Hugo Lake takes its name from the city of Hugo, county seat of Choctaw County, which was named for Victor Hugo, French novelist. The lake lies within the boundaries of the old Choctaw Nation. Its main embankment and southern perimeter skirts US 70, a route which bisects the oldest Choctaw settlements in Oklahoma and is approximately the trail beaten out by the Choctaws as they pushed westward from their first settlement in the new land to which they were exiled from their Mississippi homes in 1831-33. Lake visitors will be rewarded by a visit to the Choctaw Cultural Center in Hugo. The Oklahoma Historical Society has taken over management of the site of old Fort Townson, northwest of the community bearing the same name. Indian Territory's second fort, was founded in 1824 to protect the then-Spanish border. Abandoned by the U.S. Army in 1854, it was used as a Choctaw Indian Agency until the Civil War, when it was used as the Confederate military headquarters for Indian Territory. Near the old military post is Oklahoma’s oldest existing residence, restored and managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society. Known as the "Old Chiefs House," the two-story log house was built in 1832 for the District Chief Thomas LeFlore of the well-known Choctaw family of French descent. After the Civil War, it served as the temporary first school for blacks. South of Hugo is the Presbyterian Children's Home, founded in 1848. It is the oldest Protestant home for children In the United States, and the chapel on its grounds -- built in 1852 -- is Oklahoma's oldest continuously used church. You may also visit the site of the Goodwater Indian Mission near Frogville, the old distinct capital city of Mayhew near Boswell, or the site of the historic Spencer Academy near Spencerville which was established in 1841 as the first of the Choctaw Nation schools. Other places of historical interest include the site of Doaksville, an important early-day trading center established by fur traders in 1821 and the former Choctaw Nation Capital; the Fort Towson-Doaksville cemetery; and Rose Hill cemetery, the resting place of Colonel Robert M. Jones who was rated the wealthiest man in the Choctaw Nation before the War Between the States.
The project was authorized by the 1946 and 1962 Flood Control Acts as a unit of the comprehensive plan for flood control, water supply, fish and wildlife management and recreation. Storage for water quality control was added as a project purpose under Public Law 86-88 and was approved by appropriate Congressional Committees on October 6, 1969. It was designed by the Tulsa District, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, and built under supervision of the Corps. Construction of the dam began in October 1967 and was completed for water storage and flood control operation in January 1974 at a cost of approximately $37,000,000.