Fort Washita in Durant, Oklahoma was built-in 1842 by then General and later President Zachary Taylor. At the time it was the southwestern most military post in the United States. The initial purpose of the fort was to keep the peace between the Plain Indians and the incoming Choctaw and Chickasaw tribes. The latter two tribes were being forced there because of the Indian Removal Act of 1830. Currently it is owned by the Oklahoma Historical Society and the haunted Fort Washita has accumulated many ghost stories over the years.
In 1846 in the beginning of the Mexican-American War, Fort Washita was used as a staging point for U.S soldiers. The usual 150 troops that called the fort home swelled to around 2000 during the almost 2 years of war. The fort was mostly cavalry until the 1850’s when it served as the U.S. Army Field Artillery School. It continued to grow with east and west barracks built, a hospital, surgeons quarters and corral and stables.
As the western frontier expanded the forts need became less and less until it temporarily closed in 1858. By December however it had reopened as the Comanche activity in the area was rising. It remained this way until April of 1861 when the Confederates fired on Fort Sumter. The U.S. Government abandoned the fort. The next day Confederate troops seized the fort for the entirety of the war. Though Fort Washita never saw battle it did serve as a major supply depot for the Confederates and served as a military hospital.
After the Civil War the fort was never used again by the military. In the late 1890’s the land was divided into communal lands of the Chickasaw Nation. A prominent Chickasaw family, the Colbert’s, received the land from the Department of Interior and turned the barracks into their home. The rest of the land and buildings were used for farming.
In 1962 the Colbert Family sold the site to the Oklahoma Historical Society. In 1965 it was declared a National Historic Landmark and in 1967 the State Legislature approved $10,000 for the reconstruction and restoration of the grounds. The south barracks was rebuilt after an archeological dig in 1971 but was later destroyed by fire in 2010.
There are a few paranormal claims originating from the haunted Fort Washita but one is quite unique. An apparition called “Aunt Jane” has been seen by many who work and visit the fort. Like many ghost stories with a long history, trying to find the original story of “Aunt Jane” to validate the claim is a bit hard.
There are basically three accounts of how this ghost could be associated with the fort. One account is that a free slave came to Fort Washita during the Confederate occupancy to spy for the North. Her true identity was discovered and she was found guilty of spying. She was executed by beheading and her body and head were separately buried.
The second telling is that she was a wife of an officer stationed at the fort. The officer was very influential and it was rumored that his wife carried $20 in gold with her at all times. One day she was robbed and during the struggle, the robbers allegedly cut of her head. The third account involves the rather popular love triangle angle. The story goes that her husband found her bed with another soldier and in a fit of rage, beheaded them both, throwing their heads into the Washita River.
Apparently, “Aunt Jane” can be seen roaming the fort only on nights of the full moon during the months of March and October. Interestingly though, one of the tenants of the buildings during the time of the Colbert’s was a Dr. Steele and his sister. The sister reported strange happenings in the house as well as seeing apparitions. She suffered a nervous breakdown while staying there but without knowledge of past history, claimed to see a headless woman walking around the grounds.
Fort Washita is currently a museum open seven days a week with free admission. Living history groups have programs as well as candlelight walking tours and kids events. How could you pass up a free day walking through history and possible finding the haunted Fort Washita offering up more than you might expect.