April 21, 2022
Calista Stephens to Lead Fort Towson Historic Site
FORT TOWSON, Okla. — The Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS) is proud to announce that Calista Stephens will step into the leadership role at Fort Towson Historic Site on May 1. A native of the area, Stephens previously served as the manager of the Forest Heritage Center in Beavers Bend, where she has worked since 2015.
“We are very pleased to welcome Calista Stephens to the staff of the Oklahoma Historical Society,” said OHS Executive Director Trait Thompson. “Calista brings a passion for Oklahoma’s history to her new position and is keenly familiar with Fort Towson Historic Site. She has been a regular volunteer for the OHS at events both at Fort Towson and Honey Springs Battlefield. We are fortunate to have her on our team.”
“I am excited to join the OHS team where I can continue to share the history of southeastern Oklahoma with the community and visitors,” said Stephens. “I grew up in the Wheelock community, and my family and I are in the process of moving back from Hochatown where we have lived since 2008.”
Stephens was first introduced to the Fort Towson Historic Site through Dutch oven cooking with 4-H. “I was drawn to the history of the site, and decided I wanted to become a museum professional,” continued Stephens. While pursuing a graduate degree, which she completed in 2021, Stephens completed an internship at Fort Towson under the direction of the previous site director, John Davis.
“Stephens is joining the OHS staff at an exciting time as planning is underway for the celebration of the 200th anniversary of the establishment of Fort Towson, as well as Fort Gibson, in 2024,” said Thompson.
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 Choctaws and Chickasaws were forcibly removed 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.