkansas and, after 1889, in Muskogee. At 1907
statehood Sequoyah County had 22,499 residents. The first railroad arrived a generation earlier, in 1888-90 when
the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway laid tracks westward from near Van Buren, Arkansas. In 1909 the St. Louis,
Iron Mountain and Southern Railway bought the line, and in 1917 the Missouri Pacific Railroad took possession.
In 1895-96 the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad constructed a north-south line through the present county.
In 1900 the Kansas City Southern Railway Company purchased this line. State Highway 1, formerly the Albert Pike
Highway, which extended west from Fort Smith, traversed the county east to west. In 1926 the Joint Board of State
Highway Officials proposed the federal highway system and designated this road as U.S. Highway 64, the county's
first national road.
Adair County (north)
Crawford County, Arkansas (east)
Sebastian County, Arkansas (southeast)
Le Flore County (south)
Haskell County (southwest)
Muskogee County (west)
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