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The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Ruins of an original building at Fort Coffee, 1914
(19153, Muriel Wright Collection, OHS).


Fort Coffee was established in April 1834 by soldiers of the Seventh Infantry under the command of Capt. John Stuart. Located about six miles north of present Spiro in Le Flore County, Oklahoma, Fort Coffee was built on a bluff on the south bank of the Arkansas River at a place known as Swallow Rock. Its purpose was to protect the Choctaw and to stop liquor from entering Indian Territory from Arkansas. During the Texas Revolution of 1835–36, troops at Fort Coffee guarded the western boundary of Arkansas, and the fort served as an arms depot for Arkansas militia.

Named after Gen. John Coffee of Tennessee, Fort Coffee was cheaply and poorly constructed. Its log buildings enclosed three sides of a small square, with the fourth side open toward the Arkansas River. Captain Stuart and his men abandoned Fort Coffee in October 1838 and established Fort Wayne on the Illinois River. The Choctaw Nation acquired the property and buildings and allowed Methodist ministers to operate the facility as the Fort Coffee Academy for boys. The school closed during the Civil War and was occupied by Confederate Choctaw troops. The buildings were captured and burned by Union soldiers in October 1863.

Jon D. May


Grant Foreman, Advancing the Frontier, 1830–1860 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1933).

Robert W. Frazer, Forts of the West: Military Forts and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called Forts, West of the Mississippi River to 1898 (2d ed.; Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972).

Daniel F. Littlefield, Jr., and Lonnie E. Underhill, "Fort Coffee and Frontier Affairs, 1834–1838," The Chronicles of Oklahoma 54 (Fall 1976).

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The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Jon D. May, “Fort Coffee (fort),” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=FO031.

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