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Press Release

March 25, 2022

Contact: Kathy Dickson
Oklahoma Historical Society
Office: 405-522-5231

John Davis to Retire After 30 Years at Fort Towson Historic Site

FORT TOWSON, Okla. — John Davis, director of Fort Towson Historic Site and southeast regional director for the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS), is set to retire from Fort Towson Historic Site on April 1. A celebration of John’s long and fruitful career will be hosted by the Friends of Fort Towson on Saturday, March 26, at noon. Lunch will be provided and all are invited to attend.

“We wish John the best in his retirement, but he will be sorely missed,” said Kathy Dickson, director of museums and historic sites for the OHS. “It is not often you get the chance to work with someone for 30 years,” continued Dickson.

Davis began his career at Fort Towson in 1992 working with the late William Vandever. When Vandever retired Davis became the director of Fort Towson Historic Site. Later, in addition to serving as the director of Fort Towson, Davis also served as the southeast regional supervisor for OHS museums and historic sites, overseeing operations at Spiro Mounds Archaeological Center, Honey Springs Battlefield and Fort Washita, which is now owned and operated by the Chickasaw Nation.

“I first met John at Fort Towson not long after I started work at the OHS,” said OHS Executive Director Trait Thompson. “He introduced me to the cannon and helped me learn the ropes of loading and firing it. I have always been impressed with John and his ability to bring a wide group of people together to get things done.”

“John truly changed Fort Towson,” said Dickson. “He is one of those people who just figure out how to get things done, from loading and moving cannons to driving a team of horses or mules as well as building exhibits and organizing programs.”

When the OHS and the Institute of Nautical Archaeology at Texas A&M learned of an 1830s steamboat sunk in the Red River, Davis got his scuba certification to be part of the underwater archaeology team. He helped prepare the Oklahoma Department of Transportation grant that made the new visitor center at the site possible, and worked with the OHS exhibit team to complete the new interpretive exhibits. Davis has also been responsible for organizing the biennial reenactment of the Battle of Honey Springs in Checotah.

Davis has done much to bring the Oklahoma Historical Society together with the local community. According to Chris Lynch, president of the Friends of Fort Towson, “John has been a constant, steadying force in our community. Under his guidance, the Friends of Fort Towson volunteers have made lasting and meaningful contributions which will help the site share southeast Oklahoma’s contribution to Oklahoma history for many years to come.”

Local historian and OHS board member Kenny Sivard added, “The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. John Davis has done this well through his extensive knowledge of history and his passion for bringing that history to life through living history programs, educational events and the fort’s interpretation. John is willing to take time from a busy day to connect with individuals who want to know more about Oklahoma history.”

All are invited to attend a retirement celebration hosted by Friends of Fort Towson. For more information contact Chris Lynch at 580-372-4112 or Calista Stephens at 580-236-0537 or email cstephens0537@gmail.com.

Fort Towson was established in 1824 to quell conflicts between lawless elements, American Indian peoples and settlers claiming the area as part of Arkansas Territory. The fort also served as an outpost on the border between the United States and Texas, which at that time was part of Mexico. Connected to the east by road, Fort Towson served as a gateway for settlers bound for Texas during the 1830s. Those passing through the area included Sam Houston, Davy Crockett and Stephen F. Austin. When the Choctaw and Chickasaw were displaced from their lands in the southeastern United States, the fort served as a point of dispersal upon their arrival in the West. The fort was also an important staging area for U.S. forces during the Mexican War of 1846.

Fort Towson was abandoned in 1856 when the frontier moved west. During the Civil War, however, it served for a time as headquarters for Confederate forces operating in Indian Territory. In 1865 General Stand Watie surrendered his command near the fort and became the last Confederate general to lay down arms.

Fort Towson Historic Site is a division of the Oklahoma Historical Society. The mission of the Oklahoma Historical Society is to collect, preserve and share the history and culture of the state of Oklahoma and its people. Founded in 1893 by the Territorial Press Association members, the OHS maintains museums, historic sites, and affiliates across the state. Through its research archives, exhibits, educational programs and publications, the OHS chronicles the rich history of Oklahoma. For more information about the OHS, please visit www.okhistory.org.


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