Along the a stone fence in the northeastern side of the cemetery in Fort Towson (Choctaw County, Oklahoma) stands a strange set of stairs. You go up the steps, then down them, and then you find yourself on a well-worn path that leads into the woods. And as you walk along the path, you walk right into historic territory. The town of Doaksville in Choctaw County, Oklahoma, now an archaeological site, lies at the end of the trail. The few stone ruins of a cellar, hotel, tavern, and jail belie how busy this town once was, as during the 19th century, it was the main trading center in the early years of the Choctaw Nation after its rebirth in Indian Territory.
From Mississippi to Oklahoma In 1820, the Choctaws and their Indian Agent, Andrew Jackson, signed the Treaty of Doak's Stand under duress; Jackson had threatened to annihilate their village. This treaty led to the first wave of Choctaw removals into Arkansas Territory (by 1835, this area became Indian Territory). According to old histories, Josiah Doak, a white trader from Mississippi, was considered a "trustworthy ally of the Choctaws," and his store (stand) witnessed the signing, which gave Doak exclusive rights to distribute rations. Josiah and his brother moved to the new territory to set up shop. There, they opened their ration stand a bit west of Fort Towson in 1824, and awaited the people who were forced to leave their homelands in Mississippi. Doaksville was not the first settlement that the Choctaws encountered as they entered Arkansas Territory, but compared to Eagletown to their east, it was well situated. The Red River was nearby but not so close that it could flood the town. Fort Towson allowed for relatively peaceful trade and served as protection against other tribes, notably the Caddos, who had been forced out of their homelands to make room for the Choctaws. The town was also just a day's ride from the Wheelock Academy, the Choctaw Nation's first school in its new homelands; Armstrong Academy, the Nation's premier educational facility; and Jonesboro, a river port and ferry crossing into Texas.
Fairly quickly, Doaksville became a trading center not just for the Choctaws, but for Texans, Shawnees, Delawares, Caddos, and other people who lived along the Red River in the antebellum period. It had its own newspaper, and from 1850 to 1863, it served as a the seat of the Choctaw Nation until the papers were moved to Armstrong Academy. David Folsom, the chief of the Choctaws in this new period, owned an inn at the town. Folsom negotiated more removal treaties with the U.S. government for his people at Doaksville.
Bypassed but not forgotten After the Civil War, Doaksville kept on trucking until the fateful decision of the San Francisco and St. Louis Railway (Frisco) in the early 20th century, which placed its tracks a few miles to the south of the town site. Doaksville-ians began to leave the town. They often took their homes with them to create the newly formed town of Fort Towson (named, of course, for the historic fort). By and by, the old town diminished until nothing was left but ruins, which then sediment and random trees covered up. The town site, though abandoned, remained not just in the hearts, but in the minds of Oklahomans as well: it was acquired by the Oklahoma Historical Society in 1960. In the 1990s, the historical society, the University of Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Anthropological Society, began excavating the old town. They painstakingly uncovered the locations of several structures that had rested on solid limestone foundations, including the old jail, hotel, and tavern. Above ground cisterns helped to pinpoint where they should dig, and what appeared was a good outline of what the town once featured. Though many of the structures were simple clapboard constructions that left few traces, Doaksville's status as an archaeological site has made this former town a wonderful place to explore. The Oklahoma Historical Society has placed several interpretive signs all around the paths to guide the visitor and explain what they're seeing.
It's worth a visit!
I also visited Doaksville so you don't' have to, but you should, anyway: