Seqouyah County

City / Town History

Gans is on State Highway 141, approximately seven miles southeast of Sallisaw and one mile southwest of U.S. Highway 64. Originally lying within the Sequoyah District of the Cherokee Nation, the dispersed rural area was locally called Jack Town. It subsequently became known as Gann, after the brothers Charlie, Swimmer, and Tom Gann. In 1895-96 the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad built tracks through this location and requested the residents change the name to Gans, as the rail system already included two localities named Gann. In 1899 the post office, which had been established in 1896, was renamed Gans. In 1900 the railroad sold its holdings to the Kansas City Southern Railway. Gans's growth in the early nineteenth century was due to agriculture and to market access through the railroad. In 1900 Gans's population stood at 136, and by 1911 the town had a bank, two cotton gins, a sawmill, six general stores, three doctors, two drug stores, two blacksmiths, and a restaurant. The Gans Reporter served as an early, short-lived newspaper. Cattle and hog raising as well as farm production dominated the economy. In 1918 the surrounding region and town could shop at nine retail establishments. The town also had a bank, three churches, a cotton gin, and a sawmill. By 1920 the population climbed to 295, but it declined to 204 in 1930. In 1924 the bank relocated to Sallisaw. In 1933 Gans, which had incorporated under federal guidelines for the Cherokee Nation in 1902, lost its corporate status. In 1953 the town reincorporated, and by 1960 it had a population of 234. In January 1957 a devastating tornado struck, killing eight people, injuring eleven, and inflicting an estimated $100,000 worth of property damage. In 1980 the population was 346. The town's children attend the Gans School District, which had 250 students in 1990. Gans native Bryant "Big Country" Reeves, an Oklahoma State University and professional basketball player, donated a city hall building in 2002 after he retired and returned to live in his home town. In 2000 the U.S. Census reported 208 residents, with most employed residents commuting to work in larger towns. The kindergarten through high school enrollment had climbed to 321.

Gore lies at the convergence of U.S. Highway 64, State Highway 10, and State Highway 100, less than one mile from the Muskogee County line and across the Arkansas River from Webbers Falls. The area around Gore was important in early-nineteenth-century Cherokee history. In 1829 Western Cherokee Chief John Jolly established his home in the vicinity. Also nearby was the Western Cherokee capital, Tahlonteskee. During this period Sam Houston, future president of the Republic of Texas, came to the area to see Jolly, who in earlier years had adopted Houston and named him Raven. In 1839, after the Treaty of New Echota (1835) and the arrival of most of the Eastern Cherokees, the Western Cherokees affiliated with the Cherokee Nation. In 1841 Tahlequah was designated the Cherokee capital. As the nation was divided into political districts, the Illinois District encompassed the Gore area. Tahlonteskee retained a district courthouse until an 1846. Meanwhile, a small dispersed settlement developed around a ferry that was operated across the Arkansas River by Joe Lynch and Dr. W. W. Campbell. The ferry connected the growing town of Campbell (future Gore) with Webbers Falls. The place was also a stop on the stage route linking Fort Smith, Arkansas, with Fort Gibson. In 1888 Dr. Campbell received a postal designation of Campbell for his store. Also that year the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway (later the Missouri Pacific Railway) laid tracks through the community. The Dawes Commission ordered the town surveyed in 1903. Locals also called the community Illinois Station, and many circa 1900 maps label it "Illinois Station, Campbell Post Office." By 1909 the population supported a bank, two lumber companies, a flour mill, a cotton gin, two hotels, and numerous retail outlets. In that year the town changed its name to Gore, in honor of U.S. Sen. Thomas P. Gore. Also in 1909 a fire destroyed the bank and many downtown businesses. The 1910 census counted 316 residents, and the count remained steady for decades. Two early newspapers, the Campbell Register (1907) and the Citizen (1912), reported to the citizens. In 1922 the bank failed. Gore's population reached 387 in 1950 and declined to 334 in 1960. Construction of the Tenkiller Ferry Dam from 1947 to 1953 improved the area's economy. Completion of the Webbers Falls Lock and Dam in 1970 (for navigation on the Arkansas River) and its hydroelectric power generation (initiated in 1973) stimulated growth. By 1970 the population climbed to 478. Other industry also provided employment. In 1967 Kerr-McGee purchased fifteen hundred acres three miles east of Gore and built a plant to convert uranium oxide into uranium hexaflouride gas, which was then shipped to a plant (then Kerr McGee's Cimarron facility north of Oklahoma City) to make fuel rods for nuclear reactors. In 1986 an accident at the Gore plant killed one worker and injured eighty-two people. Purchased in 1988 by General Atomics, the plant closed in 1993 after investigations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At the beginning of the twenty-first century controversy again erupted, hinging on financial responsibility for cleaning up the site. The stomp grounds for the United Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee Indians is located near Gore. One of that nation's leaders, Redbird Smith, died at his Gore-area home in 1918. Another town resident, Ray Fine, played a significant role in state politics, serving in the Oklahoma legislature for thirty years. In 2001 Bill Summers retired as mayor after serving for forty-nine years. In 2000 Gore's population stood at 850 and had a kindergarten through twelfth grade enrollment of 710 students.

