Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings
The Wichita Agency, which had been attached to the Kiowa-Comanche Agency at Fort Sill, Okla., was reestablished in 1871 on the north bank of the Washita River across from the site of the city of Anadarko. Only 3 years later, it was the scene of the first battle in the Red River War (1874-75). In August 1874 troops from Fort Sill and the infantry guard at the agency defended it and the relatively peaceful Wichitas from a raid by Kiowas and Comanches. Six civilians died and four soldiers suffered wounds before the raiders fled to the Staked Plains and western Indian Territory.
In 1878 the Kiowa-Comanche Agency at Fort Sill was consolidated with the Wichita Agency at Anadarko, and in the fall of 1879 the Kiowas, Comanches, and Kiowa-Apaches at Fort Sill moved there. The new agency, known as the Kiowa-Comanche Agency and relocated to the south bank of the river, administered nine tribes. The agency in 1895 moved into new buildings constructed on an adjoining site to the west. The opening of the Kiowa-Comanche Reservation to settlement in 1901 resulted in the last great Oklahoma land boom and the city of Anadarko grew up nearby.
Nothing remains of the Wichita Agency or the first Kiowa-Comanche Agency. Nearly all the buildings of the second Kiowa-Comanche Agency are still standing. These include about 15 frame residences of agency employees, the old brick agency headquarters, a two-story office building, the stone jail, a brick blacksmith shop, and two frame warehouses. In 1958 the Bureau of Indian Affairs transferred these structures to the Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho, and other local tribes.
Founded in 1843 as a unit of the Choctaw school system, this academy was the result of cooperation between the Choctaw Nation and Baptist missionaries, who supervised it. Although essentially a boarding school for boys, it also provided adult education. In 1861, at the beginning of the Civil War, it closed. Two years later the building became the Choctaw national capitol, as well as the capitol for members of the Civilized Tribes supporting the Confederacy. Practically the entire Choctaw, Chickasaw, and Seminole Nations sided with it, whereas the Creek and Cherokee Nations split. In 1883 the Choctaws moved the national capitol to Tuskahoma, Okla. That same year Presbyterian missionaries reopened the academy under contract with the Choctaw Nation. Serving as a school for orphaned Choctaw boys, it offered academic, agricultural, and manual instruction until fire destroyed it in 1921.
Ruins of the two-story brick academy building may still be seen.
Lt. Cols. Alfred Sully and George A. Custer, commanding the main column in General Sheridan's 1868-69 campaign, on November 18, 1868, established this camp near the junction of Wolf Creek with the North Canadian River as an advance base in northwestern Indian Territory. On November 23, under orders from General Sheridan, Custer pushed southward, 4 days later won the Battle of the Washita, Okla., and returned with the captives to Camp Supply. Although in time expanded into a modern post and not abandoned by the Army until 1895, Camp Supply was never considered a permanent base, even after it was redesignated as a fort in 1878. Its garrison took part in the Red River War (1874-75). In 1903 Oklahoma Territory acquired the fort and utilized it for a hospital, still active today as the Western State Hospital.
Buildings remaining from the Army era are mostly of the late period. Included are the brick guardhouse, with barred windows, now used as a storehouse; a log fire station; a frame recreation building; a vertical log structure that was probably a family officers' quarters, presently occupied by the hospital chaplain; a teamster's cabin; and a large two-story framehouse, with columned porch.
The Chilocco Indian School was one of the off-reservation boarding schools established on the pattern of the Carlisle Indian School, Pa. The Government founded it in 1883 to serve the children of the Plains tribes residing in western Indian Territory. Later the Five Civilized Tribes sent many students to the school after the breakup of their tribal governments and the dissolution of their educational systems around the time of statehood. Still active today, the school stresses secondary level education, emphasizing home economics for girls and industrial art for boys.
The original structure, a four-story brick building constructed in 1884, is used today for dormitories and is designated as Home No. 2. Mingling with modern structures around the quadrangle are other older ones of limestone.
