Historical book about Poteau written by local author
#1 Aug 22, 2012
I wanted to take a moment and share a little more information about the writing process of The Birth of Poteau, and about how we teamed up in order to try and write the most comprehensive book about Poteau, Oklahoma.
The book began almost by accident.
Almost three years ago, Mr. George Shaw and myself got together to do some genealogical research. Our goal was simple; to track the movements of one of his relatives throughout Poteau. In the process, we began making amazing discovery after amazing discovery.
The big break came when we found numerous old maps and several early-day interviews of people who lived in the area. This not only gave us a detailed view of the town of Poteau, but it also helped to fill in many of the missing blanks that we had on his family's history.
By this time, we had amassed such a large collection of information that it was decided that we needed to share this with the town of Poteau.
Thus, The Birth of Poteau was born.
We began by taking several spreadsheets of raw information and used them to create an outline of Poteau's history. Once that outline was created, our next goal was to turn it into a story.
My job was to scour every possible archive that I could find in order to find information. At the same time, Mr. Shaw poured through countless books and records, as well as many of the resources that he had collected from his time working at the paper. Even the tiniest piece of information we found was like striking gold.
As we continued gathering information, more pieces of the puzzle began fitting together. First, we did an in-depth study of "Poteau Switch". Mr. Shaw drew countless maps of the old town based on early descriptions, which were then imported into the computer to form the base of what we knew about the early town. This enabled us to match the stories that we found with the locations in Poteau. Later, we discovered a series of survey maps that gave us much greater detail about the town.
This gave us a solid base on which to develop more of the story. Along with these maps, we also began finding many old photos of Poteau. Many of the photos that we've re-discovered were from old publications that most likely haven't been seen since the early 1900s.
It can be said that we got lost in the research. Each piece of information led us on to other pieces and before we realized it, almost two years had passed. We met almost daily to share and study the information that we had found. After reaching 400 pages, it was decided that we needed to draw the book to a close. We ran through numerous rough drafts before the book was ready to print. As you can imagine, when the first draft came in, we were extremely elated at both the quality of the book as well as how much of Poteau's history that we have been able to uncover! This will be a resource that will be enjoyed by many generations to come, and can be a strong point of pride for both residents and visitors to the area we call home.
On a personal note, if it had not been for Mr. Shaw, The Birth of Poteau would have never been written. He is one of the most knowledgeable men on the history of Poteau, and with his background in both printing and education, he has been the perfect partner to create a project of this size and magnitude. Men of his caliber are rare, and I can express my gratitude for all that he has done, both for Poteau and for myself.
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