History of the Land

Lake Eufaula was approved by the US Congress in 1946 to provide flood control, hydroelectric power, water supply, and recreation. In 1964, President Johnson dedicated the dam to create the lake as we know it today. Since that time, people from the region have enjoyed the outdoor life around the lake with boating, fishing, hunting, golfing, and horseback riding.

Most of the 600-mile shoreline of Lake Eufaula lies within the boundaries of the old Creek Nation, with part of the southern portion in the old Choctaw Nation. Many of the reminders of the colorful history of this area – Indian life, outlaw gangs, and Civil War battles – remain for visitors to see. The Battle of Honey Springs, the largest and most important of the battles fought during the Civil War in Oklahoma, took place July 17, 1863, on a site about 3 1/2 miles northeast of Checotah, Oklahoma. The battleground is presently owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society. The lake waters nestle across the old Texas Road over which, in the 1830s, more than a thousand covered wagons rolled in each week as settlers moved from the east into Texas. The much-used trade route was the forerunner of the present-day U.S. 69. When the Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad – the Katy – built the first rail lines southward across Indian Territory in 1872, it also followed the route of the Texas Road.

Eufaula, the county seat of McIntosh County and former Record Town for Recording District No. 12, Indian Territory, was named after one of the historic Creek Indian villages in the Creeks’ old homeland in Alabama. Just a half mile east of Eufaula was the site of North Fork Town, settled by the Creeks shortly after their arrival in this area in 1836. The Texas Road and a branch of the California Road crossed at North Fork Town, making it an vital crossroads. This important tribal community was the scene of the treaty making between the Confederates and the Creeks, Choctaws, and Chickasaws in 1861. It is now inundated by the waters of Eufaula Lake.

Vacationers in the area can treat themselves to a historical feast if they visit the Creek Indian Council House and Museum which stands in the middle of the square in downtown Okmulgee. Exhibits include Indian murals and paintings, artifacts, and pioneer history and archaeology. Near the north end of Eufaula Dam was the home of Belle Starr, fabled woman outlaw of early Indian territorial days. Here was the hideout of her gang, and at times of the Youngers and Jessie and Frank James.

Northeast of Eufaula is the site of Asbury Mission, a boarding school established by the Methodist Episcopal Church in 1849 with the Creek Council. The original buildings burned in 1889 and were rebuilt by the Creeks in 1892. The Indian Journal, located at Eufaula, is the oldest surviving newspaper in Oklahoma. It was founded in Muskogee in 1876 as a Creek tribal organ. It was once edited by Alexander Pose the famous Creek poet and statesman.

One of the most famous landmarks of the area has vanished beneath the waters of Lake Eufaula. Standing Rock, which stood 63 feet above the waters of the Canadian River five miles east of Eufaula, was noted as a fishing spot by early-day settlers. Standing Rock was first recorded on papers of early day Spanish explorers. Spanish symbols carved on the rock were believed by some to have pointed to the location of buried treasure. The rock also was mentioned in notes of Captain Bonneville, who led an expedition there from Fort Gibson, in 1830.

The Lake Eufaula Project was authorized by the 1946 River and Harbor Act. It was designed by the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and built under the Corps supervision at a cost of $121,735,000. Construction was started in December 1956 and was completed for flood control operation in February 1964. President Lyndon B. Johnson dedicated the project on September 25, 1964.

(History section courtesy of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)