The prime mission of Fort Arbuckle (1851-70) was shielding the relocated Chickasaws and Choctaws from the Plains tribes. It also watched over emigrants and dealt with the raids of Texas Comanches. A group of the latter, however, were discussing peace at Fort Arbuckle and were temporarily camped at nearby Rush Springs in the fall of 1858 when the Wichita Expedition from Fort Belknap, Tex., bivouacked at Camp Radziminski, Okla., 55 miles to the west, attacked them. Before the Civil War, the post was irregularly garrisoned. During the war, Confederate troops, including the Chickasaw Battalion, replaced Federal troops, who did not return until late in 1866. The founding of Fort Sill, Okla., 3 years later, caused the termination of the post the next year. The Chickasaw Nation acquired it in an 1866 treaty.
The site is on the lawn of a private ranch. Employee residences are grouped around the parade ground. The only visible reminders of the log fort are two stone chimneys of an officers' quarters.
In existence but a decade, from 1859 until 1869, this fort on the Washita River nevertheless had a colorful history. It and the adjacent Wichita Indian Agency were established to receive Indians relocated from Texas reservations, to protect them and the local Wichitas from the Kiowas and Comanches, and to restrain the latter from raiding in Texas. When the post and the agency were only 2 years old, the Union abandoned them and the Confederates used the post spasmodically until the Indians drove them out and burned it. To clear the way for his 1868-69 offensive against the southern Plains tribes, General Sheridan ordered it reactivated in 1868 and the Fort Cobb Reservation (Kiowa-Comanche and Wichita Agencies) created as a refuge for all Indians in the area of the offensive who claimed to be peaceful, as well as for the Wichitas and the Texas tribes that had returned from their temporary haven in Kansas. In December 1868, the month after Custer's victory in the Battle of the Washita, General Sheridan moved his headquarters to Fort Cobb. To hasten the capitulation of the Kiowas, he seized and threatened to hang Chiefs Satanta and Lone Wolf. The next March he activated Fort Sill to replace Fort Cobb and transferred the Kiowa-Comanche Agency to the new fort.
There are no surface remains of the log-sod fort, on private property, but the cottonwood-lined site is comparatively undisturbed. A State marker is located one-half mile to the southwest.
Across the North Canadian River from the Darlington Agency in the center of Indian Territory, Fort Reno (1874-1949) guarded the inhabitants of the huge Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation, whose agency had been established on the north bank of the river in 1869. The U.S. Government founded the reservation and the adjacent Kiowa-Comanche Reservation during Sheridan's successful 1868-69 campaign. Brinton Darlington, a Quaker representing President Grant's Peace Policy, was the first agent at the agency that came to bear his name. He served until 1872, at which time John D. Miles replaced him and remained at the post for 12 years.
In 1874, after troops from Forts Leavenworth, Kans., and Sill, Okla., put down a Cheyenne uprising at the Darlington Agency and the Wichita Agency, 30 miles to the south, the Army activated Fort Reno to maintain the peace. By the middle of the next year the last dissidents had surrendered and the leaders had been sent to Fort Marion, Fla., along with those captured in the Red River War (1874-75), in which the Fort Reno garrison participated. In 1877, the year following Custer's defeat at the Little Bighorn, Dull Knife and more than 900 Cheyennes arrived under escort at the Darlington Agency. The next year Dull Knife and many of them escaped and headed for their northern homeland; troops from Fort Reno and other posts pursued and captured most of them near Fort Robinson, Nebr., and returned them to the Darlington Agency.
The fort also settled intertribal disputes and ejected trespassing white "Boomers" and ranchers illegally grazing cattle on reservation lands. In 1889, when the Oklahoma District was opened to settlement, the garrison guarded the border against the "Sooners," rushing in before the official opening date, and helped supervise the land rush. Three years later, yielding to insistent settler demand, the Government opened the Indian reservation to white settlement, and the Indians each received 160 acres of land. In 1908, the year before the agency was moved 2 miles to the north, Fort Reno became an Army remount depot; in 1938 a quartermaster depot; and in World War II a German prisoner-of-war camp. The U.S. Department of Agriculture acquired it in 1949 for use as a livestock research station.
