Updated: Sep 9
Eagletown (McCurtain County, Oklahoma) began its existence within a decade after the Louisiana Purchase and was originally meant to be a station into Indian Territory on the Choctaw Trail of Tears. The Choctaws named it Osi Yamaha, which translated means Eagletown.
Almost immediately after the Louisiana Purchase, American settlers began to crowd into southwestern Missouri Territory, which became the Arkansas Territory in 1819. At this time, Arkansas Territory encompassed all of the lands west to the 100th Meridian and south of the 36th parallel, give or take. In 1824, those lands had become Indian Territory by an act of Congress as a trade, so to speak. As southeastern tribal nations like the Choctaws had ceded their ancestral lands to non-Choctaws east of the Mississippi River, they received for new lands in the west. These new lands encompassed all of southern Oklahoma between the Red River and the Arkansas River.*
The Anglos who had already settled in what they believed was Arkansas Territory were removed off their farms, and much of their nascent infrastructure had to be abandoned. This abandoned area became Eagletown.When the Choctaws entered Indian Territory, they discovered fields that had already been cultivated, grist mills, and abandoned houses.
Because they also encountered resentful white people, the military established Fort Towson west of Eagletown to protect the incoming Choctaws from the displaced whites. The farmers either moved to Arkansas proper or across the Red River into Mexican Texas, but every once in a while, they would harass the soldiers and Indians, at one point burning down the fort. It may have been because of this trouble that Eagletown never grew into a major settlement, even though it was fairly well situated along a military/post road and not too far from the Little and Red Rivers.
According to accounts by an early settler, Peter Hudson, Eagletown was for many Choctaws simply a brief stopping point to get their bearings. Then, the emigrants would leave to set up permanent homes near Doaksville or within the hills of the Quachita Mountains. For a brief while, it served as the seat for the newly formed Eagle County in 1850. However, Choctaw attempts at autonomy were interrupted with the Civil War, and the county was dissolved. Eagletown continued to exist, but didn't really thrive until the railroad came through.
The Choctaw Railroad, which would became the St. Louis-San Francisco (Frisco) Railway before bought by the Kiamichi Railroad, came through Eagletown at the turn of the 20th century. Its main purpose was to supply trees to and ferry finished lumber away from the sawmills that had grown into a sizeable industry with McCurtain County. Many non-Choctaw Americans moved into this portion of Oklahoma to take advantage of new job opportunities. A school was established, and its continued existence allowed Eagletown to hang on as a viable town into the 21st century.
While the train no longer stops at Eagletown, it still barrels through every once in a while just south of the old downtown. Even I, an avid ghost town hunter, have to admit that there's not much to see in Eagletown. But its very existence, after almost two centuries, attests to the notion that fascinating history can often be hidden under rather banal exteriors.
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