Sunday, June 10, 2012

Fort Supply

We are enjoying something unheard of the last couple years. There is water in the western lakes, so I decided to take advantage of this undoubtedly temporary condition by starting in the west and working east. The further east one progresses, the more common rainfall is at a more reasonably dependable rate.

Western Oklahoma wearing a rare green color.

Just as you are about to enter the Oklahoma Panhandle, you arrive at Fort Supply. I had tried to visit the fort a number of times, and today I was determined to visit history. The historic site is a bit unique in that it is located entirely within a state penitentiary, so make sure you don’t have any weapons or contraband when you enter. Your vehicle can be the subject of a search at the facilities discretion.

Fort Supply was established in November, 1868, as a supply depot for the winter military campaign during the Southern Plains Indian conflict, and in the Red River War of 1874-1875. As the name says, the fort was ordered to maintain not less than 50-days provisions for 1,000 men and 1,200 horses. Lt. Col. George Custer and the 7th Cavalry rode in and out of here a number of times. His greatest campaign in the plains area was the Battle of Washita, in which Chief Black Kettle, chief of the Cheyenne Nation was killed. For 25-years, troops from the fort performed peace-keeping duties in the Cheyenne and Arapaho Reservation, served as the communications and transportation hub for Oklahoma, Kansas and Texas, and protected grazing leases cattlemen held on Indian lands. The fort also served as a hub for the supply wagons, stagecoach, and U.S. Mail that traveled the military road each day from Dodge City, Kansas, and Fort Elliott, Texas.

Not all military duties were against Indians. The stability of the region was under constant threat from white intruders into the Indian reservation, buffalo poachers, whiskey traders, timber and horse thieves, and Boomers. Boomers were political advocates for taking the lands away from the Indians and opening them for white settlement. The troops of Fort Supply oversaw the Land Run of 1889. One of the last military duties of the troops from Fort Supply was to monitor the Land Run of 1893 when at noon on September 6, 1893, another 115,000 homesteaders poured onto the Cherokee lands. The Fort was abandoned in 1894, and the land and facility turned over to the Department of the Interior, and then to the state for a mental hospital and correctional facility. When the fort closed, there were 110 buildings in the encampment area. There are now five that remain, as well as a reconstructed stockade.

The original stockade of 1868 was ½ to ¾ mi. southwest of the reproduction. It was eventually taken down and used for firewood, but original plans allowed this one to be true to its predecessor. The picket-style walls are ten feet high and 150-ft long to a side, with 15-ft. high blockhouses at the NW and SW corners. Inside its perimeter were two 70-ft. warehouses, three-room warehouses and other work areas.

From inside the stockade.

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