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The Choctaw County town of Sawyer is located on U.S. Highway 70, approximately eight miles east of Hugo near Lake Hugo. The community developed in the Choctaw Nation near Rock Chimney Ferry across the Kiamichi River on a road to Paris, Texas. During 1901-03 the Arkansas and Choctaw Railway, which changed its name to the St. Louis, San Francisco and New Orleans Railroad Company in 1902, built tracks through the area. The town that became Sawyer began as Gilbert on the railroad. The Post Office Department established a post office on June 27, 1902, and William Cravens, the first postmaster, named it Miah, for one of his sons. In 1903 the town's name changed to Sawyer, honoring Charles Sawyer, an attorney for the Dawes Commission. However, into the 1910s the railroad called the station Roby.

Farming and the timber industry, aided by rail access, carried the region's economy. In 1907 the St. Louis and San Francisco Railway acquired the line. Sawyer's/Roby's 1911 population stood near 250, and the town had a telephone connection, a sawmill, several grocers and general stores, a blacksmith, and a drugstore. In 1912 the Sawyer Times began reporting the area news. By 1918 the estimated population had declined to one hundred. In 1907 or 1908 the town built its first school, which eventually expanded to a two-year high school.

In 1967 the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers initiated construction of Hugo Dam on the Kiamichi River, reinvigorating the town. In 1974 the impounding of the lake provided flood control, water quality and supply, recreation, and habitat for fish and wildlife. In 1990 Sawyer's population stood at 280. The town officially incorporated in the 1990s. In 2000 the federal census reported 274 residents. Ninety-seven percent of employed residents commuted to jobs in other towns. Children attended school at Fort Towson.


BIBLIOGRAPHY: Oklahoma's Water Atlas (Norman: Oklahoma Water Resources Board, 1984). Profiles of America, Vol. 2 (2d ed.; Millerton, N.Y.: Grey Publishing, 2003). "Sawyer," Hugo (Oklahoma) Daily News, 1 July 1977. "Sawyer," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.

Larry O'Dell

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