Fort Supply Oklahoma

Fort Supply Oklahoma in 2008

     Camp Supply was established in November 18, 1868 by order of General Philip H. Sheridan. The post, originally the supply base for the Winter Campaign of 1868-1869, was redesignated Fort Supply in December 1878 and remained an active military post until the fall of 1894. It would become the hub of military roads and trail's over what is now a three state area of the Southern Great Plains.

     The first trail into the Camp Supply area was laid out from the northwest by Lieutenant Colonel Alfred B. Sully as he led the 1868-1869 Winter Campaign from Fort Dodge, Kansas down across the Cimarron River to the mouth of Kiowa Creek and then down the Beaver River to near it confluence with Wolf Creek. The site in the valley between the Beaver and Wolf became the location of Camp Supply. The Sully Trail was the artery over which hundreds of supply wagons with war material and their escorts came and went from Fort Dodge to Camp Supply.

     Lieutenant Colonel George A. Custer led the 7th Cavalry out of Camp Supply in a heavy snow storm southwest up the west side of Wolf Creek. Crossing to the south side and following the creek, he turned south toward the Antelope Hills. Custer was moving toward the Washita River where he surprised and destroyed Cheyenne Chief Black Kettle's village on November 27, 1868. The Custer Trail opened the path that would become a boulevard to later Indian war campaigns on the Southern Great Plains. In December, Sheridan, Custer, the 7th Cavalry and Col. Crawford's 19th Kansas Volunteer Cavalry returned to the Washita Battlefield over part of the same trail. Proceeding down the Washita to Fort Cobb, the command turned southwest to establish Fort Sill and completed the campaign in a sweep of the eastern Texas Panhandle. The command returned to Camp Supply up the Custer Trail and returned to Fort Dodge over the Sully Trail.

     In November 1869, Ben Clarke, scout and interpreter at Camp Supply, laid out a new trail leading straight north from Supply through Devil's Gap, across Buffalo Creek to near Deep Hole on the Cimarron River. It went on to Crooked Creek and Bluff Creek to Fort Dodge on the Arkansas River. The cut off shaved 20 miles from the Sully Trail and became known as the Fort Dodge/Camp Supply Military Road. The road heavily traveled by troops, military and civilian supply wagons, and stagecoaches carrying the U.S. Mail. The road continued to be used extensively by the settlers of the area after the military posts were closed.

     In early 1870, the agency for the Cheyenne and Arapaho Tribes was moved from Camp Supply 120 miles southeast down the North Canadian River to the new Darlington Agency named for agent Brinton Darlington. The creation of the new agency, still under the protection of Camp Supply, led to the development of the Camp Supply - Darlington Agency Road that was later extended southwest to Fort Sill. The road generally followed the North Canadian River and was heavily used by Indians, troops, and supply wagons.

     The trail used by Lt. Col. Custer out of Camp supply up Wolf Creek was extended with the outbreak of the Red River War in 1874-1875. Carrying out Gen. Sheridan's military plans for the campaign, Col Nelson Miles led the Indian Territory Expedition down the trail southwest for Camp Supply that created a supply and communication line that would reach into the Texas Panhandle. It eventually would terminate at the Cantomnent on the Sweetwater River, Texas, later named Fort Elliott.

     Along the trail on a ridge between the Canadian and Washita Rivers, Kiowas and Comanches attacked Captain Wyllys Lyman's wagon train of supplies for Miles. It was under siege for three days before relief arrived from Camp Supply. On this same road, southwest of the Lyman Wagon Train Fight, the same Indians attacked scouts Billy Dixon and Amos Chapman with four troopers in what is known as the Buffalo Wallow Fight. A wounded Chapman returned by way of the military road to the Camp Supply hospital where his leg was amputated. For their actions in the fight, Chapman, Dixon, and the soldiers were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor. It was over this same road that Lieutenant Frank Baldwin made his heroic ride from Miles' Headquarters on the Red River, through the hostile Indians to Camp Supply with dispatches. With the close of the campaign, the Camp Supply - Fort Elliot Road became the primary supply line to the new post. The trail carried the mail and supplies not only to Elliott but also to the ranches and small towns developing in the Texas Panhandle.

     To protect the Darlington Agency after the Red River War of 1874-75, Fort Reno was established south across the river from the Darlington Agency. The new post increased the traffic over the expanded military road that connected Camp Supply to Darlington and Fort Reno.

     Another trail, incompletely documented was the trail out of Camp Supply into No Man's Land, the Oklahoma Panhandle. The trail was used by the cavalry patrols into the area. Indians on Buffalo hunts, and the rare traveler. The trail from Camp followed the old Sully Trail up the Beaver River passed Otter Creek and the Western Cattle Trail to the mouth of Kiowa Creek. There the Sully road veered to the north while the main route continued up the Beaver into No Man's Land. The Jones - Plummer Trail that ran from the Texas Panhandle to Dodge City crossed the trail from Camp Supply where present Beaver, Oklahoma is located. From there it continued west past Palo Duro Creek to New Mexico.

     In 1879, military and civilian traffic over the Fort Supply-Fort Reno Road was increased following the establishment of Contonment on the North Fork of the Canadian. The new post was established following the exodus of Little Wolf and Dull Knife's bands of Northern Cheyennes from the Darlington Agency in late 1878. Cantonment as it was known, was located south of Barrel Springs 70 miles by road from Fort Supply and 60 miles from Fort Reno.

     The Southern Kansas Railroad, a division of the Santa Fe, reached Kiowa, Kansas in 1885. A road was laid out from Fort Supply northeast to the trailhead at Kiowa. For the first time since its founding in 1868, supplies and mail could be freighted to Supply less than 100 miles. This northeast road remained the principal supply route to the post for two years. In April 1887, the Southern Kansas crossed the Fort Supply-Darlington Road 14 miles southeast of the post. At this junction the community of Woodward, Indian Territory was established. The Army erected a large hospital tent in Woodward and it became the supply point for Fort Supply. The Fort Supply-Woodward Road, a part of the original trail to Darlington was the main supply, communications, and transportation source for the post from 1887 until abandonment in 1894.

     Fort Supply had six military roads leading to and from the post. In addition, it was 10 miles east of the famous Western or Texas Cattle Trail where it crossed Otter Creek. The cattle trail entered Indian Territory at Doan's Crossing on the Red River and led north until it neared Camp Supply. It then went northwest to avoid the military reservation around the post. A directive was issued by the Army re-directing the thousands of cattle and horses 10 miles away to prevent them from using the grass needed by the military. A stopping point on the trail was on Otter Creek from which trail bosses, drovers, and crooks visited the post to replenish supplies. The fort furnished escort troops for the trail herds and was a major stop along the cattle trail.

     In 1908, the Old Fort Supply buildings were converted to Oklahoma's first state run mental hospital. To bring the first patients from a private institution to the new hospital, a road was built from the old post to the railroad station south at Tangier, Oklahoma. Farmers and ranchers from the area furnished buggies and wagons to transport the two train loads of arriving patients to the new hospital.

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