Approximately nine miles north of Sallisaw, Marble City is by County Road E1000, leading west from U.S. Highway 69 at Brushy. The early history of Marble City is closely tied to that of Arkansas Territory and the Western Cherokees. In 1828 the area received its first post office, serving Nicksville, in Lovely County, Arkansas, (to which the region was briefly attached). That post office discontinued in 1829 when the federal government moved the Western Cherokees from Arkansas into the area and ordered all non-Indians to vacate. At that time the Arkansas Territorial Legislature terminated its claim to the land. In May 1829 Dwight Mission relocated from Arkansas and took over the Nicksville improvements. During the remainder of the nineteenth century the site of future Marble City was distinguished primarily by constant changes in postal designation as a settlement gradually formed there. In 1835 a post office was designated nearby as "Kidron," named for a stream mentioned in the Bible. Kidron served the area's Cherokee settlers and missionaries. James Orr, affiliated with the mission, served as postmaster. In 1858 the post office moved elsewhere and changed its designation to Marble Salt Works, but the next year another Kidron post office was established near the Dwight Mission location. In 1869 this post office discontinued. In 1886 the Post Office Department opened a Kedron (spelled with an e) post office near the same location. By 1895, when the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad (later the Kansas City Southern Railway) laid tracks through the area, the post office moved adjacent to the railroad, closer to a marble quarry, and was redesignated Marble. Meanwhile, people continued to settle there, enticed by railroad access and business opportunities. In 1910 the population stood at 342. In 1906 the name of the community changed to Marble City, and by 1911 the town had a bank, a newspaper, a hotel, a telephone exchange, five general stores, numerous livestock dealers, and many other retail outlets. In the early twentieth century the Marble City News and the Marble City Enterprise reported to the town. In 1920 the U.S. Census reported 344 residents. Farming, ranching, and quarrying contributed to the town's growth. The region has Oklahoma's only true marble outcrops, with commercial quarrying beginning in approximately 1895. From 1906 to 1914 the Ozark Marble Company mined the stone, with its product used in the construction of Oklahoma City's Pioneer Telephone Building and at the Rice Institute (later Rice University) in Houston, Texas. In 1932 two limestone companies and two sawmills operated. In 1939 the Sinclair Lime Company began mining limestone near the town, and in 1964 they built a large plant that converted limestone into quicklime. In the 1960s the town also held three kilns used to manufacture charcoal briquets. The 2002 annual report of the Oklahoma Mining Commission reported Global Stone Saint Clair, Incorporated, and Marble City Gravel, Incorporated, as registered limestone companies. For the last half of the twentieth century Marble City remained a small agricultural and industrial center with a few grocers and gas stations serving the residents. In 1961 Watie Davault stepped down as mayor, a position he had held for forty-seven years. The 1960 population was 271, and it climbed slightly to 294 in 1980

Muldrow lies on State Highway 64B and adjacent to U.S. Highway 64, north of Interstate 40, approximately ten miles southeast of Sallisaw. The Western Cherokees, or "Old Settlers," began occupying the area in 1829 after they moved from Arkansas. After 1840 Muldrow existed in the Skin Bayou District (renamed the Sequoyah District in 1851) of the Cherokee Nation. The community coalesced prior to 1888 when the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway built its tracks through the region. In November 1887 the Post Office Department established a post office, named for Henry Muldrow, assistant secretary of the U.S. Department of the Interior. A. J. Jeremiah served as the first mayor, and many members of William J. Watts's family pioneered the town. Watts, known as "the King of the Intruders" remained in litigation with the Cherokee for more than twenty years. Although in 1895 fire destroyed most of the town's businesses, the 1900 population stood at 465. In 1909 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway acquired the local line, and in 1917 it became part of the Missouri Pacific system. By 1910 Muldrow's population had climbed to 671, and by 1911 the town supported two banks, a newspaper, telephone service, two cotton gins, several retail stores, a hotel, three doctors, and many other businesses. Newspaper titles that have reported to the residents include the County Seat Herald, the Big Basin Herald, the Muldrow Press, the Muldrow Sun, and the Muldrow Register. Cotton reigned as the early economic staple, but ranching also contributed. The population dipped to 557 in 1930 but rose to 638 in 1940. During and after the Great Depression agriculture continued to dominate. In 1932 the town had two feed mills and a broom factory. The focus later shifted to truck farming, primarily corn, green beans, spinach, and other crops. In 1960 the population had expanded to 1,137. In 1965 the Muldrow City Lake's dam was constructed, providing a better water system. As the town began to attract businesses, the growth continued, and in 1990 there were 2,889 residents. In 1995 OK Industries opened a poultry processing plant, which employed 185 in 2002. A large furniture store and a grocery store were the other largest, non-government employers. In 1995 Muldrow native Shawntel Smith was selected as Miss America. In 2000 the U.S. census registered 3,104 inhabitants, and the public school system enrolled 1,600 students from prekindergarten through high school.

