History of Broken Bow Lake

EARLY DAY HISTORY In 1820, a treaty was signed between the Federal Government and the Choctaw Indians providing for an exchange of Choctaw Indian Lands in Mississippi for a large part of the southeastern portion of what is now the State of Oklahoma.

McCurtain County, in which Broken Bow Lake is located, was part of this exchange and became the southeast portion of the old Choctaw Indian Nation. The present county boundary was established in 1825 when the western Arkansas boundary was moved to its present location in order to give the Choctaw Nation all of what is now McCurtain County Oklahoma.

The county was named for a well-known Choctaw Indian family, of which the father and his three sons all served as chief of the Choctaw Indian Nation. Prior to becoming the Choctaw Nation, the area was visited by many Indian tribes hunting buffalo and other wild game. The "Choctaw Indians" called their hunting trips, "Owa-chita", from which came the name of the "Ouachita Mountain Range" (originally known as the "Massern Mountain Range").

Although this region was first explored by the Spanish, the French explorers and fur traders who followed them made a more lasting impression on the area. The Kiamichi Mountains of the area were named by the French. The name is the French word for the "Horned Screamer" bird that inhabited the mountains. Among the most notable French explorers to visit the area was Bernard de la Harpe, who in 1718 passed through this region. His route was along the north side of the Red River. During this expedition he established very good relations with the Indians of the area, who from that time until the Louisiana Purchase in 1803, were considered citizens of France.

In 1805 the first American expedition into the area was made by Dr. John Sibley Indian Agent for the new Louisiana Territory. In 1806, Captain Richard Sparks started up the Red River to explore the area. He was forced to turn back by the Spanish who were trying to monopolize trade with the Indians and afraid of American competition. Other Americans who explored the area were Major Stephen H. Long in 1817 and Thomas Nuttal in 1819.

Other points of historical interest located on or near Broken Bow Lake are old Hochatown, inundated by the lake, which was settled by the Choctaw Indians in the early 1830's. Broken Bow, center of the state's timber production, was named by the Dierks brothers, pioneer lumbermen, for their Nebraska home. The Broken Bow post office was established in 1911. Idabel, seat of McCurtain County was first named Mitchell, then renamed for the daughters, Ida and Belle, of a Choctaw citizen on whose land the town was built. Beavers Bend State Park, the site of an old Choctaw settlement, was named for John T. Beavers, a Choctaw intermarried citizen.