Located in Sequoyah County, Roland is situated on County Road E1100, one mile north of U.S. Highway 64 and adjacent to Interstate 40. The town is four miles east of Muldrow and approximately six miles west of the Oklahoma-Arkansas state line. The settlement emerged from a dispersed rural community in the Cherokee Nation, which also sheltered whites, some of whom were legally in the nation and others who had intruded illegally from Arkansas. After the Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway built tracks through the region in 1888, the railroad, which was soon leased to and then acquired by the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, built a depot at present Roland. The emerging community became known as Garrison or Garrison Creek, and received a postal designation in 1902. In 1904 the residents voted to change the name to Roland.
In 1910 the population stood at 228. In 1911 the town had telephone service, a public school, four general stores, and three grocers. The surrounding river bottoms have consistently been the basis of a strong agricultural economy. In 1917 the Missouri Pacific Railroad purchased the local line. The 1920 population of 271 patronized four stores, and agricultural services were provided by two blacksmiths, a corn mill, and a cotton gin. The railroad ended passenger service in 1938, but the town remained a shipping and retail point. The 1940 census recorded 311 residents, a number that climbed to 443 in 1950.
Roland is six miles from Fort Smith, Arkansas, and is close to Interstate 40, opened in 1965 between Arkansas and Oklahoma. The town's placement has facilitated the steady population growth of a "bedroom" community and has also generated business opportunities. In 1990 the Cherokee Nation constructed a casino (originally called the Cherokee Nation Bingo Outpost) in the town, near the highway. The 1980 population of 1,472 mushroomed to 2,842 in 2000. That year 1,229 students enrolled in the Roland school system, which served prekindergarten through high school.
SEE ALSO: SETTLEMENT PATTERNS.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Bill Day, "Roland Community," in The History of Sequoyah County, 1828-1975 (N.p.: Sequoyah County Historical Society, 1976). Leona Perceful, "Early Days in Roland," Twin City Times (Muldrow, Oklahoma), 23 November 1983. H. D. Ragland, A History of Sequoyah County (Sallisaw, Okla.: Privately printed, 1957). Tulsa (Oklahoma) World, 20 June 1994.
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