Tenkiller is inseparably linked
with the history of the Native American Indian. This area, before
1800, was the ancestral home and territorial hunting domain of
first, the Caddo and then the Osage Indians.
About 1800, an Indian trader
named Lovely made a purchase agreement with the Osage for a 100
mile square of land which became known as "Lovely's Purchase".
He built a courthouse which was the seat of governmental affairs.
It was located at a site first known as "Kildron" and
later, after the Cherokees arrived, as Dwight Mission.
The first known white man to
bring his family and settle here was Captain Mark Bean, in 1803.
He built a farm on the bank of the Illinois River encompassing
the area of the Lake Tenkiller Dam.
The Treaty of 1817 between the US Government and a portion of the Cherokee Nation, started the Cherokee migration to the Oklahoma Territory.
When the Eastern Cherokee Nation
was driven from their homeland, on the "Trail of Tears"
in 1838-1839, the two nations were reunited and the capital was
re-established at Tahlequah. Captain Mark Bean and numerous other
white pioneer settlers were forced to move from this area by
the US Government in 1829, because the land was decreed "Cherokee
The "Lake Tenkiller Ferry Dam" is named for the Tenkillers, a prominent Cherokee family from whom the land and ferry were obtained to build the dam. It is said the Cherokee warrior was given his name by the white soldiers and pioneers at Ft. Gibson, because of the ten notches on this bow.