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McAlester is a city in Pittsburg Countymarker, Oklahomamarker, United Statesmarker. The population was 17,783 at the 2000 census. It is the county seat of Pittsburg Countymarker. It is currently the largest city in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahomamarker, followed by Durantmarker.

The town gets its name from J.J. McAlester, who was immortalized as a character in the novel True Grit, which was then made into a movie starring John Wayne.

McAlester is the home of the Oklahoma State Penitentiarymarker, site of an "inside the walls" prison rodeo from which ESPN's SportsCenter once broadcast. Sometimes Oklahomans refer to the state prison simply as "McAlester," and the town is referenced in that manner in the opening pages of The Grapes of Wrath when Tom Joad is released from there. The prison was also the site of a 1973 riot that lasted for days and is generally regarded as one of the worst in American history.

McAlester is also the home of many of the employees of the nearby McAlester Army Ammunition Plant. This facility makes essentially all of the bombs used by the United States military.

McAlester is known in political circles for having been the home base of two noted American politicians - U.S. Speaker of the House Carl Albert, who was once a heartbeat from the presidency, and longtime Oklahoma State Senator Gene Stipe, whose career ended in a series of legal problems. Former Oklahoma Governor George Nigh also hailed from McAlester. McAlester is still known in Oklahoma as the "Capital of Little Dixie," for its old-time Democratic politics.

History

The crossing of the east-west California Road with the north-south Texas Road formed a natural point of settlement in Tobucksy County of the Choctaw Nation, a site originally called Bucklucksy. James Jackson McAlester, an employee of licensed traders Reynolds and Hannaford convinced the firm to locate a general store at that location in late 1869 .

The general store was an immediate success, but J. J. McAlester recognized an even greater opportunity in the abundance of readily available coal deposits in the area, and the impending construction of a rail line through Indian Territory.

By virtue of having been the first to extend their line to the northern border of Indian Territory, the Union Pacific Railway Southern Branch earned right of way and a liberal bonus of land to extend the line to Texasmarker. A number of New Yorkmarker businessmen, including Levi P. Morton, Levi Parsons, August Belmont, J. Pierpont Morgan, George Denison, and John D. Rockefeller, were interested in extending rail line through Indian Territory, and the Missouri-Kansas-Texas Railroad, familiarly called the Katy Railroad, began its corporate existence in 1865 toward that end. Morton and Parsons selected a site near the Kansasmarker border with Indian Territory at which a town operated by the railroad could be located, with the settlement incorporated under the name of Parsons, Kansasmarker, in 1871.

That same year, J.J. McAlester, after buying out Reynolds’ share of the trading post, journeyed with a sample of coal to the railroad town in hopes of persuading officials to locate the line near his store at Bucklucksy. The location of the trading post on the Texas Road weighed in its favor, given that the Katy Railroad line construction roughly followed the Shawnee Trail – Texas Road route southward to the Red Rivermarker. The line reached Bucklucksy in 1872 and Katy Railroad officials named the railway stop McAlester .

Fritz Sittle (Sittel), a Choctaw citizen by marriage and one of the first settlers in the area, urged visiting newspaperman Edwin D. Chadick in 1885 to pursue the possibility of establishing an east-west rail line to run through the coal mining district at Krebs that would connect with the north-south line at McAlester. Chadick eventually found financing and established the Choctaw Coal and Railway in 1888, but was unable to come to terms with J.J. McAlester over the issue of right of way.

Chadick and his investors purchased land to the south of McAlester's General Store, and where the two rail lines crossed formed a natural trading crossroads, and quickly became a bustling community designated as South McAlester. The original town location became known familiarly as North McAlester or North Town although early U.S. Census records simply identified it as McAlester.

The two towns operated as somewhat separate communities until 1907, when the United States Congress passed an Act joining the two communities as a single municipality, the action being required since the towns were under Federal jurisdiction in Indian Territory. The separate entities of McAlester and South McAlester were combined under the single name McAlester with office-holders of South McAlester as officials of the single town. Designation as a single community by the United States Post Office came on July 1, 1907, nearly five months before Oklahoma Statehood, which caused a redrawing of county lines and designations and the majority of Tobucksy County fell within the new lines of Pittsburg County.

McAlester was the site of the 2004 trial of Terry Nichols on Oklahoma state charges related to the Oklahoma City bombingmarker (1995), and in January 2007, a devastating ice storm crippled the city, leaving residents without power and water for more than a week.

Neighboring Communities



Transportation



Demographics

As of the 2000 census, there were 17,783 people, 6,584 households, and 4,187 families residing in the city. The population density was 1,133.1 people per square mile (437.6/km²). There were 7,374 housing units at an average density of 469.9/sq mi (181.5/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 74.72% White, 8.68% African American, 10.48% Native American, 0.39% Asian, 0.05% Pacific Islander, 1.29% from other races, and 4.38% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 3.04% of the population.

There were 6,584 households out of which 29.1% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 46.6% were married couples living together, 13.7% had a female householder with no husband present, and 36.4% were non-families. 33.7% of all households were made up of individuals and 16.6% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household] size was 2.31 and the average family size was 2.93.

In the city the population was spread out with 22.2% under the age of 18, 8.7% from 18 to 24, 30.4% from 25 to 44, 20.8% from 45 to 64, and 18.0% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 38 years. For every 100 females there were 107.8 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 108.2 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $28,631, and the median income for a family was $36,480. Males had a median income of $29,502 versus $19,455 for females. The per capita income for the city was $16,694. About 16.1% of families and 19.4% of the population were below the poverty line, including 26.8% of those under age 18 and 11.6% of those age 65 or over.

Points of interest



Notable residents



NRHP sites

The following sites in McAlester are listed on the National Register of Historic Places:

  • Aldridge Hotel
  • Busby Office Building
  • Busby Theatre
  • Federal Building and US Courthouse
  • First Presbyterian Church
  • Jeff Lee Park Bath House and Pool
  • Mass Grave of the Mexican Miners
  • McAlester Armory
  • McAlester DX
  • McAlester House
  • McAlester Scottish Rite Temple
  • Mine Rescue Station Building
  • New State School
  • OKLA Theater
  • Perryville
  • Pittsburg County Courthouse


Footnotes

  1. McAlester Prison Riot


References

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External links




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