TAKE ON TOPICS
By TRACI BARNES
I spent a few hours in Fort Coffee Saturday afternoon with a great bunch of kids. They refer to themselves as the north end kids. I got to thinking about the racial diversity and decided to do some more research on the area.
Fort Coffee is one of the oldest communities in Oklahoma but one of the newest incorporated towns.
The area is rich with the prehistoric roots of the Spiro Mounds nearby. The folks from Fort Coffee will let you know they really are the Fort Coffee Mounds.
The town started in 1832 when the federal government removed the Choctaw Nation to Indian Territory. Many Choctaw families and their slaves made the area between the river and Skullyville their home. Oak Lodge (Skullyville) was about six miles south of the Arkansas River. It was the Mushulatubbee District of the Choctaw Nation.
The Choctaws petitioned the U.S. War Department in 1834 to stop the illegal whiskey coming in on the river boats. Fort Coffee was built on Swallow Rock overlooking the Arkansas River. It was named after General John Coffee who fought in the Seminole War and died in 1833. The fort was only used for four years and it stopped most of the illegal whiskey flowing into the area.
When Fort Smith was established in 1838 the old Fort Coffee buildings were abandoned. The Choctaw Nation allowed the Fort Coffee Choctaw Boys Academy to be established in the old fort in 1843. The school educated boys until the Civil War. The mission also ran the New Hope Girls School in Skullyville.
During the Civil War southern troops were stationed there until 1863. In 1863 Union forces captured the fort and Skullyville and held them until the end of the war. Most of the buildings were burned and later several small houses were constructed with the foundation stones.
After the Civil War the Reconstruction Treaty of 1866 required that the Choctaws release their slaves. The released slaves were called freedmen. Most remained in the Choctaw Nation and worked for the Choctaws or on their own land. In 1885 the Choctaw Nation adopted many of their freedmen. During the Dawes Commission the freedmen were allotted parcels of land near the north end (present day Fort Coffee). In 2000 the town of Fort Coffee was 62.9% African American, 26.2% percent white, and 9.2% American Indian, Choctaw for the most part.
In 2000 the population was 412 but more than 1,000 people in the rural area considered Fort Coffee their home town. By 2011 Fort Coffee‘s population had increased by 3% up to 425 people.
I look forward to going back and hanging out with the north end kids.
Until next week…