The Darlington Agency site has been obscured by modern structures at the Darlington State Game Farm. Sixteen of Fort Reno's brick and stone buildings, built between 1876 and 1890, remodeled or repaired, are grouped around the parade ground and used by the U.S. Livestock Research Station, operated in conjunction with the Oklahoma State University of Agriculture and Applied Sciences. These include a magazine; commissary building, now a grain storehouse; warehouse, a modern storage building; five noncommissioned officers' and six officers' quarters, presently employee residences; and two latrines. The adjacent Fort Reno National Cemetery contains the graves of soldier dead of the Indian and other wars. The only surviving building of the fort's original log structures is a two-room picket type, one of whose residents may have been General Sheridan. It has been moved to the western edge of El Reno, on the north side of U.S. 66, where it has been restored and refurnished.
In 1824 troops from Fort Jesup, La., built this fort on the east bank of Gates Creek about 6 miles north of the Red River. It was the second post in Indian Territory, the first being Fort Gibson, lying to the north. One of the chain of posts guarding the "Permanent Indian Frontier," Fort Towson also helped control marauding outlaws and Indian bands along the Red River, then the international boundary between the United States and Mexico. In June 1829 the Army abandoned the post, but in November 1830 rebuilt it at a new location immediately south of Gates Creek as a permanent fort to protect the Choctaws, whom the U.S. Government relocated from Mississippi to Indian Territory in the 1830's. Throughout the decade, Fort Towson was an important link in the frontier defense system and was a marshaling point during the War with Mexico (1846-48). The Army abandoned it in 1854. Prior to the Civil War, during which Confederate forces occupied the site, it served as the Choctaw Indian Agency.
Over the years settlers dismantled or fire destroyed the fort buildings, which once made up what was considered to be one of the best built and maintained Army posts in the West. The scattered ruins of several stone buildings, overgrown by vegetation, are all that remain. Nearby, occasional ruts mark the old road to Fort Smith, Ark. The site is privately owned.
Park Hill Mission, the "Athens of Indian Territory" until destroyed during the Civil War, was founded along the Illinois River by the Presbyterian missionary Rev. Samuel A. Worcester in 1836, the year after he had begun work among the Cherokees at Dwight and Union Missions, Okla. Park Hill became the religious, educational, and cultural center of the Cherokee Nation, whose capital of Tahlequah was created in 1839 about 4 miles to the north. Worcester built homes for missionaries and teachers, a boarding hall, and a gristmill. Beginning in 1837, utilizing the printing press he brought from Union Mission, he set up the Park Hill Press. It printed in English and the Cherokee language, employing Sequoyah's alphabet, parts of the Bible, the Cherokee Almanac, textbooks, and various tracts and works in the Creek and Choctaw languages.
In 1846 the Cherokee National Council authorized the founding of two high school seminaries, one for each sex. They opened in 1851, the Male Seminary just southwest of Tahlequah and the Female Seminary adjacent to Park Hill. They were housed in three-story Classical brick structures with impressive columned porticoes. The Cherokee Nation recruited many of the teachers from leading eastern colleges. The schools, whose operations suffered only a brief hiatus in the Civil War years, attained an academic excellence unparalleled among western educational institutions. In 1887 fire destroyed the Female Seminary; the following year workmen rebuilt it on the site of the future Northeastern State College, in northwestern Tahlequah, where it serves today as the Administration Building. When fire decimated the Male Seminary, too, in 1910, it was merged with the Female Seminary to create Northeastern State College.
Nothing remains of Park Hill Mission except for several old cemeteries, in one of which Reverend Worcester and his wife are buried. The nearby Murrell Mansion, a handsome two-story frame structure built in the mid-1840's that was closely associated with the mission's social life, has been restored to its original appearance and is owned by the State. Of the Female Seminary, only vine-covered columns and overgrown wall and foundation remains are extant. Nothing survives from the Male Seminary. At the entrance to Northeastern State College are two memorial columns constructed of bricks from the original seminaries.
At the Peace-on-the-Plains Site, the location of the Wichita Indian villages on the north fork of the Red River, occurred the first important peace conference between U.S. officers and representatives of the southern Plains Indians. Seeking to insure unmolested travel on the Santa Fe Trail and security for the Five Civilized Tribes, with whom other tribes had been warring, the Dragoon Expedition (1834) had moved west from Fort Gibson, Okla., under Col. Henry Leavenworth. When he died of fever, Col. Henry Dodge succeeded him. Dodge held conferences at the Peace-on-the-Plains Site with chiefs of the Wichitas, Comanches, and allied bands. As a result, the next year the southern Plains tribes concluded their first treaties with the U.S. Government.
