ROCK ISLAND

(submitted by David Tucker. Rock Island, Oklahoma)

Rock Island is located in the east central part of Le Flore County on Highway 112 leading to Fort Smith. It was established about 1904 at the coming of the Midland Valley Railway, and the opening of a number of coal mines. James L. Hale platted the town and laid off lots for sale. Garrett Mc Clure thinks Hale gave the town its name, from Rock Island, a coal town in Illinois. The town boomed for several years with good business establishments, and a good school. As many as fifty men worked in the slopes and three times as many with muscle and horse power in the strip pits.

At one time the town boasted of a school enrollment of 275 pupils. A junior high school was established with Supt. Evatts and Mr. Gassoway of Monroe as principal.

Among the business men of the early day were Rossor and Claud Lessell, Ceo. Austin, Zack T. Smith, Mr. Cox, and others. Coming later were Dale and Otway Smith, Mr. Ferguson, and McClure.

The post office was established in 1904 with McCarney as post master. Others have been Lessell, Mrs. H. Bustin, Ida Patterson, Don Emerson, and Mrs. Horn.

Rock Island has always been an active community. Much interest has always been shown in school, church, and singing. The Methodist for many years maintained a good, well organized church. Rev. Crossno of Poteau was one of the pastors. The Baptist have a good church building and a solid membership. The school is now closed because the community has decreased in population until it cannot qualify for two teachers so the entire school is transported to Cameron.

The community for the last twenty-five years has supported a homecoming featuring a big singing with free dinner on Sundays. Here crowds of people assembled from a number of states, visit, reminisce, and sing. It is estimated by Otway Smith, one of the boosters, that crowds reaching almost a thousand have been entertained and fed on Sundays at this, the greaest, best planned, and best attended homecoming in Eastern Oklahoma.

To the north of Rock Island, one-fourth mile from the Armstrong Store on the left of Highway 112 in an old cemetary, is the only Indian grave that can be found by the writer containing the body of an Indian executed under the Choctaw Law. Nearby is the grave of Rev. Hemphill, an old circuit rider preacher of the very early day.

Backbone Mountain is to the north of the town one mile. Mrs. Tom Ferguson states that Highway 112 crosses the mountain at practically the exact spot where the old military road from Fort Smith to Fort Towson crossed 124 years ago. It is here, Mrs. Ferguson states, that Jesse Riddle for many years operated a toll gate through permission from the Choctaw Nation. Her uncle, Jess George, was employed by Riddle to operate the toll gate during his absence. George was an old bachelor and lived in a little hut established just at the southern edge of what is now the highway at that place. He kept his money hid around the hut. One night he was hijacked but refused to reveal where his money was hidden. Finally the robbers tied his hands and threw a rope around his neck, straightened him out, tightened the rope, but still refused to tell. The exasperated robbers decided to finish the job. They strung him up to a joist and left him. However the toe of one boot barely touched the ground floor which kept him from strangling. Fortunately Riddle came along about that time and cut him down. Had this not happened in a very short time he would have been dead.

Calvin Garrett of Poteau with his parents and brothers camped on the little creek at the foot of the mountain in 1882 on their way emigrating from Mississippi to Kulla Chaha.The people in the east where Garrett came from considered the Choctaws to be a savage, uncivilized people. Calvin states that as he and his brothers were oiling and cleaning their old pistol they brought along to fight the Indians with, theyacci. dentally dropped the pistol in the camp fire. It took quite alot of scrambling around to get it out, he says, however the journey was completed to Kulla Chaha without an Indian ambush, or the loss of a single scalp.

 

 

Interesting fact about Rock Island, Oklahoma

(submitted by David Tucker. Rock Island, Oklahoma)

 

The only Railroad Tunnel in Oklahoma was constructed by the Frisco Line in 1885-1886 through Backbone Mountain.

It is 1,288 feet long and is located near Rock Island. The line, and tunnel, are still in use today.

 

 

 

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