By Dale Ann Deffer
Want a fresh baked loaf of warm bread straight out of a brick oven?
Saturday, Fort Gibson's historical site will bake an 1870 version of an original recipe that the soldiers ate regularly.
The large oven can hold 60 loaves at one time, said Omar Reed, historical interpreter. Soon thereafter, the bread will be ready for the public with a donation of $3 until the bread runs out.
Fort Gibson was built in 1824 as an original “Gateway to the West.” It was located on the three converging forks of rivers, including the Arkansas, Grand and Verdegris rivers — an ideal spot for water — both drinking and transportation.
Also, it was close enough to Fort Smith to draw in reinforcements.
The soldiers who braved the wilderness built an original log stockade and proceeded to oversee and provide a refuge for the Cherokee, Creek, Choctaws and other tribes who were relocated to Indian Territory.
Anyone who was to become famed in western history made it to Fort Gibson. That included Sam Houston, trailblazer of Texas, to Washington Irving, the eastern author who made Fort Gibson his base while he wrote about the terrain for fascinated easterners.
As the fort grew and expanded, brick buildings were erected and officers brought their wives along to help civilize the area. Dances became common as a special Fort Gibson band played at marches or local events.
At the time of the Civil War, more than 5,000 soldiers manned the fort and marched to the fighting at the Battle of Honey Springs in Checotah, winning the broiling July day for the Union.
The original fare included beans, bacon and salt pork with hard tack (bread without yeast or flour). By the 1870s the menu had become more elaborated with soups and stews and even at some times, travels brought back food from as far away as New Orleans and Little Rock, said Fort Historian Corey Twiller.
The Fort is located on Garrison Avenue in Fort Gibson and will serve fresh baked bread beginning at 10 a.m. as long as it lasts.