Paradise Hill is situated on the shores of Tenkiller Ferry Lake. State Highway 10A runs through a portion of the town. Paradise Hill originated in 1954 as a residential development offering tracts of land near the lake. By 1962 there were forty-seven permanent homes, and the community had incorporated and owned its own water system. In 1969 the town more than doubled its size by annexing surrounding property. The 1970 population stood at 87, climbing to 154 by 1980.

Roland is situated on County Road E1100, one mile north of U.S. Highway 64 and adjacent to Interstate 40. The town is four miles east of Muldrow and approximately six miles west of the Oklahoma-Arkansas state line. The settlement emerged from a dispersed rural community in the Cherokee Nation, which also sheltered whites, some of whom were legally in the nation and others who had intruded illegally from Arkansas. After the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway built tracks through the region in 1888, the railroad, which was soon leased to and then acquired by the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, built a depot at present Roland. The emerging community became known as Garrison or Garrison Creek, and received a postal designation in 1902. In 1904 the residents voted to change the name to Roland. In 1910 the population stood at 228. In 1911 the town had telephone service, a public school, four general stores, and three grocers. The surrounding river bottoms have consistently been the basis of a strong agricultural economy. In 1917 the Missouri Pacific Railroad purchased the local line. The 1920 population of 271 patronized four stores, and agricultural services were provided by two blacksmiths, a corn mill, and a cotton gin. The railroad ended passenger service in 1938, but the town remained a shipping and retail point. The 1940 census recorded 311 residents, a number that climbed to 443 in 1950. Roland is six miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and is close to Interstate 40, opened in 1965 between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The town's placement has facilitated the steady population growth of a "bedroom" community and has also generated business opportunities. In 1990 the Cherokee Nation constructed a casino (originally called the Cherokee Nation Bingo Outpost) in the town, near the highway. The 1980 population of 1,472 mushroomed to 2,842 in 2000. That year 1,229 students enrolled in the Roland school system, which served prekindergarten through high school.

