In a flat landscape heavily dotted with natural gas wells, sitting off of Route 66, is a little town not well-known except for this big tornado that came thru on May 31, 2013. When I visited back in October I didn’t remember that there had been a tornado there. My husband was working at a natural gas plant locally and I was spending a few days visiting. All I saw were the signs for the exit to Fort Reno. I LIKE forts. They are cool! So I did the usual lookup on the Fort, skimming over the information and wondering if it was affected by the big Shutdown. It seemed to be a charity group that ran and maintained the Fort so I felt it was definitely a go! Well….
I had no idea why the department of Agriculture was involved in this little venture, but okay, I’d go back after the shutdown reopened.
And that I did. As I drove into the Fort entrance I noted that really all I saw was a lot of land and a drive and some trees nicely spaced on the road in. I got up to the building marked “Visitor Center” and being me, I don’t like to go to them for fear of being trapped by an overenthusiastic docent, drove right by. As I drove on the little roads I noticed that there were a lot of people on horses wearing what might be the same clothing over to one side. And I noticed that the buildings all were closed doors – kind of unusual for the forts that I have been to which have displays in the buildings that you can walk in or walk by to see. So I was a bit bummed.
I drove carefully around the people with horses and get out of my vehicle with my camera ready to see all the wonders in those buildings that, surely, just have the doors closed but not locked. And I noticed that the horses all had very nice blankets with very nice seals on them. So I bravely went up to two of the gentlemen on the horses to see if I could take their picture. Now, I need to tell you I am not exactly afraid of horses but I’m not very trusting of them either. So of course, the horses got nervous and the picture-taking didn’t go too well. But I did discover that I’d stumbled upon the official photo session of the 25th anniversary of the US Marshall’s Posse in the Oklahoma Region. WOW!!!
Then I went about my business taking photos of the buildings, all the while wondering if this was really all there was to this place?
I knew there was a cemetery on the property and since I could not find it myself I caved and went to the Visitor’s Center. That was the best decision all day!
I was met by a wonderful docent upon entry of the Visitor Center. She told me a little about the Fort history and showed me where some of the pamphlets were. Then she offered that I could walk around the building and ask her if I had any questions. Awesome! No long lecture and following someone around at their speaking pace!
And, wow, what history I found!
It began back in the Indian Wars time, about 1874, as a military camp to deal with the Cheyenne and Arapaho indians. In 1876 it officially became Fort Reno in honor of Major General Jesse L. Reno, who was killed in the Civil War (and actually never set foot in the fort!). The Fort was tended by the US Cavalry units which included the Buffalo Soldiers (who were black soldiers of the 9th & 10th US Calvary and the 24th and 25th Infantry).
The Fort also sat along the lines of the Chisholm Trail and served up Longhorn cattle to the Indians for the chase and shoot as the buffalo of older days. The soldiers helped to police the Boomers of the 1889 land runs all the way thru to 1894. So all before 1900 they performed many roles in the wars and history of the times of the movement of the American Indian, the Indian Wars, and the land rushes.
From 1908 thru to 1947 Fort Reno served as a remount station – meaning that horse breeding and training as well as mule training took place at the Fort – serving roughly 14,000 animals over that time period. Since then the USDA has claimed the 6,740 acres for its Grazinglands Research Laboratory. And there is a little more history to the horses that they raised and trained at Fort Reno – it includes 3 US Presidents …
But that isn’t all of the history of the Fort! During World War II , 94 of the eastern acres served as a German POW camp. And this one is a post all it’s own, I tell ya! Germans and some Italians were housed at the Fort and some 75 are interred at the Fort cemetery. So more to come on the Fort’s POW history!
For more info and the Fort website, click here!