US Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District and Fort Sill Environmental Quality Division


LOCATION: Fort Sill, Oklahoma

Documentation Improvement, National Register Eligibility Determination, Site Relocation, Verification of Site Boundaries, and Indian Agency Cemetery Investigation

Overview:

  • Project included documentation improvement for the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark (NHL) and providing the documentation necessary to ensure the consistent management of historic resources within the historic district boundaries.
  • This project also provided data for the documentation and historic property identification for the Old Post Historic District, an overlay district eligible for the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) at the state level of historic significance.
  • A time critical investigation of an Indian Agency Cemetery (IAC) was performed using surface geophysics, grave exposure and documentation, and 3-D laser survey to precisely record grave locations.
View Boundary Map of the Fort Sill National Historical Landmark District

Description:

Avatar and subcontractor R. Christopher Goodwin & Associates, Inc. provided archaeological services at Fort Sill, Oklahoma. Designated as a National Historic Landmark in 1960 and listed on the National Register of Historic Places (NRHP) upon its inception in 1966, the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark (NHL) lacked recorded boundaries until a NRHP inventory form was certified in 1979. The 1979 documentation also established the area and period of significance for the district. Since the 1970s, however, standards and guidelines for the documentation of historic properties have increased in technical and substantive sophistication for both the NHL and NRHP programs. By modern standards, the 1979 documentation did not adequately articulate the basis for the Fort Sill NHL’s national significance, including elucidation of the district’s end date of significance. These documentation deficiencies hampered Federal stewardship activities under the National Historic Preservation Act of 1966, as amended (NHPA). Fort Sill, in consultation with the Oklahoma State Historic Preservation Office (SHPO) and the National Park Service (NPS), sought, in a manner consistent with Federal regulations and guidelines, to improve the documentation for the Fort Sill NHL and provide the documentation necessary to ensure the consistent management of historic resources within the district boundaries. US Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District Grave This project prepared and presented the data for the improvement of documentation and historic property identification for the Fort Sill NHL. The data for the documentation improvement project was compiled through field investigation and archival research. In total, the Fort Sill NHL contains eighty-three identified resources, including buildings, structures, landscape sites and archeological sites. This project also provided data for the documentation and historic property identification for the Old Post Historic District, an overlay district eligible for the NRHP at the state level of historic significance. The other major task under this task order was an investigation at an Indian Agency Cemetery located on Ft Sill near the active airfield. Comanche oral tradition maintains that the cemetery was used as a burial ground from 1869/1870 to 1907, and that its most intense period of use coincided with a smallpox epidemic of 1900-1901. The cessation of burials at the IAC coincided with the transfer of land to Fort Sill in 1907. Around 1918, the Army put concrete slabs over graves that could be positively located. In the mid-1950s, the concrete grave markers reportedly were covered by soil to prevent interference with planes landing. A 1978 map of the airfield shows the IAC bisected by a sod runway. The purpose of this task was to locate, uncover, document and re-cover graves. US Army Corps of Engineers Tulsa District Grave Geophysical surveys (EM, Mag, GPR) were used to confirm known grave locations and identify any additional, unmarked graves in the IAC Study Area. This data served as the basis for hand excavation of each grave marker and geophysical anomaly; the recordation of inscriptions and grave marker attributes; photography and plan mapping of the grave markers; and the acquisition of survey grade GPS coordinates for each grave marker. A Spatial Data Standards for Facilities, Infrastructure, and Environment complaint GIS deliverable was produced that combined the precise geospatial locations and shapes of individual grave markers with digital photographs and transcribed inscriptions. LandAir Surveying Company LLC completed 3D laser scanning and panoramic photography within the cemetery boundary to produce a precise 3D model and a TruView panoramic overview of the cemetery layout.

“Contractor was able to meet the Gov’ts aggressive schedule for work at the Indian Agency Cemetery. The Contractors highly professional interactions with representatives from the Comanche Nation contributed to the success of the investigations at the IAC.” -Tulsa COE Project Manager