Located in northeastern Pittsburg County on State Highway 31 thirty miles northeast of McAlester, Quinton was once known as "Alexander Gap." The original name referred to the community's placement in a pass between the foothills of the Ozarks and the Sans Bois Mountains. In 1902 the arrival of the Fort Smith and Western Railroad (in 1923 became the Fort Smith and Western Railway) brought an increase in settlement. The nearest stations were at Kinta, nine miles east, and Featherston, eight miles to the west. Jess Wallace, credited with being Quinton's first citizen, sent three town names to Washington, D.C., for the Post Office Department to review. They selected Quinton, honoring Martha E. Quinton, a prominent local Choctaw, and in March 1902 the post office was opened.
In 1904 the Quinton Pioneer began reporting to the town. The Quinton Times provided competition in 1912 and absorbed the Pioneer in 1916. The 1910 population stood at 697 residents. By 1914 Quinton remained a small farming community, with a few coal mines northwest of town. In February 1914 the region changed with the discovery of natural gas on Frank Hendrickson's farm. Soon the Quinton area was producing over 500 million cubic feet per day. People came to work in the oil fields, and an industry was built in the form of the Quinton Smelter. The facility, which smelted zinc ore shipped from the Joplin Field and elsewhere in the United States, grew to include a five-block-long physical plant and three hundred employees. In 1920 the U.S. Census reported 1,557 people, and in 1930, 1,804.
In the fifteen years between 1916 and 1931 many changes came to the Quinton area, including municipal water, sewer service, and electric power. In 1936 there were five grocery stores, five general stores, seven dry goods stores, two drugstores, five cafes, seven service stations, a lumber company, a bakery, a hotel, two motor companies, and a ice company, among other small businesses. When the Fort Smith and Western Railway was abandoned in 1939, the smelter closed down, as did the few nearby coal mines. The 1950 population was down to 951 residents. By 1969 about five hundred children were enrolled in the schools and numerous small businesses lined the streets. In 1970, 1,262 residents lived in the community, but the number dropped to 1,071 in 2000.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Pittsburg County, Oklahoma: People and Places (McAlester, Okla.: Pittsburg County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1997). George H. Shirk, Oklahoma Place Names (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma, 1974).
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