At Soldier Spring Battlefield on Christmas Day 1868, about a month after the Custer victory in the Battle of the Washita, Okla., some 40 miles to the north, Maj. Andrew W. Evans' 3d Cavalry, operating out of Fort Bascom, N. Mex., in General Sheridan's 1868-69 campaign, smashed a Comanche village.
The Peace-on-the-Plains Site, privately owned farmland, is at the mouth of Devil's Canyon where it joins the north fork of the Red River. A state historical marker is located at the junction of U.S. 283 and Okla. 44, about 5 miles to the northwest. The site is accessible only by way of the town of Lugert and Quartz Mountain State Park, which overlooks the canyon. A hike is necessary to reach its mouth. Two miles to the east, below the mouth of the canyon on the north fork of the Red River, is Soldier Spring Battlefield, also on a farm.
At dawn on October 1, 1858, the 2d Cavalry and Indian allies of Capt. Earl Van Dorn's Wichita Expedition from Fort Belknap, Tex., destroyed Buffalo Hump's camp of Comanches at this site and killed 83 people. Five soldiers died and Van Dorn received severe wounds. The expedition had marched 55 miles eastward from its advance base, Camp Radziminski, Okla., after a patrol had discovered the Indian camp. The battle was particularly tragic because Buffalo Hump had come north from Texas to discuss peace with the military authorities at Fort Arbuckle, Okla., and was temporarily camped at Rush Springs. The fort commander, however, had neglected to inform Van Dorn of the chief's peaceful intentions.
The battle site, partly in pasture and partly in cultivation, is on a private farm.
The village of Skullyville, though not officially so named until 1860, originated in 1832 as the agency for the Choctaws, being removed from the East to Indian Territory. Some of them settled around the agency, where they received annuities. In 1858 the village became a station on the Butterfield Overland Mail route. In the pre-Civil War years it was the headquarters of the Moshulatubbe District of the Choctaw Nation. The Federal troops who occupied it in 1863 left it in ruins when they departed at war's end.
Short-lived Fort Coffee (1834-38), a crude log post atop a high bluff at the Skullyville boat landing along the south bank of the Arkansas River about 3 miles north of the village, kept peace on the Choctaw lands and patrolled river traffic to prevent illegal trading. From 1843 until the outbreak of the Civil War, Fort Coffee Academy, a school for Choctaw boys financed by the Choctaw Nation and administered by the Methodist Episcopal Church, occupied the fort buildings. Confederate troops moved into them in the Civil War and stayed until 1863, when Federal troops captured and burned them.
New Hope Seminary, a boarding school founded at Skullyville in 1844 and administered by the same church, became the leading educational institution for Choctaw girls. It, too, closed during the Civil War, but was rebuilt and reopened in 1870 and continued to operate until fire destroyed it in 1897.
Skullyville is almost completely deserted today. Only foundation ruins of the agency building and those of New Hope Seminary remain. The town cemetery contains the graves of many prominent Choctaws. At the site of Fort Coffee stands a barn constructed from its logs. Building outlines are also visible.
Established in 1820 by the Presbyterian Epaphras Chapman, in cooperation with the United Foreign Missionary Society, this mission opened a school for the Osage Indians the following year and served them primarily until 1833. They were then relocated to the west to make room for incoming Cherokees, awarded the land in the Cherokee-Osage treaty of 1828. In 1835 another Presbyterian missionary, Rev. Samuel A. Worcester, founder the next year of Park Hill Mission, Okla., came from Dwight Mission, about 50 miles to the southeast, and temporarily reopened Union Mission to accommodate the Cherokees. Utilizing equipment he had brought with him from Georgia, he set up the first printing press in Oklahoma. It printed textbooks and religious tracts in the Creek language, including the first book printed in Oklahoma, The Child's Book (1835).
The site is indicated by a stone marker. Only the cemetery and a few foundation stones remain.
Last Updated: 19-Aug-2005