Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Krebs

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture


The town of Krebs is located three miles east of McAlester in Pittsburg County on U.S. Highway 270 and State Highway 31. The town name honors a mixed-blood Choctaw, Judge Edmond Folsom Krebs. Krebs began as a small coal-mining camp inhabited by English and Irish miners. Italians, other Europeans, and Mexicans were later recruited to work in the Indian Territory mines. In 1875 the first mine opened, and by 1895 fifteen operated in the area. In 1892 tragedy struck when a mine explosion killed approximately one hundred miners. In 1898 the first local of the United Mine Workers in Indian Territory was founded in the town. The Choctaw Railway and Lighting Company ran an interurban line between McAlester and the outlying coal towns, including Krebs.

Krebs offered typical small-town amenities of the early twentieth century. In 1899 the Eagle, the town's first newspaper, was succeeded by the Cyclone, the Banner, the Advertiser, and the Oklahoma Miner. In 1882 a tornado destroyed many homes and killed several people. In 1904 the first public school opened. Before this, a Catholic school had educated many of the children. St. Joseph's Catholic Church, founded in 1885, served many foreign-born residents. In 1911 the town boasted a bank, fifteen general stores, ten grocers, three pool halls, a lawyer, a blacksmith, three restaurants, three drugstores, and other small businesses.

Census figures reveal the community's and the surrounding county's ethnic variety. The 1910 population was 2,884. In that year Italians numbered 1,398 in Pittsburg County, with many living in Krebs, the principal Italian colony in the state. In 1920 the U.S. Census reported 2,078 people in the town. In 1900 the Choctaw Nation census had found only twenty-three Mexican families, but by 1920 there were 343 Mexicans in Pittsburg County alone. Most worked in the local mines. In 1940 the population stood at 1,436. The figure dropped to 1,342 in 1960 before slowly rising to 1,754 in 1980.

At the beginning of the twenty-first century, although mining had long ago ended, there remained many signs of the early immigrants, including historic buildings, traditional foods, and activities enjoyed at the nearby McAlester Italian Festival, and a number of long-running businesses, such as Pete's Place and Lovera's Grocery, serving Italian food. The St. Joseph's Catholic Church building (NR 80003296) and Hokey's Drugstore (NR 79002020) have been added to the National Register of Historic Places. The 2000 population was 2,051 residents, and the figure grew slightly to 2,053 in 2010. The April 2020 census reported 2,067.

Pat Spearman

Browse By Topic

Urban Development



Learn More

Kenny Brown, "Peaceful Progress: An Account of the Italians of Krebs, Oklahoma," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 53 (Fall 1975).

Stanley Clark, "Immigrants in the Choctaw Coal Industry," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 33 (Winter 1955–56).

Pittsburg County, Oklahoma: People and Places (McAlester, Okla.: Pittsburg County Historical and Genealogical Society, 1997).

Related Resources

Hokey's Drugstore, National Register of Historic Places
St. Joseph's Catholic Church, National Register of Historic Places


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Pat Spearman, “Krebs,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=KR001.

Published January 15, 2010
Last updated March 25, 2024

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.