, Muskogee, OK

December 30, 2013

School bond, renovations at historic site highlight busy year

— Here are some of the top news stories affecting Fort Gibson during 2013.

• Feb. 7 — A student was arrested at Fort Gibson High School after a loaded gun was found in a truck. The truck and gun belonged to the student’s father and there was no intent on the students part to use the gun, Police Chief Clint Vernon said. No charges were filed.

• Feb. 16 — The Fort Gibson Lady Tigers swimming team clinched its third Class 5A state championship in five years. Team members celebrated the win by donning black and red tutus.

• Feb. 20 —  Fort Gibson’s Board of Trustees raised fines and forfeitures for traffic violations and other minor offenses. Increased charges included $549 for driving under the influence, $410 for public intoxication, $310 for driving left of center and $110 for failure to yield.

• Feb. 20 — Fort Gibson eighth-grader Cierra Fields, a Cherokee native, was named one of five Champions for Change by the Center for Native American Youth.

In May, the Oklahoma State Senate honored her as the 2013-2014 National Youth Ambassador for the American Indian Health Research and Education Alliance. Cierra had been diagnosed with melanoma since the age of 4.  Her 14th birthday was different, however, as Cierra had the opportunity to share a special message with members of the Senate both in Cherokee and English.

In August, Cierra was invited to read a passage of Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have A Dream” speech on the 50th anniversary on King’s March on Washington.

• March 5 — Voters approved two school bond issues: One for $4.82 million and another for $665,000. Both issues passed with 321 votes — more than 81 percent of the vote.

• March 9 — Fort Gibson’s Lady Tigers shook off a sluggish first-half and a six-point half-time deficit to win the Class 4A state basketball championship, beating the Mount St. Mary’s Lady Rockets 58-43.

• April 2 —  Fort Gibson’s Board of Trustees agreed to seek legislative approval to rename a portion of U.S. 62 from the Teddy Lehman Expressway to Veteran’s Memorial Highway. Teddy Lehman played for the University of Oklahoma Sooners and Detroit Lions. The highway, which leads toward Fort Gibson National Cemetery, was dedicated Sept. 2.

• April 22 — Two new members of the Fort Gibson Board of Trustees took their seats. Chad Nail, manager of Fort Gibson Tire Shop, and T.J. Ellis, financial adviser at Edward Jones in Muskogee, replaced Trustee Jim Huggins and Mayor Steven Hill.

• April 26 — Muskogee County road crews were to start an overlay and asphalt project improving Cemetery Road and Two Mile Road, both leading to the Fort Gibson National Cemetery. The Cherokee Nation agreed to help with the project. The project had been a dream since the late 1990s.

• July 23 — Fort Gibson native Tiffany Yarbrough joined the Fort Gibson Police Department as the town’s first female officer.

• Sept. 9 — Renovation was underway at Fort Gibson Stockade. The project includes improving drainage inside the stockade, repairing logs and installing new roofs in some areas. The $1.1 million project is funded by the Oklahoma Historical Society and grants from Saving America’s Treasures and the Oklahoma Department of Transportation.

• Oct. 16 — Charges were filed against a Fort Gibson couple suspected of bringing a bruised baby to an area doctor. Susan Farris, 34, and Nathan Dean Barnett, 27, were each charged with three felonies “in the alternative,” according to a Muskogee County District Court filing.

• Oct. 15 — Muskogee County Commissioners approve $10,000 land purchase from Jeremy Jackson to begin construction on a new bridge over the Grand River. The new bridge had been a “high priority” project since 2008. The bridge is to replace a 781-foot single-lane bridge built in 1909.

• Nov. 11 — Former Fort Gibson School Superintendent Tom Stiles hired as part-time assistant school superintendent. Stiles, who left Fort Gibson to be Indian Capital Technology Center superintendent in 2005, retired in October as ICTC superintendent.

• Dec. 5 — Early Learning Center preschooler Charles Blayke Spence, 5, died after being ejected from a van going over an icy bridge in Muskogee. His school rallied to support the family by hosting a beans and cornbread dinner.