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Template:Infobox Lt Governor Captain J. J. McAlester (1842–1920) was an American Conferate Army soldier and merchant. McAlester is the founder of McAlester, Oklahoma as well as a primary developer of the coal mining industry in eastern Oklahoma. He served as the United States Marshal for Indian Territory (1893–1897), one of three members of the first Oklahoma Corporation Commission (1907–1911) and the second Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma (1911–1915).[1]

His life, etc.[]

Born James Jackson McAlester in Sebastian County, Arkansas, he grew up in Ft. Smith, Arkansas. After the defeat of the Confederacy he returned to Ft. Smith where he met engineer Oliver Weldon who gave him details of the location of coal deposits in the Cross Roads area of Indian Territory (now the McAlester area of Oklahoma). In 1866 he went to the Choctaw Nation and worked as a trader to the Indians.[1]

On August 22, 1872, J. J. McAlester's married Rebecca Burney (born 1841 in Mississippi - died May 4, 1919, in Oklahoma) a member of the Chickasaw Nation, this made it possible for him to gain citizenship in and the right to own property in both the Choctaw and Chickasaw nations. Using the knowledge he had gotten from Weldon, he was able to make many lucrative coal claims in the area and to establish what eventually became McAlester Coal Mining Co. His trading company, J. J. McAlester Mercantile Company, was virtually the company store for the miners since much of their pay was issued in the form of scrip redeemable only at J. J. McAlester Mercantile.[1]

McAlester House, J. J. McAlester's home in McAlester is on the National Register of Historic Places listings in Pittsburg County, Oklahoma.[2]

He was elected as Lieutenant Governor of Oklahoma, and during his tenure McAlester had the occasion to serve as "acting governor of Oklahoma," during the absence of Governor Lee Cruce from the state, as evidenced by a pardon he issued in 1915 in the case of Sibenaler v State (1915 OK CR 45).[3]

J. J. McAlester died in 1920 in McAlester.[1] Rebecca Burney predeceased him. They had four children, including a set of twin girls, all born in Indian Territory:[4][5]

  1. Liza McAlester, 1873–1874
  2. Sudie McAlester, 1873–1959
  3. James Burney "Bunn" McAlester, 1875–1937
  4. William Berry McAlester, 1879-1937

J. J. McAlester, his wife, and three of their four children, are buried in Oak Hill Memorial Park in McAlester. Liza McAlester is buried in North McAlester Cemetery.[5]

J. J. McAlester's store served as the basis for the store visited by U.S. Marshall Rooster Cogburn in the 1968 novel True Grit by Charles Portis (and the subsequent 1969 feature film based on the novel).[6]


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 Biography of James Jackson McAlester (1842-1920). - Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture. - Oklahoma State University.
  2. State Historic Preservation Office listing for McAlester House. - Oklahoma Center for Geospatial Information (OCGI) at Oklahoma State University.
  3. Sibenaler v State (1915 OK CR 45). - The Oklahoma Supreme Court Network. - 15 May 1915.
  4. Genealogy of Rebecca Burney
  5. 5.0 5.1 McAlesters buried in McAlester, Oklahoma. Find A Grave.
  6. Hoefling, Larry J. (2008). - "Pittsburg County". - Images of America. - Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing. - pp.17-21. - ISBN 978-0738551821.