About the Book
The Birth of Poteau:
From Poteau Switch to Poteau
by Eric L. Standridge and George B. Shaw
A History of the Early Days of Poteau
Dimensions: 8" x 10"
Price: USD $40.00
The Birth of Poteau chronicles the development of the town from it's early days through the Roaring 20's. Within this book readers will find stories of Indians and outlaws, covered wagons and coyotes, and even a dash from The Gilded Age. Our goal is to tell the story of Poteau in a way that vividly describes the early history of the town, while at the same time helping the reader understand Poteau's broader place in history.
A few of the other topics readers may find include:
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The Research and Writing Team
Author: Eric Standridge
Editor: George Shaw
Primary Research: Eric Standridge, George Shaw
Photographer: Trina Standridge
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Since the dawn of history, the area now known as LeFlore County has been a thriving hub of activity. Great civilizations throughout history have come to recognize the overwhelming beauty and abundant resources of the land.
Nearly 60 million years ago, the area now known as LeFlore County would have been considered waterfront property. In prehistoric times, a vast inland sea divided North America. Known as the Western Interior Seaway, this vast stretch of water was 2,500 feet deep, 600 miles wide and over 2,000 miles long. At times, high points such as Cavanal Hill would have been tiny islands that peeked out from below the sea.
Many of the fossils found in this area are unique. Examples of soft-bodied animals, such as the Conostichus, a prehistoric sea anemone, have been found in the Ouachita Mountains and are completely exclusive to the area.
One of the earliest documented civilizations that were known to have existed in modern LeFlore County was that of the Caddo Indian. Fully known as the Caddoan Mississippian Culture, this civilization thrived in the area of Arkansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Texas between 200 B.C. until the early 1600's. During this time, many Europeans had begun to explore deeper into the continent, where they made contact with the Caddo Indian.
In the early 1600's, a smallpox epidemic broke out that decimated the population. Measles, influenza, and malaria also devastated the Caddo. They had no immunity to these Eurasian diseases. Despite this, the Caddo continued to push forward. In 1835, as white settlers continued to migrate west, the Caddo were coerced to sign a treaty ceding all Caddo land to the United States.
Caddo people endured a long journey from their ancient homelands to Caddo County, Oklahoma, where they now have their seat of government, five miles east of the town of Binger. Early in 2006, the official roll of the federally recognized Caddo Nation of Oklahoma listed 4,774 members, all lineal descendants of the ancient Caddo Nation.
The European explorations into what is now the central U.S. brought many trappers and traders into the area. In the 1700’s, when LeFlore County was under the domain of the French, many of the landmarks throughout the area were named.
By the late 1800’s, especially after the Civil War, white migration into what would become LeFlore County reached full gallop. This began with the Choctaw resettlement in the 1830’s, when they were given land in Eastern Oklahoma in “perpetuity”. Towns began to spring up almost overnight, especially around the Choctaw Agencies and schools.
Poteau can trace its origins back to 1875, when the first white families began to settle in the area. Over time, the small settlement of Poteau Switch grew into a thriving city.
Situated on the edge of the Ouachita Mountains, Poteau is now one of the most vibrant towns in eastern Oklahoma. Nestled in the Poteau River Valley, the town is surrounded by beautiful scenery, stunning landscapes, and serene waterfalls. In a nod towards its energetic roots, the town is once more growing at a tremendous pace. With a population hovering around 8,500, Poteau is ranked fifth in the Greater Fort Smith Area.
The stories collected here tell of the Birth of Poteau. These are the tales of Poteau’s triumphs and tragedies. Many of the stories have lain dormant for years, waiting to be resurrected by the diligent historian. Others tend to hide just below the surface, known, but not fully realized.While much of this book focuses on Poteau, it also tells the story of Oklahoma. In many ways, the growth of Poteau parallels the growth of Oklahoma, from the early explorers through to the spirited period of the Roaring 20’s. This is a tale of origins, a tale of a community banding together to achieve their overwhelming desire to create a better world. The same desire that was alive back then is still alive today and can be seen in every facet of life. As you read and study these stories, remember that this is only a beginning. What we do today influences tomorrow’s history. History is the story of people, and Poteau’s story is one of the most fascinating of all.