Lying in a high spot close to where the Kiamichi River meets up with the Red River, Fort Towson was established in 1824 to ensure the
safety of the
early Choctaw and Chickasaw settlers. The small garrison had to deal with a lot of scuffles between Arkansas and Texas
Anglos who wanted to settle in the fertile valley. Because they were squatting on Indian land, the white men decided that instead of
acquiescing to Union control, they'd just burn down the fort, which they did in 1829. The fort rebuilt in 1830 and was dubbed "Camp
Phoenix."

As the displaced Indians moved in and established towns like
Doaksville (the first Choctaw capital) and Boggy Depot, the fort stayed
active but relatively small. In 1840, it housed the troops that would later fight in the Mexican War (1846-1848), but was permanently closed
in 1856. During the Civil War, General Sam Bell Maxie used the old fort as a command post, and General Stand Watie of the Confederate
Cherokees made it a staging area for his guerilla raids on Union troops. General Watie, in fact, was the last Confederate Commander to
surrender, doing so in
Doaksville in 1865.

Fort Towson is now a small historic site managed by the Oklahoma Historical Society. The fort consists of ruins, as latter-day settlers
dismantled the stone buildings to use in their own houses. A small interpretive center and store houses some interesting artifacts found
around the fort.

Fort Towson is one of the oldest **U.S.** forts in the Red River Valley. There are older forts, such as the 18th century Taovayan garrison in
Montague County (now an archaeological site) and several small, private forts on the Texas side of the river, which are now sitting under
corn fields. Of course, there's also the presidio at Los Adaes (Spanish) and Fort St. Jean Baptiste (French) in
Natchitoches. Near
Natchitoches is Fort Jesup, older than Fort Towson by two years. Fort Towson's tangible ruins, on the other hand, serve as a reminder of
the early Trail of Tears and the Confederacy in Indian Territory and Texas.
To get to Fort Towson, take Hwy 70 either east of Hugo or west of Idabel. The road to
the fort lies on the western side of the city of Fort Towson, almost directly across  the
entrance to Raymond Gary State Park. Admission is free, but donations are accepted!
Fort Towson is a small place, with a few relics. The 1857 Cannon and the cistern and flagpole grace the fort's parade grounds.
Fort Towson: Contentious
Fort in the Red River Valley
The well on the parade grounds has been re-constructed. Most of the fort lies in ruins. The fort was burned in the late 1820s by white settlers
who resented American border patrol between the U.S. and Mexican Texas, and Indian settlement by the Shawnees, Caddos, and Choctaws.  
Though re-built, further destruction before and after the Civil War led locals to the conclusion that it was okay to dismantle the old structures
to build their own homes.
Choctaws and Chickasaws settled around the fort, where they built Indian academies, churches, farms, plantations, and towns. The first major
settlement around the fort was
Doaksville, named after the trading post established by Josiah Doaks, a white man from Mississippi who
followed the Choctaws into Indian Territory to advocate on their behalf. The village became a trading center. The need to supply Fort Towson
was also the impetus to clear the
Great Raft of the Red River north of Natchitoches.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
How to get there
Grant Foreman, the first Oklahoma historian, took an inventory of historical sites at the turn of the 20th century. He took this photo of the
barrack ruins in 1900. (Oklahoma Historical Society).