Three Forks (Oklahoma)

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Three Forks Oklahoma is an imprecisely defined area of what is now eastern Oklahoma, around the confluence of the Arkansas, Verdigris, and Grand Rivers. [lower-alpha 1] The term, "Three Forks," was apparently used to designate this area as early as 1719, when the French trader Bernard de la Harpe traveled through the area, meeting and trading with members of the Wichita tribe at a place on the Arkansas River immediately south of the present city of Tulsa. [1] [lower-alpha 2]

Oklahoma State of the United States of America

Oklahoma is a state in the South Central region of the United States, bordered by Kansas on the north, Missouri on the northeast, Arkansas on the east, Texas on the south, New Mexico on the west, and Colorado on the northwest. It is the 20th-most extensive and the 28th-most populous of the fifty United States. The state's name is derived from the Choctaw words okla and humma, meaning "red people". It is also known informally by its nickname, "The Sooner State", in reference to the non-Native settlers who staked their claims on land before the official opening date of lands in the western Oklahoma Territory or before the Indian Appropriations Act of 1889, which dramatically increased European-American settlement in the eastern Indian Territory. Oklahoma Territory and Indian Territory were merged into the State of Oklahoma when it became the 46th state to enter the union on November 16, 1907. Its residents are known as Oklahomans, and its capital and largest city is Oklahoma City.

Arkansas River major tributary of the Mississippi River, United States

The Arkansas River is a major tributary of the Mississippi River. It generally flows to the east and southeast as it traverses the U.S. states of Colorado, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. The river's source basin lies in the western United States in Colorado, specifically the Arkansas River Valley, where the headwaters derive from the snowpack in the Sawatch and Mosquito mountain ranges. It then flows east into the Midwest via Kansas, and finally into the South through Oklahoma and Arkansas.

Verdigris River Tributary of the Arkansas River in Kansas and Oklahoma, USA

The Verdigris River is a tributary of the Arkansas River in southeastern Kansas and northeastern Oklahoma in the United States. It is about 310 miles (500 km) long. Via the Arkansas, it is part of the Mississippi River watershed.

Located in a transition between the Ozark Mountains on the east and the Cross Timbers/Sandstone Hills on the West, this area is the wettest part of Oklahoma, commonly receiving at least 40 inches (1,000 mm) of precipitation per year. Bison and other fur-bearing animals were plentiful, making this a prime hunting area for centuries. Archaeologists have found evidence of human settlements dating back to at least 5000 B.C. [2]

According to Oklahoma historian Grant Foreman, it was the Spanish government who in 1802, granted a monopoly on trading with the Osage Indians, who then claimed control over the area, to Manuel Lisa, Charles Sanguinet, Francis M. Benoit and Gregoire Sarpy. This effectively undercut Pierre Chouteau, a Frenchman and resident of St. Louis, who enjoyed such a monopoly for the previous twenty years. Chouteau had acquired much influence with the Osage, and refused to take this situation lying down. He persuaded about two thousand of their number to pick a new chief named Cashesegra, or Big Track and move from their homes on the Missouri River to the Three Forks, where the Arkansas, Grand and Verdigris Rivers joined. This area was under at least nominal control of the French government, rather than the Spanish, so Chouteau was legally free to trade with these Osage. [3]

The Grand River is an alternate name for the lower section of the Neosho River, a tributary of the Arkansas River in Oklahoma. "Grand River" refers to the section of river below the confluence of the Neosho and Spring rivers in Ottawa County near Miami. It empties into the Arkansas northeast of Muskogee, just downstream from the confluence of the Verdigris River with the Arkansas. The area of convergence of the three rivers Arkansas, Verdigris and Neosho are called "Three Forks".

Foreman also wrote that after the Louisiana Purchase became a reality, the Osages were notified by an official letter. The Osage, by then led by Chief Clermont, simply threw the letter into a fire. They refused to accept that their friends, the French, would sell their land, and that they must swear loyalty to the United States. According to Foreman, this response was given to Lewis and Clark while their expedition was encamped on the Osage River on May 31, 1804. [4]

Louisiana Purchase Acquisition by the United States of America of Frances claim to the territory of Louisiana

The Louisiana Purchase was the acquisition of the Louisiana territory of New France by the United States from France in 1803. The U.S. paid fifty million francs ($11,250,000) and a cancellation of debts worth eighteen million francs ($3,750,000) for a total of sixty-eight million francs. The Louisiana territory included land from fifteen present U.S. states and two Canadian provinces. The territory contained land that forms Arkansas, Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Nebraska; the portion of Minnesota west of the Mississippi River; a large portion of North Dakota; a large portion of South Dakota; the northeastern section of New Mexico; the northern portion of Texas; the area of Montana, Wyoming, and Colorado east of the Continental Divide; Louisiana west of the Mississippi River ; and small portions of land within the present Canadian provinces of Alberta and Saskatchewan. Its non-native population was around 60,000 inhabitants, of whom half were African slaves.

The Osages who moved to the Three Forks fared well. Temperamental and warlike, they soon pushed out the Washitas and intimidated smaller tribes who already lived in the area. Then they dominated the fur trade with the French who came to Chouteau's trading post. It was not long before Cherokees who had already left their ancestral homes in the Southeastern states to settle in the Arkansas Territory began to encroach on the Osage's newly acquired hunting ground. One source claims that between 1790 and 1820, around 5,000 Cherokee settlers built farms and ranches on land they now claimed as their tribe's territory. These two tribes engaged in a 10-year war, in which neither would submit to the other, but the Osage finally realized they could not win. [lower-alpha 3] A settlement was reached whereby the Osage accepted a large reservation elsewhere. [5] [lower-alpha 4]

Three Forks is still used in the 21st Century in reference to the same geographic area, now covering at least part of present-day Cherokee, Muskogee and Wagoner Counties. [2] When the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System became operational in 1971, an important segment of the Port of Muskogee was formally named Three Forks Port.

