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Lake Tenkiller History

Tenkiller History

The construction was begun on the Tenkiller Ferry Dam in 1947. The lake was named after the Tenkillers (a prominent Cherokee family who owned land and worked a ferry service near the site where the dam is now located. The Legend states that during the “Trail of Tears” era, the Cherokee warrior recieved his name by the soldiers and pioneers at Fort Gibson because of the ten notches in his bow.

Another part of history lies in the town of Cookson, Oklahoma. The town got its name from Jack Cookson, who worked the local post office from his own home, while the area was still Indian Territory, before statehood. The town was placed on the shore of the Illinois River near the Cookson Bluff area. Over the next few years the area became a central point of business for locals. One of the first structures in the area was the Ballew Brothers’ Store. The Ballews had settled at the Illinois River under the Cookson Bluffs, and operated the community site supplying locals with items such as food, guns, and tools. Years later, the George Stratton family obtained the operations of the store, which was also the local post office. The bottom floor of the site contained the store and the post office and the second floor of the structure was housed the Anti-Thief Association. The site was a popular meeting place for the enlarging community, and served as a voting place during elections. The U.S. Corps of Engineers began construction of the Tenkiller Dam in 1947 to compose Tenkiller Lake. Many of the structures from the area were moved to higher ground. These include the old store and many small cabins which were relocated on Hwy. 82, next to the Cookson Post Office. Several structures from the old town could not be moved, were left behind at the bottom of the lake, and are popular underwater destinations for scuba divers.

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