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As It Was: Fort Klamath Offers Museum Stop on Crater Lake Highway

Federal troops were so busy with the Civil War in 1863 that they enlisted the voluntary First Oregon Cavalry to build Fort Klamath.  Its mission was to contain Indian resistance to the loss of their homeland to settlers arriving by the thousands on the Applegate Trail.

The Fort sat on 1,000 acres, with another 2,000 acres of hay-land to feed its horses.  The parade ground and its 125-foot flagpole were surrounded by some 40 buildings, including a hotel and theater, by the time the fort closed in 1887.

Cavalry from Fort Klamath patrolled wagon routes across southeastern Oregon, fought two Indian wars and in 1865 helped build a military road westward over the Cascade Mountains. 

Regular army troops replaced the volunteers at the end of the Civil War, ultimately fighting in the Modoc War of 1872-73 against Captain Jack’s small band of Indians who refused to stay on the Klamath Reservation.

Present-day Oregon Rte. 62, the Crater Lake Highway, bisects the old fort grounds. A Klamath County park on the west side of the highway has a museum and the graves of Captain Jack and three other Modoc hanged by the army in 1873.

Sources: Nelson, Kurt. "Fort Klamath." The Oregon Encyclopedia, Portland State University and Oregon Historical Society, 2017, https://oregonencyclopedia.org/articles/fort_klamath/#.WR3-_GgrJPY. Accessed 18 May 2017. "Fort Klamath." Fort Wiki.com, 7 June 2016, www.fortwiki.com/Fort_Klamath. Accessed 18 May 2017. Accessed 18 May 2017.

Kernan Turner is the Southern Oregon Historical Society’s volunteer editor and coordinator of the As It Was series broadcast daily by Jefferson Public Radio. A University of Oregon journalism graduate, Turner was a reporter for the Coos Bay World and managing editor of the Democrat-Herald in Albany before joining the Associated Press in Portland in 1967. Turner spent 35 years with the AP before retiring in Ashland.