Southeast Oklahoma is full of fun and fascinating things to do, see, and talk about! There are a plethora of outdoor recreational opportunities, including places such as Long Lake Resort and Lake Wister. Poteau, the County Seat offers a touch of city life, while still retaining that “home town” feel. No matter what you are looking for, there’s something here for everyone!
Poteau, Oklahoma and the Mountain Gateway
Known as The Mountain Gateway, the Poteau area is one of the most beautiful destination points in the country. Still, few people outside of the area know about this natural beauty.
The modern town of Poteau can trace its origins back to 1875 when the first white families began to settle the area. Poteau Switch, as it was then known, was a wild and rugged place. Notorious outlaws such as Belle Starr, Frank and Jesse James, and the Younger Gang frequented the area as they passed through the area.
By the early 1920’s, development along Dewey Avenue was at its peak. By now, the small settlement of Poteau Switch had grown into a thriving city. Buildings were being erected at a rapid pace. Both Wister and Heavener were not far behind, both towns rivaled Poteau in terms of growth.
In 1932, because of the rapid growth, W.W. Lowrey hosted the Lakeview Land-run in Poteau. This was an event that mimicked the earlier Oklahoma Land Runs throughout the state. Visitors lined up along Dewey Avenue to “claim a stake” in some of the best property in Poteau.
In 1934, Bonnie and Clyde robbed the Central National Bank in Downtown Poteau. They escaped in a blue Plymouth sedan down the old highway with $1,500 in hand. This was their last successful robbery before the end of their career.
During WWII, servicemen from Ft. Smith would travel to Poteau and Heavener for weekend leaves, as the towns were the furthest point in which they could travel from Ft. Smith.
Growth in Poteau continued at a rapid pace until 1981. That year, a series of large fires destroyed many of the historic buildings in downtown Poteau. In the mid-1990’s, a strong push was made to revive the aging downtown area by then mayor Don Barnes.
Today, downtown development is booming once more due largely to efforts began by local author and historian Eric Standridge, business owner Karla Holt, and with Julie Jenkins, and Kathleen Bishop. Along with the City of Poteau, Standridge implimented a plan to revitalize the downtown district. Now overseen by Poteau Main Street Matters, they continue to provide events and activities throughout the downtown area.
In recent years, the city has seen a new library, a modern convention center, and a state-of-the-art Skatepark. Black Angus bulls were also recently put up that reflect the proud heritage of Poteau. As the town continues to grow and thrive, it’s assured that it will always remain one of the best small towns in eastern Oklahoma.
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The Mountain Gateway Community Alliance consists of a group of individuals who are passionate about our communities. Primarily, we cover the “tri-city” area, including Poteau, Wister, and Heavener.
Our goal is to serve the tri-city area through social innovation, Beautification and Revitalization, Historic Preservation, and fostering community cohesion.
Our main programs include the Poteau Farmer’s Market and the MGCA Artist Cooperative. Other projects range from trash cleanup programs to historic preservation projects.