Friday, July 1, 2022

Fort Gibson, Oklahoma by Zina Abbott


I have read about and visited Fort Smith, Arkansas, which is just across the river from Oklahoma. I knew it played a large role in overseeing law and order within Indian Territory and, later, Oklahoma Territory. Fort Gibson, I discovered, was also right in the thick of things during much of early Indian Territory history.

In 1824, several years after the acquisition of the Louisiana Purchase but prior to the removal of the Five Civilized Tribes from east of the Mississippi River, marked the beginning of Fort Gibson. 

Colonel Matthew Arbuckle, who commanded the 7th Infantry Regiment (United States) from Fort Smith, Arkansas, moved some of his troops to establish Cantonment Gibson on 21 April 1824.  When it was constructed, the fort was farther west than any other military post in the United States. It formed part of the north–south chain of forts that was intended to maintain peace on the western frontier.

The US Army named the fort for Colonel (later General) George Gibson, Commissary General of Subsistence. It is located next to the modern city of Fort Gibson in Muskogee County, Oklahoma, where the three forks of the Arkansas, Verdigris, and Grand Rivers converge south of the Ozark Plateau. It was part of a series of forts established by the United States to protect its western border. It was part of a series of forts which the United States established to protect its western border and the land of the Louisiana Purchase. The troops constructed a stockade, barracks, other facilities, and roads. The fort provided the earliest known weather records in Oklahoma thanks to the post surgeon who began taking meteorological observations in 1824. It also served as a starting point for several military expeditions that explored the West.

The fort also served as an outpost on the Texas Road connecting settled Missouri with the new country of Mexico after it declared its independence from Spain in 1821. During the Texas Revolution against the weak Mexican government, the Army sent most of the troops stationed at Fort Gibson to the Texas border region.


Map of traditional Osage lands since 1700s

The Army designated the cantonment as Fort Gibson in 1832, reflecting its change from a temporary outpost to a semi-permanent garrison. Soldiers at Fort Gibson increasingly dealt with Indians removed from the eastern states to Indian Territory by being called upon to keep the peace between the indigenous Osages and Cherokees. When the Cherokees were first removed from North Carolina, the first bands to arrive were given land right in the middle of traditional Osage territory. The Osage did not accept the incursion well. The newcomers, not happy about being forced to leave their traditional homeland, complained about hostility from the Osage Nation and other Plains Indian tribes indigenous to the region.

Fort Gibson Commanding Officer Quarters

The fort figured prominently in the Indian removals. At the height of Indian removal in the 1830s, the garrison at Fort Gibson ranked as the largest in the nation. Notable American soldiers stationed at (or at least visiting) Fort Gibson include Stephen W. Kearny, Robert E. Lee, and Zachary Taylor. The Army stationed Jefferson Davis and more than 100 West Point cadets at the fort. The Army also assigned Nathan Boone, son of Daniel Boone, to the post. After leaving Tennessee, Sam Houston owned a trading post in the area before later moving to Texas.


Originally assigned Five Civilized tribes Indian Territory

At a bitterly contentious meeting at Fort Gibson in 1836, the majority faction of the Muscogee (Creek) reluctantly accepted the existing tribal government under the leadership of Chilly McIntosh, son of William McIntosh, and his faction. Colonel Arbuckle tried to prevent intratribal strife within the Cherokee, but Chief John Ross and his followers refused to acknowledge the government that earlier "Old Settlers" had established in Indian Territory. After suing for peace in the Florida Seminole Wars against the United States Army, many of the Seminole, dispirited and about their defeat, arrived in Indian Territory. Officials at Fort Gibson managed to prevent bloodshed and disunity among them.

When Colonel Arbuckle left Fort Gibson in 1841, he reported that despite the arrival of 40,000 eastern disgruntled Native Americans, "I have maintained peace on this frontier and at no period have the Whites on our border or the Red people of this frontier been in a more perfect state of quiet and Security than they enjoy now." The removed Native American nations gradually lost their desire for American military protection.


Postcard of reconstructed Fort Gibson

Fort Gibson was occupied through most of the Indian removal period, but then abandoned in 1857. This came about when, in the 1850s, the Cherokee complained about the liquor and brothels at Fort Gibson. In an effort to prevent the sale of alcohol to their people, they urged Congress to close Fort Gibson. The War Department honored their request.

The fort was reactivated during the Civil War. It was renamed Fort Blunt and served as the Union headquarters in Indian Territory. The army stayed through the Reconstruction and Indian Wars periods, combating the problem of outlaws and squatters.

