Why the Name Gore? History of the Town

Published On September 29, 2021

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With its wonderful location in picturesque Sequoyah County, people often wonder where our tiny town of Gore got its name. It’s nothing special really, but there is some debate and the area does have a unique history. Read on to find out more.

The area around Gore was important in early 19th century Cherokee history. 1829 was when Western Cherokee Chief John Jolly established his home nearby, around the Cherokee capital of Tahlonteskee. It was around this time that Sam Houston, the future president of the Republic of Texas (it wasn’t quite a state yet!) Houston came to the area to visit Jolly, who had adopted Houston as a boy and named him Raven.

A Community Forming

After the 1835 Treaty of New Echota and the arrival of most of the Eastern Cherokee people, the Western Cherokees joined with the Cherokee Nation. Then in 1841, Tahlequah was designated the Cherokee capital. Meanwhile, a small settlement developed around a ferry that operated across the Arkansas River, which connected the growing town of Campbell with Webbers Falls. This was also a major stop on the stagecoach route linking Fort Smith, Arkansas with Fort Gibson.

In 1888, Dr. Campbell (who incidentally was the gent the town was named after) received a postal designation of Campbell for his store. That very same year, the St. Louis, Iron Mountain, and Southern Railway laid tracks through the town. By 1909, the population was large enough to support two lumber companies, a bank, a flour mill, two hotels, a cotton gin, and numerous retail businesses.

What’s the Real Story?

It was also in 1909, on October 22nd to be exact, that the name of the town was officially changed to Gore, in honor of Senator Thomas P. Gore. Now legend has it that there are several accounts as to how the town got its name. One of them being that as Texas officially received statehood (back in 1845) there just happened to be another Campbell in nearby Oklahoma. So the one in the now state of Texas needed to find another name so as to avoid confusion in the populous.

Another story suggests that the local baseball teams needed new uniforms and one of the town’s leaders contacted Senator Gore to ask for a donation for the procurement of the uniforms. If he agreed to help, the name of Campbell town would be changed to Gore in his honor. But whatever the real reason, it has been called Gore ever since. Senator Gore passed away in 1949.

The year 1909 was a big year for the town because a fire broke out that destroyed the bank and many downtown businesses also in that same year. The following year, the census counted 316 residents, with that approximate population remaining steady for decades. In 1922, the bank failed due to the financial crises around that time and it wasn’t until years later that branch banks from neighboring counties stepped in to provide banking services to Gore.

Devastation and Growth Intertwine

In 1936, a devastating tornado ripped through Gore, damaging most of the homes and businesses, though no deaths were reported. Determined residents began rebuilding.

Then in 1950 Gore’s population rose to 387, but declined again to 334 by 1960, even though construction of the Tenkiller Ferry Dam from 1947 to 1953 improved the area’s economy.

With the completion of the Webbers Falls Dam in 1970 (which aided navigation on the Arkansas River) and the hydroelectric power generation, the population growth was stimulated once again and by 1970, Gore’s residents equaled 478. In 1967, a plant was built just east of Gore to convert uranium oxide into uranium hexafluoride gas, which was shipped to a facility north of Oklahoma City to make fuel rods for nuclear reactors.

Tragedy struck in 1986 when an accident at the Gore plant killed one worker and injured over 80 others. Two years later, the plant was purchased by General Atomics, only to close in 1993 after unfavorable investigations by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The beginning of the 21st century saw controversy around the plant once again when financial responsibility for cleaning up the site gained headlines.

The area remains an important land for Native Americans and is the stomping grounds for the United Keetooway Band of the Cherokee, located near Gore, and where Redbird Smith, one of the leaders of that band, passed away in his Gore-area home in 1918. Other notable Gore residents include Ray Fine, who played a significant part in Texas politics, serving in the Oklahoma Legislature for some 30 years. The longest running mayor of Gore, Bill Summers, retired in 2001 after serving an impressive 49 years at the job.

In 2000, Gore’s residents swelled to 850, and the town’s school had a kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment of 710 students. As of 2010, the census reported 977 residents.