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Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Gordon W. Davidson
A wheat field with remnants of crumbled, brownish stone, broken glass, and square-headed nails is the remains of Fort Zarah, abandoned over ninety years ago. For many years a mystery enshrouded the Fort’s existence. The efforts of county historians to uncover documentary historical materials about Fort Zarah were only partially successful. It was the challenge of uncovering forgotten history that created the desire to write this thesis. The early results of research were disappointing, as historical materials were extremely scarce and limited in content. The search for materials was expanded into the National Archives in Washington, the Kansas State Historical Society at Topeka, and the Denver Public Library, as well as all diaries, journals, and newspapers available. In addition to these documents the writer visited the site of Fort Zarah and talked with local historians. Troops had been stationed at the important Walnut Creek Crossing since 1853. Here the Walnut Creek was forded in order to follow the Santa Fe Trail. The growth of commercial intercourse and the discovery of gold in Colorado had brought an increase in the traffic on the Santa Fe Trail, and disturbed the hunting grounds of nomadic Indians, following their chief means of livelihood, the buffalo. In 1864, a general Indian War ensued and added protection on the Santa Fe Trail was needed to protect the fringe area of military posts already established in the region. As a result Fort Zarah, a one-company outpost was established in 1864 near the Walnut Creek Crossing. The life and duty of the soldiers stationed at Fort Zarah was extremely hard and demanding, as Indian attacks were sporadic and the troops were quite busy escorting wagon trains to and from forts Harker, Larned, and the Cow Creek Ranch. In 1866, council was held at Fort Zarah with the Kiowa, Comanche, Cheyenne, Arapahoe, and Apache nations for the purpose of signing the amendments to the Treaty of the Little Wichita. Many prominent leaders of the Indian and Federal Government were present, but only two tribes signed the amendments. In 1867, an enlarged Fort was built at a cost of $110,000, one mile from the original site. One year later the garrison at Fort Zarah successfully repelled an Indian attack of over 150 Kiowas. By 1869, Indian hostilities dropped to a minimum as warring tribes were driven south and westward. With the end of the Indian wars of 1864-1869, Fort Zarah was no longer useful or practical. In October, 1869, the fort was ordered dismantled, and the tin roof and other valuable parts of the structure were removed to Fort Harker.
Copyright 1963 Lawrence C. Hammer
Hammer, Lawrence C., "A History of Fort Zarah, 1864-1869" (1963). Master's Theses. 816.