Grand River Historical Society



Long before recorded history, the Grand River carved its way from the confluence of the Neosho and Spring Rivers to Three Forks, a meeting of the Verdigris and Arkansas near Muskogee over 100 air miles to the southwest. During that time, and until inundated by Grand, Hudson, and Gibson lakes, the river steadily ground out a spectacular valley. Fed by innumerable creeks and rivers draining nearly 11,000 square miles in Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas and Oklahoma, the river is a recognizable division between the Ozark uplift toward the east and the Osage Plains westward. One can only imagine the impression the soaring cliffs and intermittent flooding in the valley had on early inhabitants.

Historians speculate as to when man first occupied the river valley. The “Afton Spring” mentioned on page 19 gives some clues. Additional archaeological data acquired later in the 20th century also offers proof that inhabitants lived here thousands of years ago. More recent evidence from the accounts of Indian lore and historical documents indicate that white men, Spanish conquistadors, were in the region in the mid 1500’s and French traders by the 1700’s or even earlier. And, during this time, the river has been accorded no less than a total of eleven names. However, the distinguishing date was March, 1796 when fur trader Jean Chouteau seeking a site for a trading post encountered a sizeable stream which he called “Le Grande Riviere.”

The purpose of this chronology is to provide dates of events that were occurring or occurred in relation to the river from pre-historic times through the construction of the Pensacola Dam followed by the Kerr dam by the mid-60’s in northeastern Oklahoma. I have not addressed many dates related to the migration or removal of various tribes to Indian Territory along the Grand River because of the complexity. That story deserves a chronology of its own. My addition of “factoids,” descriptions of some events, is to highlight some incidents that may be of additional interest.

And, now a disclaimer pertaining to specific dates and places. For example, some historians have placed French explorer La Harpe and his parley with Indian tribes in 1719 near Muskogee, more recent research points to a locale near Jenks. I have chosen the recent version as being more credible. And, in some “arguable” instances, recent settlers offer conflicting recollections regarding dates of events and location of places. This said, the overriding objective of the publication has been to draw more attention and debate to the fascinating story of the history of Northeastern Oklahoma in relation to the “Grand” River that flows through it.

Finally, as the occasion permits, remember to re-visit the web site which is being continually updated with new information and additional links to history in northeastern Oklahoma.

Please use the following link to open and or download the Grand River Chronology.

D. Bruce Howell, 2010





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