FORT SILL, Oklahoma (Oct. 1, 2021) – Deputy U.S. Marshal Scott Neel addressed schoolchildren from the steps of the Post Guardhouse here Oct. 1.
“A couple of you look familiar to the wanted ads I have, so I may have to talk to you after this, put you in some shackles, and take you back with me,” said the keen eyed frontier lawman holding up some uncomfortable looking iron leg wear.
Neel’s job was to collect and shackle prisoners at Fort Sill and tie them to his supply wagon for the long walk to a trial at Fort Smith, Arkansas. Their fate rested in the hands of Judge Isaac Parker, who was known as the hanging judge. If they went before Parker for a crime, the end of a rope would be their last look at life.
Neel, the Fort Sill National Historic Landmark and Museum director/curator, was one of several re-enactors and storytellers during Frontier Army Days. The annual event informed schoolchildren of what frontier Army life was like when the post was founded in 1869.
Frank Siltman, Fort Sill director of museums, said nearly 1,000 students visited post learning from re-enactors at six stations to include laundry service and barracks life for Buffalo Soldiers. With fingers in their ears, students also felt the report of a Model 1841, 6-pounder, bronze smoothbore artillery piece.
“This is hands-on history” and provides students the chance to see, hear, and touch history, he said. “They can read it in a book, see it in a film, or hear it in a lecture, but when they see it first hand, they really have a better grasp of it. Thirty years from now they will still remember watching a cannon fire or being in the barracks.”
Siltman referred to the museum as a national treasure.
“It is the most complete Indian Wars era frontier fort in existence,” he said. “We get to share that with the community and show the history and heritage of Fort Sill.”
Lisa Madigan, a fourth grade teacher at Crosby Park Elementary School in Lawton, said this was the first field trip her school has taken in 18 months. “This is a very good experience and the kids are loving it.”
Wallace C. Moore Sr. greeted the children at the OPQ stone barracks, which were built by Buffalo Soldiers from rock they quarried on Fort Sill. He said storytelling is what he does to relax.
“It’s also a blessing from God as I was born with an attribute to gab and an interest in history,” he said.
He spoke of the importance of sharing history with children to get them interested, though he added events such as Frontier Days don’t offer re-enactors much time to inform children.
“The idea is to get them started correctly,” said Moore.
He said history is a record of what happened, and his job as a re-enactor and storyteller is to tell what happened as it was.
“It’s very important we know our history, and we get it right,” he said.
This contrasts to the entertainment industry, said Moore, because entertainers may take liberties distorting history to fit the stories they are sharing and let others worry about educating their viewers.
“Teachers have their hands full in the short period of time they have,” he said. “So, re-enactors and storytellers hopefully, fill in the gap and work with teachers and the schools to get the facts out about what happened in our past.”
Hayden Cahayla teaches third through fifth grade English language arts at Central High Elementary in Lawton. She spoke highly of the field trip.
I think it’s a good opportunity to show students what our Soldiers went through 150 years ago, she said.