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Situated on U.S. Highway 270 three miles southeast of McAlester in Pittsburg County, Alderson began as a mining camp in the nineteenth century. Its first post office opened in 1890. The town name honored W. C. Alderson, an employee of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad. By 1910 the population had grown to 786 and consisted mostly of Italians and Poles.

In 1910 the community voted for a twenty-thousand-dollar bond issue to build a new brick school, which opened with three hundred students and seven teachers. Alderson had its own school system until 1981, including a separate school (racially segregated for African Americans) that closed in 1955. In 1910 the coal business flourished, with the Number Five Mine of the Rock Island Coal Mining Company, the Number Six Mine of the McAlester Coal and Coke Company, and others operating in the area. In 1911 the town boasted four general stores, nine grocers, three physicians, one hotel, one livery, one blacksmith, one drugstore, and one lumberyard. In 1924, when natural gas was easily obtained, the coal business began to decline. In 1920 the population climbed to 855 but dropped to 421 in 1930.

Before the widespread ownership of automobiles, the Choctaw Railroad and Lighting Company ran a streetcar line the length of Main Street and served as the lifeline for the towns between McAlester and Hartshorne. The Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway paralleled this interurban, running east and west. The Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway served as the north-south line for the district.

Alderson's 1950 population showed a continued decline at 311, a number that fell to 207 in 1960. In the 1960s the city installed a new water system. Like many of the small communities of Pittsburg County, Alderson has mellowed, becoming a town of residences and a few small businesses. The 1980 U.S. Census recorded 366 people, showing a small population resurgence. Many of the twenty-first century residents are descended from the men and womE who settled in this area in the nineteenth century. In 2000 the population of Alderson was 261.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Pittsburg County, Oklahoma: People and Places (McAlester, Okla.: Pittsburg County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1997).

Pat Spearman

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