Chouteau is located in the old Cooweescoowee District of the Cherokee Nation in southern Mayes County. It has an altitude of 627 feet and according to the 2000 census a population of 1,931 persons. Chouteau is a gateway to the eastern Oklahoma lake area, featuring Fort Gibson Lake, Upper and Lower Spavinaw Lakes, the Lake of the Cherokees (Grand Lake), and the Lake Hudson Recreational Area. State Highway 412 (Cherokee Turnpike) and U.S Highway 69 intersect just south of town.
In 1871 the Missouri, Kansas and Texas Railway was building across Indian Territory, and Chouteau became a terminus. Riley W. Lindsey became the first agent, also the first settler. Chouteau became a thriving cattle town and built a fence around its limits to keep the herds out. Gates were conveniently located, and parents escorted their children safely to and from downtown. Many of the early citizens lived in tents and also built fences to keep out cattle.
Several businesses remain on Main Street, where the town rebuilt after an 1891 fire. In 1985 much of the business district was destroyed by fire, and businesses moved to the east side of Highway 69. In 1880 Lindsey provided the land and financed Chouteau's first school, a subscription school, housed in a one-room building. In later years the school was razed down, and a larger, two-story, frame building was erected on the same site, sheltering another subscription school. These facilities were used for church services by several denominations and for various town meetings. Today the Chouteau-Mazie School District consists of grades kindergarten through twelve with a staff of fifty-eight teachers and administrators.
The town's population has varied over the years, ranging from 483 in 1900 to a twentieth-century low of 400 in 1940, and rebounding to 1,046 in 1970. There are twelve churches of various denominations in Chouteau. The United Methodist is the oldest denomination and the First Presbyterian the oldest church building, dedicated on July 10, 1898. The Farmers and Merchants Bank (NR 83002091) and the Territorial Commercial District of Chouteau, Main Street, (NR 83002093) are listed in the National Register of Historic Places. With the location of the Mid-American Industrial Area between Chouteau and Pryor, a Chouteau Hills housing addition has added approximately 170 new homes to the town. Many residents prefer to live in the smaller community of Chouteau and work in the larger towns and cities. State Highway 412 and U.S. Highway 69 provide easy access for commuters.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Mayes County Highlights (Pryor, Okla.: Mayes County Historical Society, 1977). George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1974).
Virginia Lindsey Hastings
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