McAlester Tourism Department
119 E Choctaw Ste 101
McAlester is the county seat and economic hub of Pittsburg County, located at the crossing of State Highways 69 and 270. Before the highways, McAlester could be found at the crossing point of the Texas Road and the California Trail. J.J. McAlester, the namesake of the town, was a merchandising frontiersman from Sebastian County, Arkansas who set up a general store in McAlester, then called North McAlester, or "Old Town." He built a log cabin as his home and opened it as a trading post in 1870. Family life for this one-time Confederate water boy began when he married Rebecca Burney, the daughter of a Chickasaw Chief in 1872, allowing him to take up legal residence in the Choctaw Nation.
J.J. McAlester is credited with discovering the rich veins of coal that brought wealth to the Pittsburg County area. When tests showed his find to be the highest grade coal west of Pennsylvania, he approached railroad men with a plan for extending their lines to the little McAlester settlement in order to open coal mining production to outside markets. The J.J. McAlester mansion, perhaps the most famous of the McAlester area houses, was added to the National Register of Historical Places in 1980.
The annual "Old Town" celebration is held in October each year and celebrates McAlester's heritage.
In addition, many Italians migrated to McAlester from Ellis Island in New York in order to find honest, but hard, work in the dangerous coal mines. As the new immigrants achieved and overcame the obstacles in their new country, some saved up enough money to bring family from Italy to join them in Oklahoma, at that time known as Indian Territory. The Italian community in the McAlester area flourished and grew over the years. As the mines began to play out, the Italians in this area went into other trades and businesses, including the establishment of some of the finest Italian restaurants in America which are still in operation today.
The Italian Festival of McAlester is held annually in May to celebrate McAlester's Italian heritage.