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LEFLORE

Located in western Le Flore County, approximately twenty-five miles southwest of Poteau, Leflore initially existed as a dispersed rural settlement in the Choctaw Nation. The community's center was a school for Choctaw students. In 1886-87 the Fort Smith and Southern Railway, soon purchased by the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway, laid tracks through the area, erecting a small station at LeFlore. In 1887 the Post Office Department designated the first post office. The town's name reflects the prominent Le Flore family and may have specifically been chosen to honor Millie Le Flore. The present community lies on County Road E1460.

In 1901 the estimated population stood at fifty, and the town had a doctor, general store, gristmill, and cotton gin. It also supported two dealers in livestock, indicating that ranching served as a prevalent economic industry. In 1902 Leflore was surveyed and platted under the direction of the Dawes Commission, with the Department of the Interior approving the survey. By 1911 the town had an estimated population of 450, with businesses including a bank, telephone connections, a drugstore, and two hotels. In 1918 the approximate population had declined to three hundred, but three livestock dealers operated.

In 1946 the significant businesses included a general store, a grocery and feed store, and a blacksmith. By 1955 a service station had been added. In the 1960s, as the county experienced growth due to the construction of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System and Talimena Scenic Drive, the incorporated towns began a frenzy of annexation, hoping to reap the benefit of sales taxes and state funds. Many communities that were not already incorporated did so, including Leflore. The 1970 population registered 175, climbing to 322 in 1980. In 2000 the population was 168, with 28.5 percent American Indian.

SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Heavener Area Historical Society, Heavener, Indian Territory: Our Proud Heritage, 1896-1996 (Cane Hill, Ark.: Arc Press, 1996). Henry L. Peck, The Proud Heritage of LeFlore County: A History of an Oklahoma County (Van Buren, Ark.: Press Argus, 1963). Sarah Singleton Spears, Yesterday Revisited: An Illustrated History of LeFlore County (Poteau, Okla.: Poteau Daily News and Sun, 1991).

Larry O'Dell

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