“Eleven of these men died of disease, mostly measels, when they were encamped in a Confederate military camp called ‘Bokluksi,’” Crowl said, adding that Bokluksi was the Choctaw name for an area between North McAlester and Lake Eufaula.
“The 12th was a murder victim while located in that same area.”
Crowl said the 12 were eventually moved to Oak Hill Cemetery.
Oklahoma gained statehood in 1907, at which point the city of McAlester gained ownership of Jeff Lee Park. From the team’s inception in the early 1910s through to 1936, the McAlester Buffaloes played football at the Fairgrounds, the flat parklands behind Puterbaugh Middle School now known as Mike Deak Field.
The Great Depression hit McAlester as it hit the rest of the nation, but McAlester landed a district office for the Works Project Administration. A program created by then-president Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the WPA paid the country’s massive unemployed population to build public works such as new roads and buildings.
For McAlester, that meant construction of the Armory, the swimming pool and the stadium.
“The people were very happy to have this district WPA office because they had a feeling that this way, they’d get their fair share of the projects they had to delve out into southeastern Oklahoma,” Crowl said.
“That they employed 150 men was the big deal.”
Both the Armory and Jeff Lee Pool opened in 1936, the pool opening on Aug. 16. Crowl, whose given talks previously on McAlester during the Great Depression, said 1936 was the “hottest, driest year that we have ever known” in McAlester, and with temperatures cracking 110 degrees in the three days prior, the pool’s opening day drew more than 600 paying customers.
Jeff Lee Stadium opened a year later, the first home game taking place on Sept. 18, 1937, against Muskogee. At that time the home stands were on the west side of the structure, and according to Clyde Wooldridge’s McAlester: The Capital of Little Dixie, the game drew in more than 2,000 attendees and made approximately $608 dollars in ticket sales — more than five times the average gate the previous season.