to Sequoyah County,
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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
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.