Fort Coffee Academy
|Fort Coffee Choctaw Boys Academy|
|Location||Fort Coffee, OK|
Fort Coffee was built beside the Arkansas River in Le Flore County, Oklahoma in 1834 by the Federal Government at the request of the Choctaw Nation. It is located 6 milesNE of the town of Spiro. The army abandoned Fort Coffee in 1838 when the nearby Fort Smith was reestablished.
In 1843, the Choctaw Nation purchased the Fort properties, and allowed the Methodist Episcopal church to establish the Fort Coffee Choctaw Boys Academy; a religious reform school for Choctaw youth. New Hope Seminary, located just 5 miles away, was established around the same time and served as the girl's academy as a branch of Fort Coffee Academy.
Reverend William H. Goode was appointed superintendent, with Henry C. Benson as the instructor. After they arrived at the old fort location, they spent the night on the lower beach and then set to work the following day. Since the fort had been abandoned for some years, many of the structures were in disrepair. Roofs leaked, doors and windows were broken, and the plaster had started coming out of the log walls. All of the porches and floors had to be replaced. Once the buildings were repaired, a ten acre farm was cultivated to help feed the missionaries and students. This was worked while Rev. Goode returned to Indianapolis to purchase the rest of the supplies for the academy. By the time it was completed, it served as one of the finest academies in the region.
This school continued until the outbreak of the Civil War, when Confederate forces commanded by General Stand Watie occupied the site. The Union Army recaptured the fort in 1863. Most of the buildings were burned during this time. Today, the old fort site is on private property, however, there’s not much left to see. Much of Swallow Rock is gone. During the late 1960’s, the U.S. Corps of Engineers quarried a significant portion of the rock for the construction of the Kerr Lock and Dam. All that remains to mark the passing of this once instrumental fort is a small historical marker on the highway nearby.