Missouri-Kansas-Texas RR, also known as the Katy

In 1872 the Tenth Cavalry reoccupied Fort Gibson. Soon after, workers were sent to the area to build the Missouri–Kansas–Texas Railroad from Baxter Springs—the first Kansas "cow town"— to the Red River crossing at Colbert's Ferry, which was in Indian Territory, along the Texas border. The railroad improved transportation of cattle and beef to the east as well as shipping of goods from that area to the West. The cavalry from Fort Gibson was used to police the camps of local workers. Soldiers also tried to manage threats from outlaws, white encroachment on Indian lands, intra-tribal disputes, and other issues. The size of the garrison varied with the workload.

The Kansas and Arkansas Valley Railway built track through the area in 1888, and the town of Fort Gibson, Oklahoma began to develop. In the summer of 1890, the Army abandoned the military post of Fort Gibson, this time for good, although troops occasionally camped at the site when unrest brought them to the town of Fort Gibson. Eventually, the civilian town expanded into the former military grounds of the fort.


Fort Gibson Barracks -photo taken 1934

Fort Gibson was active on and off from 1824 to 1888. The fort succeeded in its peacekeeping mission for more than 50 years, as no massacres or battles occurred there. Abandoned in 1890, the fort was later the headquarters of the Dawes Commission which was tasked with enrolling members of the Five Tribes, particularly the Cherokee Freedmen.


My most recently published book is Joshua’s Bride, the first book in the Land Run Mail Order Brides series set in Oklahoma Territory about the same time Fort Gibson ended its service as a fort in Indian Territory. Although on opposite sides of the current state of Oklahoma, it has been interesting to learn more about the early history.

To find the book description and purchase options for my book, please CLICK HERE






Monday, June 27, 2022

Enamelware of the 1800s by Bea Tifton


Sorry for the repost, but I've got a wicked case of shingles. This post is one of my favorite topics, so enjoy. Next month I'll have a new post. 

Enamelware was a popular cookware in the 1800s because it was light, more durable than porcelain, and easy to clean.
Enamelware began to appear in the 1760s in Germany. It was conventional cookware lined with enamel and touted to be safer for cooking, as it supposedly prevented arsenic and lead from leaking into cooking.  Some critics still complained of enamelware leaching tastes or elements into the food. In 1850 enamelware came to America via the Stuart and Peterson foundry in Philadelphia. This cookware was very basic as opposed to the many patterns and colors that would later be introduced into the United States.

This new enamelware was soon met with enthusiasm, but this soon waned.

Ten years ago the porcelain-lined kettles were considered a great invention for boiling substances that required particular care, and many a thrifty housekeeper has congratulated herself on the possession of one, and then grieved herself sick almost to find it burned black in a few days, through the carelessness of servants, and just as liable to spoil her delicacies as an ordinary tin saucepan.
Lady's Home Magazine, Philadelphia, 1857


Two companies founded by immigrants brought more enamelware to the United States in the 1860s with some improvements. The first one was Lalance and Grojsean, an importer of sheet metal and metal home goods. They set up a manufacturing company in New York and produced agateware, usually blue in color.

Frederick and William Niedringhaus started their company in Missouri, then moved to Granite City, Illinois. The company later became Nesco.
The best-known brands, especially the granite and agate ware names, held onto a strong position into the 20th century. They sold for higher prices. In 1899 Lalance and  Grosjean’s “Agate nickel-steel ware” was much more expensive than Haberman’s “grey mottled enameled ware” L&G's 2 quart lipped saucepan cost 18¢ ; Haberman's was 7¢. Meanwhile, Sears had a set of 17 pieces of "Peerless gray enamel ware" selling for about  $2.70. (
Each item included a certificate assuring the buyer that it was arsenic and lead free.  
The early enamelware was white. Most enamelware has a white lining even if the outerware has another color of pattern. Then white enamelware items acquired a blue or red rim.  In the 1860s,
the Niedringhaus brothers took the science of enameling a step further and developed  what became known as graniteware. While the enamel was still wet, they applied a thin  piece of paper with an oxidized pattern on it. Once the piece dried, the paper fell away,  leaving a design with the appearance of granite — hence, graniteware. (

 Image result for vintage graniteware

The term later became used to mean any speckled white and gray enamelware.
Speckled, swirled, mottled and solid, graniteware came in a variety of colors: red, blue, purple, brown, green, pink, gray and white. As the years passed, each period  had its own style and color. One of the most popular patterns, even with today’s collectors, was called “end of the day.” Whatever colors were left over at the end of the day were mixed together to make a very unusual and unique color.

In the 1930s new materials, such as Pyrex, aluminum, and plastic rendered the enamelware less popular. The metal drives of World War II saw many of the surviving pieces melted down and donated to the cause. Today enamelware is popular among collectors and ranges from quite reasonably priced to very expensive, depending on the type of cookware item.  

Do you have any enamelware in your kitchen?