Click on Oklahoma
map to return to county listings
The Doaksville Site
Once the largest town in the Choctaw Nation, the community of Doaksville
flourished within the Choctaw Nation from the 1830s until shortly
after the Civil War. It served as the Choctaw National Capital from
1850 until 1863, and is where General Stand Watie became the last
Confederate General to surrender, in June of 1865.
Hard hit by the abandonment of nearby Fort Towson in the 1850s,
by movement of the Choctaw National Capital to Chahta Tamaha in
1863, and by the general devastation caused by the Civil War, Doaksville
declined rapidly in the 1870s. The final blow to the town occurred
in 1902 when a new railroad was constructed about a mile to the
south and a new town-Fort Towson-was constructed that quickly too
the place of what little remained at Doakvsille. When the Oklahoma
Historical Society acquired the site in 1960, little remained on
the surface to betray its former importance.
Early photo of Doaksville,
probably dating to the mid-19th century
Volunteers work to uncover one
of the cells
of the Doaksville jail
In 1995, 1996, and 1997 the Oklahoma Historical Society, under
the direction of William Lees, conducted a series of excavations
to uncover remains of the town to prepare the site for public
interpretation. The Oklahoma Anthropological Society was invited
to be a part of this project and their annual spring dig kicked
off each season's excavations, with work continuing through
the end of July by a University of Oklahoma Field School.
In 1995, the OAS and OU field schools focused on Structure 5,
and OU students also worked on structures 7, 33, and 57. Structure
5 is a well-constructed limestone foundation, and the only with
a formal cellar. This building may have been a small dwelling
or a detached kitchen. Structure 33 is the remains of a commercial
building that appears to have burned about 1850 while in use.
Excavations were begun on Structure 57 at a pile of brick rubble
and a nearby feature that appears to have been an outdoor fire
pit. Structure 7 was found to represent a pile of limestone
rock of no consequence.
In 1996 the OAS excavated structure 13-15 (the jail), and the
OU field school focused on structures 6-2, 33, and 57. The jail
was completely exposed, and revealed stone walls two-feet in
width enclosing three cells that were only 3 by 6 ft in size.
Work at Structure 33 was limited to salvaging an area destroyed
by pothunters shortly after the close of the 1995 field season.
Limited exploratory work was conducted at structure 6-2, thought
to be the hotel, and 57. At 57, this work identified a feature
that was not excavated due to the end of the field season.
In 1997, the OAS excavated Structure 6-2 (the hotel) and 32
(the well) and OU students renewed work on Structure 57. At
the hotel, two chimney bases and hearths were excavated that
showed this building was once about 40 ft. in length. This building
showed the longest span of use of any at Doaksville, with evidence
covering a period beginning in the 1840s and continuing until
the turn of the 20th century.
The well was one of three communal wells that are still visible
at the site. Excavated were remains of a limestone pavement
around the well and artifacts dating from the 1840s. At 57,
excavation exposed a chimney/hearth foundation, and evidence
that this building had burned. Also, the feature identified
in 1996 was found to be a two-meter deep pit-feature, possibly
a root cellar, filled with burned household debris buried under
brick rubble. From the ceramics in this pit, it appears to have
been filled in after a fire in the 1850s or 1860s.
Excavations at Doaksville represent the most widespread for a town
in the Indian Territory and provide a collection of unprecedented
scope from the 1840s to 1860s period. Research is still underway
on the collections, but to date a number of significant projects
have benefited from the work by the OAS and OU field schools during
1995 to 1997.
Excavations at this site were the subject of University of Oklahoma
graduate student Heather Atherton's Masters thesis, "Urban
vs. Rural, Ethnicity of Ninenteenth Century Choctaw in the West"
(1997). She utilized evidence from Doaksville along with archaeological
information from other sites and archival information to compare
the Choctaw living in the urban center of Doaksville to those living
in rural settings.
A walking trail leading the visitor through the site was
completed in 2001. The trail passes by each excavation area,
where foundations have been rebuilt so that their form is
clearly visible. Trail signs relying heavily on information
from documents and from the archaeology tell the important
story of this once forgotten place.
Example of signs along the new
Doaksville interpretive trail
Thanks to Dr. William Lees of the Oklahoma Historical Society
for providing this article about the Doaksville site and for the
Dr. Lees has a website on the 19th century Red River steamboat
For more photos, click here.
Prehistoric Sites Identified to Time Period in Choctaw