Traveled West Of OKC Today
21 Oct 2011
|From Twin Fountains RV Park – Oklahoma City, OK
We again ventured out of OKC to begin our day of discovery. Traveling west on I-40 just past El Reno we took Exit 119 to reach Fort Reno. Today this historic fort is a guest of the USDA Grazinglands Research Laboratory who since 1947 owns the thousands of acres that once were home to this military post.
The history of Fort Reno dates back to just after the close of the Civil War and was initially established to quell the unrest among the Indians in the region. In 1868 after several years of chasing Plains Indians during the summer months with no success, General Sherman came up with the idea of a winter campaign. Severe weather in the area during winter made all tribes less mobile. He appointed General Sheridan and then Colonel Custer to head this effort of forcing the hostile Plains tribes onto reservations. Such an ambitious effort required a Camp Supply which was built on this site.
The first engagement by Custer took many captives that were brought to Camp Supply. However no provisions had been made for captives and no Cheyenne-Arapaho Reservation existed. Hurriedly the Darlington Agency was established to help oversee the peace and transition of these tribes forced into reservation life. At the time, all major reservations required a supporting military fort……………thus Fort Reno was born!
The construction of the first permanent buildings began in 1876 and Fort Reno continued to work with the Darlington Agency preserving the peace and directing orderly transition in this part of Indian Territory from reservation life to individual farms and ranches. Troops from Fort Reno also supervised the first great Land Run of 1889.
After being abandoned for several years the fort was reopened on May 25, 1908 and converted to one of three Army Quartermaster Remount Depot Stations……….Remount referring to horses and mules and Depot meaning warehouse; thus Fort Reno became a warehouse for horses and mules!
As a remount station the fort was a center of specialized horse breeding and training of mules for military needs. Fort Reno was very active during both World Wars training and shipping thousands of horses and mules to the horse cavalry that played an important role in the war efforts. This equine culture of Fort Reno also thrived with polo matches, horse races and jumping meets on Sunday afternoons making the fort a center of social activities for the local community.
This fort also served as a camp for German and Italian POWs during World War II. Over 1,300 Germans were imprisoned and were responsible for the building of the Fort Reno Chapel. This chapel is still used today for special services and weddings. Another sign of the POW Camp here are the grave sites of 70 former prisoners located behind the Old Post Cemetery.
After 40 years of serving as a remount depot Fort Reno became a grasslands livestock experiment station operated by the USDA and Oklahoma State University. In 1997 the USDA agreed to the establishment of a non-profit organization to promote, preserve and restore the 25 Fort Reno historic structures that remained on site.
A few Fort Reno facts to share……………………………………
The fort is located on the historic Chisholm Cattle Trail as well as Historic Route 66
Members of various Buffalo Soldier Companies have been stationed here and several are interred in the historic Fort Reno Post Cemetery
Most dramatic single event in the fort’s early history was the escape to freedom of 300 Northern Cheyenne in 1878
The fort’s historic cemetery is the final resting place for renowned Cavalry Scout and Interpreter Ben Clark who worked for General Sheridan, Miles and Custer
During WWII the famous Lipizan horses were housed at the Fort Reno riding hall for a period of time
Amelia Earhart landed her autogiro on the fort’s airstrip in the 1920s
Black Jack the riderless horse in President John F. Kennedy’s funeral procession was born here at Fort Reno and spent his early life on the post
On our drive back to OKC we decided to veer off I-40 a bit and check out one of the “Neighborhood Districts” of the city………………”Stockyards City”! We had already been in two other of these districts in our earlier exploration of OKC. The ASA Softball Complex is within the “Adventure” district and the botanical gardens lies in the “Oklahoma City Arts” district.
Established in 1910 Stockyards City serves as home to the world’s largest stocker-feeder cattle market in the world. It also has the state’s oldest continually operating restaurant; Cattleman’s Steakhouse as well as the state’s oldest library, pharmacy and western wear establishment. It is here visitors and locals alike can find quality products and services synonymous with the heritage of the West.
More than 70 businesses feature Western wear and ranch needs from boots, jeans, hats, dusters, spurs, belt buckles and even furniture. This district of OKC even has its own branch of the United States Postal Service. You will also find the Oklahoma Beef Council Offices as well as the International Professional Rodeo Association Headquarters in this “Neighborhood District”. Now you can’t ask for much more of the real west of today than what Stockyards City offers………………….Yee Haw!