DURANT — History takes on a whole new meaning when experienced in person. That’s exactly what the annual Fur Traders Rendezvous at Fort Washita offers – a living history exhibit giving visitors a hands-on view of life in the 1800s.

DURANT — History takes on a whole new meaning when experienced in person. That’s exactly what the annual Fur Traders Rendezvous at Fort Washita offers – a living history exhibit giving visitors a hands-on view of life in the 1800s.


Scheduled for April 2 through 6, the rendezvous brings together reenactors from across the nation, focusing on life in the early western frontier. Demonstrations ranging from tanning hides to wood carving, soap-making and more may be seen with many demonstrators allowing visitors to take part in the process. There will also be a variety of competitions that would have been common in the mid-1800s, along with vendor booths, food, music and other entertainment.


The historic fort was established in 1842 by General Zachary Taylor (who later became president of the United States) to protect the Choctaw and Chickasaw Nations from the Plains Indians. It was strategically located on a hill near the Red and Washita rivers along a north-south trail known in Indian Territory as the Texas Road. This route was called the Preston Trail after it crossed the Red River into Texas near Preston Bend. The fort was connected to Fort Towson and Fort Gibson by military roads. In addition to being a military installation, the fort was also the temporary stopping place for many settlers and travelers, including craftsmen, trappers, hunters and others, who sold and traded their wares, much like what will be seen during the rendezvous.


Fort Washita was abandoned by federal forces at the start of the Civil War and confederate troops held the post until the war ended. It was never again occupied by military forces and, instead, was privately owned until purchased in 1962 by the Oklahoma Historical Society.


Official rendezvous school days are set for April 3 and 4. Students will be lead through a series of living history exhibits and hands-on learning sites, giving them a chance to experience what life was like a well over a century ago. Schools wishing to bring students are asked to contact fort staff members at 580-924-6502 and register in advance in order to insure adequate parking and personnel.


The rendezvous, which draws thousands of visitors each year, is also open to the public for $5 per vehicle. Hours will be 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. April 2 through 5 and 9 a.m. until 3 p.m. on April 6. Proceeds will be used to preserve and improve the historic site.


To learn more, call 580-924-6502 or visit www.okhistory.org.