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The Oklahoma city of McAlester is the county seat of Pittsburg County and the largest city in the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. It is named in honor of J.J. McAlester a Confederate soldier and a developer of Oklahoma’s coal mining industry who became the second Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma. In 1869, after the end of the War Between the States, McAlester pitched a tent and opened a store at the point where the Texas Road and a California trail crossed. His business flourished, and in 1872, he married a member of a prominent Chickasaw family, Rebecca Burney, which marriage made him a citizen of the Nation and allowed him to lease and control property. Being that he knew of some local oil outcroppings, he bought the land above them, along with three business partners. These partners started the oil industry in Indian Territory. The mining industry and the additional agricultural industry attracted more settlers, and in 1899, the town was incorporated. In the early years of the 20th century, boll weevils destroyed cotton production, and the railroads converted to oil instead of coal as a fuel. The sate prison, built in 1911, still went strong, however. During World War II, a POW camp which housed 3,000 German prisoners by the end of the war was built at the city limits and a Naval Ammunition was established. There are two annual festivals in McAlester, each of which is quite popular. The first is the Italian Festival, held on Memorial Day weekend, and the second is the “behind the walls” prison rodeo on Labor Day weekend.

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