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Latimer County, Oklahoma

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History

In 1831, the area now known as Latimer County was organized as part of the Choctaw Nation in the Indian Territory after the Choctaw were removed by the federal government from their traditional territory in the American Southeast. Following statehood Latimer County's boundaries were drawn to conform to Oklahoma's township and range system, which uses east–west and north–south lines as land boundaries. The Choctaw Nation, by contrast, divided its counties using easily recognizable landmarks, such as mountains and rivers. The territory of present-day Latimer County had the distinction of being the meeting point of all three administrative super-regions comprising the Choctaw Nation, called the Apukshunubbee District, Moshulatubbee District, and Pushmataha District. Within these three districts the land area of the present-day county fell within Gaines County, Jacksfork County, Sans Bois County, Skullyville County, and Wade County.

In 1858, the Butterfield Overland Mail established a route through the territory, which included stage stops at Edwards's Station (near present Hughes), Holloway's Station (near Red Oak), Riddle's Station (near Lutie) and Pusley's Station near Higgins.

The beginning of large-scale coal mining attracted railroad construction to the area to get the commodity to market. The chief coal mining areas were in the mountains in the north of the county, in the Choctaw Segregated Coal Lands. Coal mining companies were rapidly established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In 1889–90, the Choctaw Coal and Railway Company (later known as the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad, and still later as part of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific line) laid 67.4 miles of track from Wister to McAlester. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway (Katy) completed a branch line from North McAlester to Wilburton in 1904.

As a prelude to Oklahoma being admitted as a state to the Union, the Dawes Act was extended to the Choctaw and others of the Five Civilized Tribes. These had all been removed from the Southeast. Choctaw tribal control of communal lands was dissolved, and the lands were allotted to individual households of tribal members, in an effort to encourage subsistence farming on the European-American model. The Choctaw lost most of their land, with individuals retaining about one-quarter of the land in the county. The government declared any remaining land to be 'surplus;' it was sold, mostly to non-Natives. Tribal governments were also dissolved, and Oklahoma became a state.

In less than two decades, the coal industry collapsed, due to labor unrest seeking relief from harsh working conditions and unfair labor practices, competition from oils, and the effects of the Great Depression. From 1920 to 1930, the county lost about 2,000 people, who sought work in other areas. By 1932, only one mine still operated in the county. Mining towns lost almost half of their populations, and at one point, 93.5 percent of those remaining in the country were surviving on government relief, through programs started by the administration of President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Federal construction projects to build infrastructure and invest for the future provided many jobs for the unemployed. Locally such projects included Wilburton Municipal Airport, schools at Panola and elsewhere, and road-paving works. The Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), another federal program conducted in collaboration with state governments, developed a park project at the state game preserve, now part of Robbers Cave State Park.

In 1933, Spanish–American War veterans established Veterans Colony in the county, buying land together. The war veterans could build cabins here and grow their own food, living year round in a community. In later years, membership was opened to veterans of all wars. Veterans Colony still operates.

Adjacent Counties

Cities, Towns & Communities

  • Fanshawe (part)
  • Gowen
  • Panola
  • Red Oak
  • Wilburton (County Seat)

Links

Wikipedia

Nat'l Reg. of Hist. Places