By KIM ROBERTSON
In 1977 a group of local ladies were traveling to Wilburton to attend the genealogy meetings of the Eastern Oklahoma Genealogical Society. Talking amongst themselves and others in the area, they realized the need for a genealogy society in LeFlore County.
Poteau Valley Genealogical Society, Inc. was organized in February 1977 at the Wister Senior Citizens Center. There were six charter members: Glory Young, Mickey Brannon, Mary Tiffee, Arlene LeMaster, Shirley Pitman and Mary Shaw. Officers elected were President Mary Tiffee; Secretary-Treasurer Glory Young; Refreshment Chairman Mickey Brannon; Publicity Chairman Arlene LeMaster. Meetings were held on the fourth Thursday of each month at 7:30 p.m. Others serving as president are Mickey Brannon, Arlene LeMaster, Cathy Ritter, Darrell Brown and currently Kim Robertson. Numerous people have served in the capacity of Vice President, Secretary-Treasurer, Volunteer Coordinator and Librarian since PVGS was organized. Volunteers have always been the backbone of the society helping in the library and in the field.
Researchers have come from all of the United States to trace ancestors who have come to or through this area. Many come to trace their Native American Heritage. We have successfully assisted several obtain their CDIB (Certificate of Degree of Indian Blood). Research requests have been received from numerous people of various backgrounds and we work diligently to fulfill their requests, with great success.
Over the years, there have been many people in the society that traversed the cemeteries of the county transcribing the headstones. This job includes getting right in the middle of things, such as – ants, poison ivy, ticks, chiggers, snakes, and whatever it takes to get the job done. Other volunteers worked typing and compiling books. The first cemetery book published was on the Wister Area. We now have a book on every cemetery in LeFlore County.
In addition to the cemetery books, we have published books of local marriage records dating back to Indian Territory prior to statehood, death and funeral home records spanning decades, obituary books, school records, military record books and many others.
In November 1978, the genealogy society meeting place was moved to the Buckley Public Library in Poteau and was housed there until the Patrick Lynch Public Library was completed in 2013. We now have an expansive area to house a great number of research materials, computers, and microfilm readers and printers. We have an impressive Native American section as well. Members and guests also have online access to Ancestry, Fold3, Find a Grave, Digital Reel (Southeast Oklahoma Newspapers) and a subscription to Newspapers.com.
PVGS currently has two active projects. One is the Purple Heart Project. We are attempting to obtain information on all Purple Heart recipients that were born, lived, died or are buried in LeFlore County. We have Purple Heart Project applications on our Facebook page and at the genealogy library. We plan to publish the final work.
The other current project is The Historic Schools of LeFlore County. Sherry and Randy Steelman are exploring records of all LeFlore County schools from the time of statehood through 1968, when the final rural schools were consolidated into the 17 schools that still exist today. Upon completion, this work will also be published. If you have information, documents or pictures to contribute, you may contact the Steelmans directly at email@example.com or leave your contact information at the genealogy library.
In the last several years, PVGS has had an Open House during Family History month each October and turnout has been phenomenal. We love to visit and listen to family stories. From time to time, we offer a Beginners Genealogy Class and bring in individuals to speak on The Trail of Tears. We hope to offer these opportunities again soon.
PVGS currently has 43 members. Membership runs from January to December each year and is $15 for an individual or $20 for a family. Our Lifetime Memberships are $200 per individual or $250 per family. All members receive our quarterly, The LeFlore County Heritage and receive 10 percent off books published by PVGS.
Currently our library hours are Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. We are open Wednesday and Saturday by appointment only. Our meetings are held on the fourth Thursday of each month at 5:30 p.m. with cookies and conversation starting at 50 p.m. Meetings are open to the public.
We have a few more plans coming this year – so stay tuned!