History of

Fort Towson

The Fort Towson Sutler Store

The post sutler was a civilian storekeeper contracted by the Army to provide troops with simple (and occasionally not so simple) luxuries for purchase. By the early 1800s, sutler's store had become a familiar fixture on military posts especially on the more removed western sites.


Sutlers were appointed for three-year terms by the Secretary of War upon the recommendation of a Post Council of Administration and approval of the Post Commander. The Post Council consisted of the three officers in order of rank below the Post Commander. Re-appointments could be made through the same process. In return for Army protection and what amounted to a monopoly of on-post trade, the sutler could be taxed by the Post Council. According to the 1847 Army Regulations, the sutler could be assessed as much as twelve cents a month for each officer and enlisted man serving at the post. The money collected went into a fund to be used of such things as a library, night school, garden seeds or newspaper subscriptions.

To regulate the sutlers, the Post Council controlled the quantity and kind of articles stocked and also examined, set prices and inspected all weights and measures. Regulations limited credit to one-half of the soldier's pay.

Between its establishment in 1824 and final abandonment by Federal troops in 1854, three sutlers served at Fort Towson. The first, William King, opened for business in 1827 in a room in the original wooden fort. Major Cummings reported that King's stock of goods was sufficient by not large due to the loss of the sutler's boat on the Red River. King might have made a profitable career out of being post sutler had it not been for the arrival of New York Sheriff Joseph Garlinghouse. Kind was wanted in New York on charges of abduction and murder. King managed to escape with the help of two officers. Of the two officers involved, Captain Russell Hyde was acquitted; Lieutenant William Colquhoun was cashiered out of the service on November 10, 1829 even though he had been ordered by Hyde to warn King.

George Gooding, formerly the sutler for the Third Infantry at Fort Armstrong, Michigan Territory, became Fort Towson's second sutler on April 20, 1831. He served as sutler until his death in 1851. It was under Gooding that the sutler's store was built on site of the present reconstruction. In 1832, Gooding managed to convince officers that a building was needed. The building was completed in 1833 using the labor of the post soldiers. Gooding pail only for the construction materials. Since the government had to pay the soldiers for their extra duty, Gooding gave up all claims to the building provided he could occupy it as long as he was the post sutler.

Following Gooding's death on October 8, 1851 his eldest son, L.S. Gooding, was appointed as Acting Post Sutler. He served until the following December when J.G. Stevens took over the office.

The Sutler's Store

The sutler's store was considered to be the private property of the sutler and all repairs were the sutler's responsibility. This has hampered reconstruction since little information passed through the post quartermaster or was contained in other official reports or letters written by post personnel. The only written description of the building appears in an advertisement found in several 1851 editions of the Doaksville Choctaw Intelligence which describes the store as a red building with yellow doors.

The bulk of the information used to reconstruct the Fort Towson sutler's store came from archaeological investigations conducted in 1978, 1979 and 1982 by Oklahoma State University, the Oklahoma Anthropological Society, the museum of the Great Plains, Lawton Oklahoma, and the Oklahoma Historical Society. Reconstruction of the building was undertaken by the Oklahoma Historical Society in the Spring of 1983. - Department of Central Services Publication

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Documents submitted by Mrs. Katherine Leach, daughter of Jane Wilson Leach, granddaughter of Willie Ward Wilson of the Wilson House located on the corner of Cincinnati and Main St

Fort Towson and it's citizens would like to personally thank Mrs. Leach for her generous contribution to our town's historical value.