Original Choctaw Town
Eagletown (McCurtain County, Oklahoma) began its existence within a decade after the Louisiana Purchase. American settlers, seeking new opportunities, began to crowd into southwestern Missouri Territory which, by 1819, became the Arkansas Territory. 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 become Indian Territory by an act of Congress.Indian Territory was created in a trade, so to speak. Southeastern tribal nations like the Choctaws ceded their ancestral lands east of the Mississippi for new lands in the west. The Choctaws' new lands encompassed all of southern Oklahoma between the Red River and the Arkansas River (this area would be whittled down when the Chickasaws claimed a territory of their own in the 1850s, and was further curtailed by the creation of the Kiowa Reservation in the early 20th century).The Anglo Americans who had already settled in what they believed was Arkansas Territory were not happy - federal soldiers removed them off their farms, and much of their nascent infrastructure had to be abandoned. This abandoned area would become Eagletown.When the Choctaws entered Indian Territory, they discovered fields that had already been cultivated, grist mills, and several abandoned houses. They also encountered rather angry white people.
To protect the incoming Choctaws from the displaced Anglo farmers, the military established Fort Towson to the west of Eagletown. Soldiers also built a road that linked the fort to Washington in Arkansas. Many of the farmers ended up moving 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.Eagletown could have been a contender in Oklahoma history, anyway. 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.
Peter Hudson drew this map of Eagletown for the Oklahoma Historical Society in the 1930s (Chronicles of Oklahoma, vol.10 no.4).
What was once the courthouse in old Eagletown (Oklahoma Historical Society).
Eagletown's post office inside Graham Grocery in the 1960s (OHS).
Eagletown sits on the old military road that ran between Washington, Arkansas and Fort Towson, Indian Territory, which is now U.S. 70 (LOC).
A disused building in downtown Eagletown - today, all of the businesses are located on the new portion of U.S. 70.
Near this building in the original area of Eagletown is "Mad Man Road," named after a very popular and beloved CB-handle of a man who'd help any stranded motorist.
For several decades, Eagletown's most prominent claim-to-fame was being the site of the state's largest cypress tree. Unfortunately, this giant died in a lightning strike (OHS).
Discover more Ghost Towns in my book!