Bicentennial celebration includes education, remembrance

Apr. 23—FORT GIBSON — Del City resident Steve Clapp finds Fort Gibson history in his family history.

He said his great-grandfather, Christopher Washington Clapp, was assigned as a commissary sergeant of the Second Indian Home Guard, stationed at Fort Gibson during the Civil War.

"The Battle of Fort Gibson occurred on May 20, 1863," Steve Clapp said. "My great-grandfather's horse was stolen or captured by Confederates."

Steve Clapp and other members of the Sons of Union Veterans of the Civil War raised a historic American flag Saturday during a Bicentennial observance at Fort Gibson's Historic Site.

The observance were among several ways Fort Gibson commemorated its 200th anniversary. Saturday marked a day of education and celebration featuring reenactment displays, a parade and a music festival.

During a ceremony, Oklahoma Historical Society Executive Director Trait Thompson talked about how Cantonment Gibson, established in April 1824, played a role in westward expansion and Indian relocation.

"It was this muddled policy of relocating tribes to the west that led to the Cherokee and Osage tribes being forced into the same land area of what is now eastern Oklahoma," Thompson said. "Violent outbreaks were common."

Seminole Nation employee Jake Tiger talked about how his ancestors stayed at Fort Gibson during their relocation.

"Two hundred yards from here, up on the river, they brought our Seminole people out here on decommissioned slave ships," Tiger said. "My band was brought here in 1843."

Tiger said many went on from Fort Gibson to be relocated between the North and South Canadian Rivers.

"At this moment, I'd like to recognize all the removed Seminoles who came out here with the Muscogee (Creek), the Cherokee Nation," he said. "They were removed from their homeland from their homes out east."

Thompson said that, under the direction of Col. Matthew Arbuckle, Fort Gibson helped keep peace in the area.

"By time Col. Arbuckle departed in 1841, he was able to say 'I have managed to maintain peace, and at no period has it been in a more perfect state of quiet and security than it is now,'" Thompson said.

Thompson said the fort also was a staging ground for the Civil War battle of Honey Springs, 36 miles to the southwest. The fort was decommissioned in 1890.

He said the historic site has an exciting future. A building used as the fort's hospital is being reconstructed as an interpretive center and staff offices. Thompson also said the site is poised to spend more than $5 million in state funds. The National Park Service awarded $750,000 to restore an 1840 barracks building.

Reenactments included period music, Native camps, and ways people passed time while stationed at the fort.

Earlier, crowds lined main Fort Gibson streets for the parade, which featured some of the costumed re-enactors. Marching bands from Fort Gibson, Hilldale, Oktaha and Sequoyah high schools played patriotic music.