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Fort Supply History

Illustration of Supply Wagon

Historic Fort Supply was established on November 18, 1868, as "Camp of Supply" for the winter campaign against the Southern Plains Indians in what is now western Oklahoma. From this post Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer led the Seventh U.S. Cavalry south to the Washita River and destroyed the village of Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle.

The military presence in the region was felt for the next twenty-five years as troops from the post performed peace-keeping duties monitoring the Cheyenne and Arapaho reservation and the Cherokee Outlet. Camp Supply was the temporary seat of the Cheyenne and Arapaho Indian Agency in 1869 and early 1870. Soldiers patrolled the region in an effort to contain the tribesmen and keep out trespassers. Buffalo hunters, timber and horse thieves, whiskey traders, and "Boomers" were a continual threat to stability in Indian Territory during the period.

The post served as a supply point for the Red River War of 1874-1875, the final struggle in the subjugation of the tribes of the Southern Plains. In 1878, an unsuccessful attempt to stop the flight of Northern Cheyenne from the reservation precipitated the last battle between Indians and U.S. soldiers in Indian Territory.

Cavalry escorted cattle drives along the Western or Texas Trail as they made their way through the territory from Texas to Dodge City, Kansas. In the early 1880s they policed large grazing leases that cattlemen held on the Indian lands and the Cherokee Outlet. When Camp Supply became Fort Supply in December 1878, the post had become the hub of transportation and communication in a region that included southwest Kansas, the Texas Panhandle, and western Indian Territory. Troops built the roads and telegraph lines that linked the forts, reservations, and region's settlements. They protected the stage coaches, freight haulers, and travelers as they moved along the trails.

The Run of 1893 opened the lands of the Cherokee Outlet to non-Indian settlement. The troops at Fort Supply policed the operation that proved to be the last major task for the soldiers. The frontier was closing and the presence of the army was no longer required. In late 1894, the post was abandoned, and the property turned over to the Department of the Interior.

The old post became the State of Oklahoma's first state-operated mental institution with the arrival of the first patients in 1908. Northwest Center for Behavioral Health continues to serve the mental health needs of Oklahoma. Starting in 1969, the Oklahoma Historical Society assumed responsibility for the five remaining army period buildings. Since 1998, the William S. Key Correctional Center, a minimum security prison facility, has occupied most of the old post and hospital grounds.

The mission of the Fort Supply Historic Site is to educate the public about the history of Fort Supply and northwest Oklahoma through the preservation and interpretation of its historic resources. As part of this mission the five remaining buildings from the army era will be restored to their appearance of over 110 years ago.

The Ordnance Sergeant's Quarters (1874) and the Civilian Employee Quarters (1882) are rare examples of a once common frontier construction method of walls made of vertical logs. The Commanding Officer's Quarters (1879) and the duplex Officers' Quarters (1882) are the only houses left on Officers' Row. The Guard House (1892) was the only brick building erected by the army at Fort Supply. The restored and refurnished Guard House also contains an exhibit area featuring artifacts, photographs, and graphics. The replicas of the 1869 stockade, army supply wagon, mountain howitzer, and Cheyenne tipi provide visitors with a glimpse of early post life.

The Oklahoma Historical Society is supported in its efforts by the Historic Fort Supply Foundation, a non-profit organization of individuals interested in the preservation and development of this important historic site.