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Located in western Sequoyah County, Gore lies at the convergence of U.S. Highway 64, State Highway 10, and State Highway 100, less than one mile from the Muskogee County line and across the Arkansas River from Webbers Falls. The area around Gore was important in early-nineteenth-century Cherokee history. In 1829 Western Cherokee Chief John Jolly established his home in the vicinity. Also nearby was the Western Cherokee capital, Tahlonteskee. During this period Sam Houston, future president of the Republic of Texas, came to the area to see Jolly, who in earlier years had adopted Houston and named him Raven. In 1839, after the Treaty of New Echota (1835) and the arrival of most of the Eastern Cherokees, the Western Cherokees affiliated with the Cherokee Nation. In 1841 Tahlequah was designated the Cherokee capital. As the nation was divided into political districts, the Illinois District encompassed the Gore area. Tahlonteskee retained a district courthouse until an 1846.

Gore church, early 1900s

Meanwhile, a small dispersed settlement developed around a ferry that was operated across the Arkansas River by Joe Lynch and Dr. W. W. Campbell. The ferry connected the growing town of Campbell (future Gore) with Webbers Falls. The place was also a stop on the stage route linking Fort Smith, Arkansas, with Fort Gibson. In 1888 Dr. Campbell received a postal designation of Campbell for his store. Also that year the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway (later the Missouri Pacific Railway) laid tracks through the community. The Dawes Commission ordered the town surveyed in 1903. Locals also called the community Illinois Station, and many circa 1900 maps label it "Illinois Station, Campbell Post Office."

By 1909 the population supported a bank, two lumber companies, a flour mill, a cotton gin, two hotels, and numerous retail outlets. In that year the town changed its name to Gore, in honor of U.S. Sen. Thomas P. Gore. Also in 1909 a fire destroyed the bank and many downtown businesses. The 1910 census counted 316 residents, and the count remained steady for decades. Two early newspapers, the Campbell Register (1907) and the Citizen (1912), reported to the citizens. In 1922 the bank failed.

Gore's population reached 387 in 1950 and declined to 334 in 1960. Construction of the Tenkiller Ferry Dam from 1947 to 1953 improved the area's economy. Completion of the Webbers Falls Lock and Dam in 1970 (for navigation on the Arkansas River) and its hydroelectric power generation (initiated in 1973) stimulated growth. By 1970 the population climbed to 478. Other industry also provided employment. In 1967 Kerr-McGee purchased fifteen hundred acres three miles east of Gore and built a plant to convert uranium oxide into uranium hexaflouride gas, which was then shipped to a plant (then Kerr McGee's Cimarron facility north of Oklahoma City) to make fuel rods for nuclear reactors. In 1986 an accident at the Gore plant killed one worker and injured eighty-two people. Purchased in 1988 by General Atomics, the plant closed in 1993 after investigations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. At the beginning of the twenty-first century controversy again erupted, hinging on financial responsibility for cleaning up the site.

The stomp grounds for the United Keetoowah Band of the Cherokee Indians is located near Gore. One of that nation's leaders, Redbird Smith, died at his Gore-area home in 1918. Another town resident, Ray Fine, played a significant role in state politics, serving in the Oklahoma legislature for thirty years. In 2001 Bill Summers retired as mayor after serving for forty-nine years. In 2000 Gore's population stood at 850 and had a kindergarten through twelfth grade enrollment of 710 students.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Daily Oklahoman (Oklahoma City), 5 January 1906, 28 March 1906, 6 April 1909, 19 April 1970, 19 March 1972, 6 December 1992, and 20 June 2001. The History of Sequoyah County, 1828-1975 (N.p.: Sequoyah County Historical Society, 1976). H. D. Ragland, A History of Sequoyah County (Sallisaw, Okla.: H. D. Ragland, 1957).

Larry O'Dell

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