Cherokee County, Oklahoma County in the United States

Cherokee County is a county located in the U.S. state of Oklahoma. As of the 2010 census, the population was 46,987. Its county seat is Tahlequah, which is also the capital of the Cherokee Nation.

The Port of Muskogee is a regional port, located on the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, in the United States. It is a multi-modal local hub for the transport of goods via trucks, railroad, and barges on the Arkansas River. It is one of the farthest inland, ice-free year-round, United States ports that can access the Gulf of Mexico. It is located near the confluence of the Arkansas River, Grand River and Verdigris River in Oklahoma, at River Mile 393.8 of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System,


  1. Grand River is the modern name for the Neosho River, downstream of the confluence of the Neosho and Spring Rivers in Oklahoma.
  2. The site is now known as the Lasley Vore Site.
  3. The fighting became so bloody that the U.S. Government felt compelled to intervene. The Army sent General Matthew Arbuckle to Three Forks for the purpose of building Fort Gibson on the Verdigris River in 1824 to keep the warring sides apart.
  4. The Osage reservation occupies the entirety of present-day Osage County, Oklahoma. A large tract of the Three Forks became part of the Cherokee Nation, when the tribe relocated after the Trail of Tears.

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René Auguste Chouteau, Jr., also known as Auguste Chouteau, was the founder of St. Louis, Missouri, a successful fur trader and a politician. He and his partner had a monopoly for many years of fur trade with the large Osage tribe on the Missouri River. In addition, he had numerous business interests in St. Louis and was well-connected with the various rulers: French, Spanish and American.

White Hair (Pawhuska) is the English name of several Osage leaders in the eighteenth and nineteenth century. A tintype image of White Hair can be seen at the Osage Nation Museum in Pawhuska, Oklahoma.

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The Battle of Claremore Mound, also known as the Battle of the Strawberry Moon, or the Claremore Mound Massacre, was one of the chief battles of the war between the Osage and Cherokee Indians. It occurred in June 1817, when a band of Western Cherokee and their allies under Chief Spring Frog (Too-an-tuh) attacked Pasuga, an Osage village at the foot of Claremore Mound. The village was nearly empty; only women, children, and the very sick and elderly remained there. Most of the village was currently away on a seasonal hunt that often lasted up to three or four months. The Cherokee killed or captured every remaining member of Chief Clermont's band and destroyed everything they could not carry away. Historians consider it one of the bloodiest Native American massacres in modern history.

Fort Gibson

Fort Gibson is a historic military site located next to the present day city of Fort Gibson, in Muskogee County Oklahoma. It guarded the American frontier in Indian Territory from 1824 until 1888. When constructed, the fort lay farther west than any other military post in the United States; it formed part of the north–south chain of forts intended to maintain peace on the frontier of the American West and to protect the southwestern border of the Louisiana Purchase. The fort succeeded in its peacekeeping mission for more than 50 years, as no massacres or battles occurred there. The fort site is now managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society as the Fort Gibson Historical Site. It is a National Historic Landmark.

Treaty of Fort Clark

The Treaty of Fort Clark was signed at Fort Osage on November 10, 1808 in which the Osage Nation ceded all the land east of the fort in Missouri and Arkansas north of the Arkansas River to the United States. The Fort Clark treaty and the Treaty of St. Louis in which the Sac (tribe) and Fox (tribe) ceded northeastern Missouri along with northern Illinois and southern Wisconsin were the first two major treaties in the newly acquired Louisiana Purchase. The affected tribes, upset with the terms, were to side with the British in the War of 1812. Following the settlement of that war, John C. Sullivan for the United States was to survey the ceded land in 1816 (adjusting it 23 miles westward to the mouth of the Kansas River to create the Indian Boundary Line west of which and south of which virtually all tribes were to be removed in the Indian Removal Act in 1830.

Chouteau Lock & Dam

Chouteau Lock & Dam, also identified as Chouteau Lock & Dam 17, is 17th lock and dam of the McClellan-Kerr Arkansas River Navigation System (MKARNS) from the Mississippi River to its terminus at the Tulsa Port of Catoosa, and is the first lock and dam on the Verdigris River in Oklahoma, just above the Three Forks junction with the Arkansas River. The lock is about 4 miles (6.4 km) northwest of Okay in Wagoner County, Oklahoma. Construction of this facility started in 1966 and was completed in 1970. The estimated cost of Chouteau Lock & Dam was $ 31.8 million.


  1. Goins, Charles Robert; Danney Goble and James H. Anderson. Historical Atlas of Oklahoma,Fourth edition. ISBN   978-0-8061-3482-6 . University of Oklahoma Press . 2006. Available on Google Books.
  2. 1 2 Hurt, Douglas A. "Three Forks Area." Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. Accessed September 27, 2017.
  3. Foreman, Grant. "The Three Forks." Chronicles of Oklahoma. Volume 2, Number 1. March, 1924 Accessed September 24, 2017.
  4. Foreman, p. 38.
  5. DuVal, Kathleen. The Native Ground: Indians and Colonists in the Heart of the Continent. Available on Google Books. pp. 196-198. 2006. The University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN   978-0-8122-0182-6 . Accessed September 27, 2017.