Fort Sill – Lawton, Oklahoma - Atlas Obscura

Fort Sill

Final resting place of Geronimo, Quanah Parker, and the first atomic gun ever fired. 


Fort Sill is the last operating military outpost set up in the 19th century Indian Wars, but it’s much more than just an army base. It’s also the final resting place of some of the most famous American Indians of the West, and one of the worst weapons ever made.

Fort Sill started in 1869 when Major General Philip H. Sheridan was on a mission to curtail tribe attacks on the Texas and Kansas border settlements. From then on, the army based there has had a complicated relationship with the American Indians. This is reflected in the post cemeteries, where chiefs like Quanah Parker and Kicking Bird are honored in the main post cemetery, and others like the Apache POWs, including the famed Geronimo, are in their own quiet space of the fort where they lived out their final days.

Geronimo was brought to Fort Sill with the other Apache POWs in 1894 and, aside from travels with Pawnee Bill’s Wild West Show, the warrior remained a prisoner of war until his death in 1909 from pneumonia. You can find his grave in the Apache cemetery under a pyramid of stones topped by an eagle, although the story that his skull was stolen by the Yale Skull & Bones Society has yet to be proven or disproven. 

Out near the edge of the fort are the Medicine Bluffs, a longtime religious and ceremonial site for the local tribes, and it’s said that healers once lived atop the stunning cliffs. You can still find sage growing at the base that is still gathered by tribal members, even though their historic healing place is encompassed by the army base. 

Currently, the post is home to a field artillery school, so while looking at the information in the museum or walking the old quadrangle, mainly built by the Buffalo Soldiers of the 10th Calvary Regiment that was based here, you may hear the boom of guns in the background. The most terrifying gun on base, though, has not been fired for years. Atomic Annie, a 280mm gun, was the first atomic gun in the world to be fired. The nuclear cannon was created in the 1950s during the Cold War, and was tested out in Nevada. Luckily, the gun that could fire a nuclear detonation at a site 7 miles away was never actually used in combat.

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