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Sallisaw, Oklahoma
Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library (Former Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot)
Stanley Tubbs Memorial Library (Former Missouri Pacific Railroad Depot)
Motto: "Built on Pride, Dedicated to Excellence"
Country United States
State Oklahoma
County Sequoyah
 • Total 33.4 sq mi (87 km2)
 • Land 32.9 sq mi (85 km2)
 • Water 0.5 sq mi (1 km2)
Elevation 531 ft (162 m)
Population (2010)
 • Total 8,880
 • Density 265.9/sq mi (102.65/km2)
Time zone Central (CST) (UTC-6)
 • Summer (DST) CST (UTC-5)
ZIP Code 74955

Sallisaw is a city and county seat of Sequoyah County. The population was 8,880 at the 2010 Census, an 11.2 percent increase from 7,891 at the 2000 census. Sallisaw is part of the Fort Smith, Arkansas–Oklahoma Metropolitan Statistical Area.


French explorers and traders had travelled through this part of North America in the 17th Century, and were the people who attached the name Sallisaw to several geographic features.

In the 1840s and 1850s, Sallisaw had been the name of one of the 22 Arkansas River steamboat landings between Fort Smith and Fort Gibson. Modern Sallisaw's beginning as a permanent community began in 1887–1888, when Argyle Quesenbury, a white man, and Will Watie Wheeler, a collateral relative of noted Cherokee leader Stand Watie, laid out lots for a town. Several post offices had existed in the area nearby, even before there was a named community. The site of present-day Sallisaw fell within the boundaries of the Cherokee Nation after the tribe was forced to emigrate from its former home in the Southeastern U.S. It had a post office called Childer's Station from 1873 to 1888, when the name was changed to Sallisaw. Another community fifteen miles north bore the name Sallisaw for a period until 1888, when the name of the post office there was changed to Mays, but it closed in 1896.

Will Watie Wheeler established several businesses in the town during the 1880s and 1890s. These included a cotton gin, saw mill, grist mill and lumberyard. In 1896, he opened the Coffin Shop, which later became the Wheeler Funeral Home. The latter was still doing business in Sallisaw in the twenty-first century.

The Kansas & Arkansas Valley Railway (later the Missouri Pacific Railroad) built an east–west line from Van Buren, Arkansas to Sallisaw in 1888–1890. The Kansas City, Pittsburg & Gulf Railroad (later named the Kansas City Southern Railroad built a north-south line through Sallisaw in 1895–96, where the two intersected.

Other early businesses included the Economy Store and McDonald Mercantile Company, operated by William Henry McDonald, who also owned a bank; Matthews Brothers, a grocery, was opened in 1898 by Henry and Arch Matthews; W. D. Mayo and E. M. Pointer founded Mayo and Company, a mercantile and farm implement business. Mr. and Mrs. C. F. Ivey established a long-standing drug store (she also owned hotels). By 1900, Sallisaw recorded a population of 965, which increased to 2,255 in 1920. During this time, the community's economy rose and fell with the price of cotton.

After 1920, lumber and its byproducts began playing a major role in the town's economy, along with coal and petroleum products (including natural gas). The local newspaper, Sequoyah County Times, began publication in 1932. It was founded by Wheeler Mayo, son of an earlier Sallisaw businessman, and his wife. As of 2005, the paper was still owned by the Mayo family.


The name Sallisaw was taken from the French word 'salaison', meaning salt provisions in English. The French, who hunted in the area long before the town was founded, called Sallisaw Creek "Salaiseau" because hunters salted bison meat there. English naturalist Thomas Nuttall recorded the name as Salaiseau, in his journal during his exploration of the area in 1819.


Sallisaw is located at 35°27′29″N 94°47′40″W / 35.45806°N 94.79444°W / 35.45806; -94.79444 (35.457978, −94.794421). According to the United States Census Bureau, the city has a total area of 12.9 square miles (33 km2), of which 12.7 square miles (33 km2) is land and 0.2 square miles (0.52 km2) (1.40%) is water.

The city lies within the Green Country region of eastern Oklahoma, known for its rolling green hills. It has three highways running through it: U.S. 59, or Kerr Boulevard, U.S. 64, or Cherokee Avenue,which is the city's main street, and I-40. It is located in the central area of the county, 14 miles (23 km) from Muldrow, 11 miles (18 km) from Vian, 19 miles (31 km) from Roland, and 22 miles (35 km) from Fort Smith, Arkansas.

According to the Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, nearby geographic features include Wildhorse Mountain to the south, Badger Mountain to the northwest, and Lone Pine Mountain to the northeast.


Historical population
Census Pop.
1900 965
1910 2,479 156.9%
1920 2,225 −10.2%
1930 1,785 −19.8%
1940 2,140 19.9%
1950 2,885 34.8%
1960 3,351 16.2%
1970 4,888 45.9%
1980 6,403 31.0%
1990 7,122 11.2%
2000 7,989 12.2%
2010 8,880 11.2%
Est. 2015 8,596 −3.2%
U.S. Decennial Census

As of the census of 2000, there were 7,989½ people, 3,206 households, and 2,151 families residing in the city. The population density was 629.0 inhabitants per square mile (242.9/km²). There were 3,556 housing units at an average density of 280.0 per square mile (108.1/km²). The racial makeup of the city was 68.29% White, 1.35% African American, 20.30% Native American, 0.29% Asian, 0.03% Pacific Islander, 1.11% from other races, and 8.62% from two or more races. Hispanic or Latino of any race were 2.25% of the population.

There were 3,206 households out of which 31.9% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 47.1% were married couples living together, 15.3% had a female householder with no husband present, and 32.9% were non-families. 29.6% of all households were made up of individuals and 13.9% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.42 and the average family size was 2.99.

In the city, the population was spread out with 26.6% under the age of 18, 9.9% from 18 to 24, 25.0% from 25 to 44, 21.8% from 45 to 64, and 16.7% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 36 years. For every 100 females there were 89.9 males. For every 100 females age 18 and over, there were 82.9 males.

The median income for a household in the city was $24,821, and the median income for a family was $31,572. Males had a median income of $26,793 versus $19,775 for females. The per capita income for the city was $13,231. About 18.5% of families and 23.3% of the population were below the poverty line, including 30.6% of those under age 18 and 15.9% of those age 65 or over.


The city is served by Sallisaw Municipal Airport (sign KJSV). The main runway, designated 17/35, is 7,000 feet (2,100 m) long by 75 feet (23 m) wide. The facility is attended 7 days per week (0800-1700), except for Federal holidays. It has a lighted wind indicator, but no control tower.

Cultural references

  • The Joad family from the Pulitzer Prize–winning novel The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck were sharecroppers from Sallisaw. However, the fictional place described in the novel differs from the actual town in many important respects.
  • Brad Paisley mentions Sallisaw in his song "I Wish You'd Stay".
  • Charlie Daniels mentions Sallisaw in the song "Christmas Time in Dixie".
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