The county seat of Sequoyah County, Sallisaw is situated at the junction of State Highways 64 and 59 between Sallisaw Creek and Little Sallisaw Creek, at the southern edge of the Ozark Plateau twenty miles west of the Arkansas border. Interstate 40 crosses the south side of the city, which was given its name by French traders. Sallisaw derives from the French salaison, which means "salt meat" or "salt provisions." English naturalist Thomas Nuttall may have been the first to record the name "Salaiseau" in the journal of his 1819 travels in the area, then part of Arkansas. The city, elevation 531 feet, is in hilly country that reduces to sticky bottoms southward to the Arkansas River and Robert S. Kerr Lake. Close geographic features include Wildhorse Mountain to the south, Badger Mountain to the northwest, and Lone Pine Mountain to the northeast. The organized settlement now known as Sallisaw can be traced to 1887-88 when Argyle Quesenbury, one of the first white men to settle in the vicinity, and Will Watie Wheeler, collateral descendent of Cherokee Confederate leader Stand Watie, laid out lots for a town one-half mile square. The mostly Cherokee town was not incorporated until 1898 when William E. Whitsett, Jr., was elected mayor. Confusion arises over the place. Present Sallisaw was the site of a post office called Childer's Station from 1873 to 1888 when the name was changed to Sallisaw. Another community fifteen miles north bore the name Sallisaw for a period until 1888 when the name of the post office there was changed to Mays, remaining so until it closed in 1896. Earlier, in the 1840s and1850s Sallisaw had been the name of a landing on the Arkansas River, one of twenty-two between Fort Smith, Arkansas, and Fort Gibson, Indian Territory, during the heyday of steamboat navigation. Although it usually referred to Sallisaw Creek, the place name Sallisaw also was familiar to commanders during the Civil War when Confederate Indian troops under Col., later Brig. Gen., Stand Watie maneuvered and skirmished with Union forces in the Cherokee Nation and fought battles in northwest Arkansas. The railroad came to Sallisaw when the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway (later the Missouri Pacific Railroad) laid track west from Van Buren, Arkansas, in 1888-90. In 1895-96 the Kansas City, Pittsburg and Gulf Railroad constructed a north-south line through the region. The rail companies intersected at the city. Town builder Wheeler established several businesses in Sallisaw in the 1880s and1890s, including a cotton gin, saw mill, grist mill, lumberyard, and, in 1896, the Coffin Shop, which evolved into Wheeler Funeral Home. The mortuary continued operation into the twenty-first century. Other early business leaders included William Henry McDonald, who operated the Economy Store and McDonald Mercantile Company in the 1890s and later ran a bank; Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Ivey, who established a long-standing drug store (she also owned hotels); Henry and Arch Matthews, who established Matthews Brothers, a grocery, in 1898; and W. D. Mayo and E. M. Pointer, who founded Mayo and Company, a mercantile and farm implement business. Wheeler Mayo, son of W. D., and Wheeler's wife, Florence, in 1932 founded the Sequoyah County Times, which remained in the Mayo family in 2005 under Cookson Hills Publishers, Inc. and, with 5,891 paid circulation, was the largest-circulation, non-metro, non-daily newspaper in Oklahoma. In 1900 the population stood at 965, and it steadily increased, reaching 2,255 in 1920. Sallisaw's economy largely rose and fell with cotton in the early years. However, changes in agricultural practices in the 1930s, not the drought that plagued most of the rest of Oklahoma that decade, caused a population drop and a shift to other forms of commerce. Lumber from hardwood and pine forests, oil, but mostly natural gas, and coal also were mainstays of the economy. In 1930 Sallisaw had 1,785 residents. By the early 1930s they supported seven auto-related businesses, a bakery, two blacksmiths, a bottler, four gins, several mills, and two printing companies. Nevertheless, the city declined, as all did during the Great Depression. The city briefly was the site of a prison camp during World War II. The postwar 1940s and 1950s saw a variety of industrial and retail businesses flourish, including auto-related concerns, trucking, furniture manufacturing, canning, construction contracting, mining, and manufacturing.

Vian lies at the intersection of U.S. Highway 64 and State Highway 82, just north of Interstate 40, eleven miles west of Sallisaw. The community, which began in the Cherokee Nation, evolved from a trading post between the Big and Little Vian creeks, from which the town took its name. The first postmaster, Mahala Thompson, originally wanted to name the post office, established in 1886, Round Mountain, but that name had been taken. In 1888 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway laid tracks through the region, and Vian benefitted, establishing itself as a shipping point for agricultural production, especially cotton. In 1901 it was estimated that between 2,500 and 3,000 bales were annually shipped. The 1900 population stood at 296. By 1910 Vian had 794 inhabitants. In 1911 they supported two banks, the Sequoyah County Democrat newspaper, a telephone connection, two hotels, and several retail outlets and restaurants. In 1917 the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern combined with the Missouri Pacific Railway, becoming the Missouri Pacific Railroad. In the late 1880s a school had opened to educate the area's Cherokee children. In the mid-1890s Rev. J. B. Barry established a school for white children. Circa 1897 the community built a schoolhouse that was used until a three-story, brick building was constructed in 1909. Douglas High School existed as a separate school for the region's African American students until the mid-1950s. In 1956 a modern high school building was built, partially funded with federal grants for areas serving large numbers of American Indian pupils. Vian's population reached 1,176 in 1920 before declining to 900 in 1930. Agriculture and ranching remained an integral part of the economy. In 1932 the area still produced enough cotton to require three cotton gins. By 1946 the town had only one gin and one bank, and in 1950 the population stood at 927. Through the years newspapers reporting to the town have included the Vian American, the Vian Press, the Vian Tribune, the Democrat-American, and the Vian Tenkiller News. Located between Lake Tenkiller (impounded in 1953) and Robert S. Kerr Lake (1970), the community and its vicinity have profited from additional tourism. The Sequoyah National Wildlife Refuge lies south of Vian adjacent to Kerr Lake. Oklahoma Supreme Court Judge and politician W. A. Carlile attended school at Vian. Scenes for the movie Where the Red Fern Grows (1974) were filmed in the area. 
(Source: Encylopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture)

 

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