So many places to go and so much to learn….
Welcome back. A big trade show at the Tulsa Fairgrounds brought me home for the weekend and I’m here to tell you that on Saturday the parking lot there which is massive was full. Shows of every kind filled the buildings and with the big boat and travel going on this week I expect they’ll have another huge crowd. As for me, I’m headed down to southwest Oklahoma to check out some history in the town of Lawton.
I’m sure many of you know that Lawton is home to Fort Sill but it is really the other way around. This old fort was first established back in 1869 when all the land was still known as Indian Territory and it was built by General Phillip Sheridan for protection from hostile Indian tribes who were resisting the westward expansion of settlements. After it was completed the fort became an important base for military operations. Six cavalry regiments and a bunch of early frontier scouts with names that everyone recognizes led the way. Buffalo Bill, Wild Bill Hickok and the 10th Cavalry, who were also called buffalo soldiers, all stayed at Fort Sill and played a major role in settling the west. The 10th Cavalry was led by Henry O. Flipper who was the first black man to graduate from West Point.
In 1894 the famous Apache warrior Geronimo was captured and housed outside of the fort along with three hundred and forty members of his tribe. A few years later Geronimo would go on tour with Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show traveling coast to coast. Geronimo died at Fort Sill in 1909 and is buried in the cemetery there. I hope to bring you more on Geronimo, the day he met President Theodore Roosevelt, the bloody Ghost Dance uprising and more after my stay.
The history that I’ve read so far tells me that the town of Lawton was founded on August 6, 1901 many years after the fort was completed. By this time the Indian tribes had been settled on reservations and the fort, which at one time was close to being abandoned, had become a field artillery base. Through the years the fort has served as an officer training school, an air service training school and nowadays is also an aviation center.
Fort Sill’s important role in aviation began in 1917 when an airfield was built housing the first Balloon Squadron that was stationed there. During World War I balloon squadrons were sent to Europe where they were used to observe enemy activities. From what I’ve found out, the balloons were tethered to trucks and towed with the men inside them. It is worth noting that the commander of the unit from Fort Sill was General Banksdale Hawlett, Jr. who would later play a key role during the Cuban Missile Crisis as a part of President Kennedy’s advisory team. As an aviation base the fort continues to play a role in the protection of our country today.
This time next week I’ll also be taking you on the road to another historical place in the southwest corner of Oklahoma where I seldom travel and then I’ll be going up to I-40 west into New Mexico. Through the motel town of Tucumcari to Santa Rosa, followed by Cline’s Corner and then north. Its remote out there with plenty of antelope and you know the early travelers to the area had it rough. I love reading about those early day travelers and plan to bring you some of their history as well next week.
Till then, I’ll see ya down the road……