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Choctaw County

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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

EXCAVATIONS
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.

1995 Excavations
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.

1996 Excavations
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.

1997 Excavations
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.


RESULTS
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 accompanying photographs.

Dr. Lees has a website on the 19th century Red River steamboat wreck:

http://www.ok-history.mus.ok.us/redriver/redriver.htm

For more photos, click here.

Prehistoric Sites Identified to Time Period in Choctaw County


Paleo = ?-8,000 BP / Archaic = 8,000-2,000 BP / Woodland = 2,000-1,000 BP / Village 1000-500 BP
BP (before present)

 
 

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