In 1819, the United States Congress decided that the upper Red River area needed
protection; not for
Anglo American settlers, but for Native people who faced
violence in this frontier region. Building the fort was difficult, though, because
materials had to be either ferried over non-existent roads across the rapids of the
Cassotot and Little Rivers, or via steam boat, which the
Great Raft of the Red River
made near impossible to do. But, by 1823, the fort was finally operational.

The small garrison had to deal with a lot of scuffles between Arkansas and Texas
Anglos who wanted to settle in the fertile valley. The military sided with the Native
peoples, as many had come to the Red River Valley due to previous treaties that the
U.S., at least at this time, wanted to honor, and the Anglos were trying to pre-empt
legitimate land claims. So, because they were squatting on Indian land, the white
men decided that instead of acquiescing to federal control, they'd just burn down
the fort, which they did in 1829. The fort rebuilt in 1830 and was dubbed "Camp
Phoenix."

As the displaced Indians moved in and established towns like Doaksville (the first
Choctaw capital) and Boggy Depot, the fort stayed active but relatively small. In
1840, it housed the troops that would later fight in the Mexican War (1846-1848), but
was permanently closed in 1856. During the
Civil War, General Sam Bell Maxie used
the old fort as a command post, and General Stand Watie of the Confederate
Cherokees made it a staging area for his guerrilla raids on Union troops. General
Watie, in fact, was the last Confederate Commander to surrender, doing so in
Doaksville in 1865.

Fort Towson is now a small historic site managed by the Oklahoma Historical
Society. The fort consists of ruins, as latter-day settlers dismantled the stone
buildings to use in their own houses. A small interpretive center and store houses
some interesting artifacts found around the fort.
Fort Towson
Fort Towson is a small place, with visible relics. The 1857 Cannon, the cistern, and
flagpole grace the fort's parade grounds.
The well on the parade
grounds has been
re-constructed. Most of
the fort lies in ruins. The
fort was burned in the
late 1820s by white
settlers who resented
American border patrol
between the U.S. and
Mexican Texas, and
Indian settlement by the
Shawnees, Caddos, and
Choctaws.  Though
re-built, further
destruction before and
after the Civil War led
locals to the conclusion
that it was okay to
dismantle the old
structures to build their
own homes.
Choctaws and
Chickasaws settled
around the fort, where
they built Indian

academies
, churches,
farms, plantations, and
towns. The first major
settlement around the fort
was
Doaksville, named
after the trading post
established by Josiah
Doaks, a white man from
Mississippi who followed
the Choctaws into Indian
Territory to advocate on
their behalf. The village
became a trading center.
The need to supply Fort
Towson was also the
impetus to clear the
Great
Raft of the Red River
north of Natchitoches.
One of Oklahoma's
first historians, Grant
Foreman, documented
historic ruins at the
turn of the 20th
century. At this time,
Fort Towson was eight
decades old and its
footprint was still
clearly visible.