Located in far west-central Le Flore County, Fanshawe is approximately twenty miles southwest of Poteau on U.S. Highway 270. The Le Flore/Latimer County line lies one mile west. Although it was surveyed and platted on August 29, 1902, the community received its postal designation in 1891. The town's name honored John R. Fanshawe of Philadelphia, an employee of the Choctaw, Oklahoma and Gulf Railroad which built through the area in 1889-90. Railroad executives and investors took an inspection trip on the new line, traveling in one of the presidential private cars. At each allocated station a name was drawn from a hat and used to designate a new town. The railroad later became part of the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific Railway's system.
The town's early economic development relied on lumbering, coal mining, lumber milling, farming, stock raising, and working on the railroad and roads. In 1911 approximately one hundred residents supported two grocers and two general stores and enjoyed telephone connections. The estimated population in 1918 was 135, and two saw mills and one sorghum mill operated there. In 1929 a fire destroyed most of the business district. By mid-twentieth century pulpwood harvesting had become a major industry, attracting a large pulpwood yard with a spur track. Many individuals who owned trucks used them to haul pulpwood out of the hills to be sold and shipped to a pulpwood dealer.
After World War II Fanshawe's estimated one hundred residents and farmers in the surrounding area still supported three stores. In 1949, when the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers completed Wister Dam on Fourche Maline Creek, south of town, the resulting lake inundated much fertile bottom land and forced farmers to relocate or go out of business. However, ranching (mostly cattle raising) remained an important occupation into the twenty-first century. Beginning in the 1950s ranchers created extra revenue by constructing large chicken houses to raise broiler chickens.
After Fanshawe annexed approximately a twenty-two-square-mile rural area on June 7, 1963, the population grew to 199 in 1970 and to 416 in 1980. While logging remained a significant industry, some local businesses have come to depend on hauling and selling rock for landscaping and masonry. For many years the public school has been the largest employer, and its 2000 enrollment was eighty-seven students in kindergarten through the eighth grade. The 2000 population stood at 384. Residents also commuted to jobs in larger towns.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Henry L. Peck, The Proud Heritage of LeFlore County: A History of an Oklahoma County (Van Buren, Ark.: Press Argus, 1963). J. R. Rash, "The Story of Fanshawe," Poteau Valley (Oklahoma) Times, 24 June 1965.
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