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Eagletown is a small unincorporated community in McCurtain County, Oklahoma, United States. The population was 528 at the 2010 census. Located on Mountain Fork River, about 6 miles (9.7 km) from the Oklahoma-Arkansas border, it was the first permanent Choctaw settlement in the Indian Territory, who called it osi yamaha ("Eagle"). It was an important town from 1834 to 1906, and after 1850, served as county seat for the Choctaw Nation's Eagle County. The town name was officially changed to "Eagle Town" in 1850, then changed to the present Eagletown in 1892. When Indian Territory was preparing to unite with Oklahoma Territory to form the new state of Oklahoma in 1906, Eagletown lost its county seat status and became just another unincorporated community in the new McCurtain County.
Some white settlers had moved to the area near Mountain Fork River around the present Eagletown during the early 19th Century, when the area was known as Miller County, Arkansas. but a boundary change in the 1820s put this area into Indian Territory. The white settlers were forced to move elsewhere in order to resettle the Choctaw tribe from Mississippi. When the first Choctaws arrived in 1832, they found fields that had been cleared for farming and cabins that had housed the previous inhabitants. As required by treaty, the Army established a feeding point here for the distribution of rations. An estimated 852 people were receiving rations here in April 1832. By 1834, the number of people here had grown by 1,500.
The Choctaws invited some of the white missionaries to join them in the move to Indian Territory. The first of these was Rev. Loring S. Williams, who was sent by the American Board of Commissioners for Foreign Missions in 1832. By July 1832, Williams established a station he called Bethabara on the west bank of the Mountain Fork River.[a] The crossing was marked by a very large cypress tree that was called "the oldest tree in Oklahoma", dating back to before the Christian Era.[b] He organized the first church in Choctaw country in 1834 and opened a school the next year. He also obtained the authority to establish a post office in 1834, and served as the first postmaster. The post office and the town were then known as "Eagle Town." [c] The name of both was officially changed to "Eagletown" on December 16, 1892. Another missionary, Reverend Cyrus Byington, arrived in late 1835. Byington spent 31 years here, and was noted for translating both religious and secular materials into a written Choctaw language that he created. He established the Stockbridge Mission on the other (east) side of the river from Bethabara. He was most noted for producing the Dictionary of the Choctaw Language. Byington also supervised the adjacent Iyanubbi Female Seminary, a boarding school for Choctaw girls that operated from 1844 until 1861.
Eagletown soon became a trading center on the Military Trace, an important road through Choctaw Country. After the Choctaw Nation created and passed its constitution in 1850, Eagletown became the "courtground" (i. e., county seat) of the newly created Eagle County. Jefferson Gardner, a Choctaw trader, opened a general store in 1874 on the east bank of the river. In 1884, built an imposing house that is now on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP). Gardner became principal chief of the Choctaw Nation, but lost his fortune shortly after his term ended in 1896.
After Oklahoma became a state, more white settlers moved into the former Choctaw territory. Eagle County had been abolished and superseded by McCurtain County at statehood. Some of the settlers became farmers, while others worked in the expanding timber industry. Choctaw Lumber Company built a camp in Eagletown to house the timberworkers. The company also built a railroad (the Texas, Oklahoma and Eastern) that connected to its line in Arkansas.
The Texas, Oklahoma and Eastern Railroad laid a track from Valliant, Oklahoma to DeQueen, Arkansas in 1920. It built a depot 2.5 miles (4.0 km) southeast of the river crossing. Many of the existing Eagleton businesses moved to new facilities near the new depot. Little remains of the old Eagle Town except the Gardner house.
- Cyrus Byington American missionary
- Jefferson Gardner, Choctaw merchant and principal chief.
- Loring S. Williams American missionary
- Bethabara is a Hebrew word meaning "crossing."
- It was said to be over 2,000 years old. A lightning strike in 1982 killed the tree. Williams chose the name because this was the only location for fording the river for many miles in each direction.
- Williams had to close Bethabara and leave the area in 1838, because of ill health.
- "2010 City Population and Housing Occupancy Status". U.S. Census Bureau. Archived from the original on July 21, 2011. Retrieved October 18, 2013.
- Morris, John Wesley. Ghost Towns of Oklahoma. ISBN 978-0-8061-1420-0. 1978. p.71-74. University of Oklahoma Press. Norman. Accessed April 17, 2018. Available on Google Books
- Coleman, Louis. Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. "Eagletown." Retrieved August 8, 2013.
- "Eagletown Choctaw Settlement." McCurtain County, Oklahoma. Accessed April 17, 2018.