National Cemetery Administration
Fort Gibson National Cemetery
Office Hours: Monday thru Friday 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Closed federal holidays except Memorial Day and Veterans Day.
Visitation Hours: Open daily from 7:00 a.m. to sunset.
This cemetery has space available to accommodate casketed and cremated remains.
Burial in a national cemetery is open to all members of the armed forces who have met a minimum active duty service requirement and were discharged under conditions other than dishonorable.
A Veteran's spouse, widow or widower, minor dependent children, and under certain conditions, unmarried adult children with disabilities may also be eligible for burial. Eligible spouses and children may be buried even if they predecease the Veteran.
Members of the reserve components of the armed forces who die while on active duty or who die while on training duty, or were eligible for retired pay, may also be eligible for burial.
Cemetery is located 1 ¼ miles Northeast of the Town of Fort Gibson. From the Tulsa Municipal Airport, take Broken Arrow Expressway (Hwy. 51) East. It becomes the Muskogee Turnpike a few miles South of Tulsa. From the Muskogee Turnpike take exit Tahlequah/Ft. Gibson (Hwy. 62 East). Do not turn at the Town of Fort Gibson signs; turn left (North) on Wiley Rd. Go to the second stop sign and turn right on Cemetery Rd. You will see the cemetery ¼ mile on the right.
Fax all discharge documentation to the National Cemetery Scheduling Office at 1-866-900-6417 and follow-up with a phone call to 1-800-535-1117.
For information on scheduled burials in our national cemeteries, please go to the Daily Burial Schedule.
For educational materials and additional information on this cemetery, please visit the Education section, located below.
Cemetery policies are conspicuously posted and readily visible to the public.
Floral arrangements accompanying the casket or urn at the time of burial will be placed on the completed grave. Natural cut flowers may be placed on graves at any time of the year. They will be removed when they become unsightly or when it becomes necessary to facilitate cemetery operations such as mowing.
Artificial flowers will be permitted on graves during the period from November 10 through April 1. Potted plants will be permitted 10 days before, through 10 days after Easter Sunday. In observance of Memorial Day, all flowers will be permitted from the Thursday before the last Monday in May to the first Monday in June.
Christmas wreaths, grave blankets and other seasonal adornments may be placed on graves from Dec. 1 through Jan. 20. They may not be secured to headstones or markers.
Permanent plantings, statues, vigil lights, breakable objects and similar items are not permitted on the graves. The Department of Veterans Affairs does not permit adornments that are considered offensive, inconsistent with the dignity of the cemetery or considered hazardous to cemetery personnel. For example, items incorporating beads or wires may become entangled in mowers or other equipment and cause injury.
VA regulations 38 CFR 1.218 prohibit the carrying of firearms (either openly or concealed), explosives or other dangerous or deadly weapons while on VA property, except for official purposes, such as military funeral honors.
Possession of firearms on any property under the charge and control of VA is prohibited. Offenders may be subject to a fine, removal from the premises, or arrest.
Fort Gibson National Cemetery is located in Muskogee County, one mile northeast of Fort Gibson, Okla. It is situated on land that was once part of the military reservation and is within the limits of the Cherokee Nation. Records indicate the area was probably called Ketona prior to 1824.
In mid-April 1824, Colonel Matthew Arbuckle was ordered to descend the Arkansas River and locate a site suitable for a military post. About three miles from the mouth of the Neosho River, Arbuckle found the ideal site, and construction of Cantonment Gibson began soon afterward. The post was one of several established along the "permanent Indian frontier" that ran from Minnesota to Louisiana. Prior to 1824, the government had forcibly removed eastern tribes of Native Americans to the west beyond the line of white settlement where they were assigned land that had been part of the Osage nation. For the Cherokees, Creek and Seminole, Fort Gibson was the end of the infamous Trail of Tears. The primary purpose of Fort Gibson was, in fact, to keep peace among the tribal nations while protecting immigrants and traders.
Prior to 1824, Fort Smith, Ark., had been the westernmost U.S. military post. In May 1824, the western boundary line of Arkansas Territory was changed and the War Department felt it was expedient to move the military garrison at Fort Smith farther west to Fort Gibson. On Feb. 14, 1833, a treaty was signed with multiple tribes to permit the Army’s use of land near the fort. Later, the Cherokee made a determined effort to have the garrison removed, claiming the facility had fulfilled its purpose. They eventually prevailed, and on June 8, 1857, Fort Gibson was abandoned.
Early in 1863, Brigadier General James G. Blunt re-established the post and its name was changed to Fort Blunt, only to be changed back to Gibson within the year. From 1863 to 1890, it was garrisoned by many small detachments of troops. In 1891, the War Department turned Fort Gibson over to the Department of the Interior. Although active for only about 60 years, it has been a key post in American military history. Among the many officers stationed at Fort Gibson were Lieutenant Jefferson Davis, General Zachary Taylor and Nathan Boone (son of frontiersman Daniel Boone).
Due to the great tolls exacted by yellow fever, three successive post cemeteries were established at Fort Gibson. Original interments in what is now the national cemetery were mostly the remains of soldiers removed from the abandoned post cemeteries. Other interments are the Union troops who died on the battlefields of the Southwest. In 1868, a plot of seven acres east of Fort Gibson was officially converted into a national cemetery. The soldiers stationed at the fort had previously used the ground for burials, and a few civilians had been interred there prior to 1850. Within the confines of Fort Gibson National Cemetery, there is interred, at least one veteran of every war in which the United States has fought. Graves of known and unknown soldiers lay adjacent to the graves of Native Americans, scouts, civilians, wives and children.
Among the notable burials at Fort Gibson is Talahina Rogers Houston, the second wife of General Sam Houston. Talahina, a Cherokee, married Houston in 1829 after he divorced his first wife. Houston bought a large farm on the Neosho River about two miles northeast of Fort Gibson. Houston, however, soon grew restless and went off to conquer new frontiers, this time in the Southwest where he became president of the Republic of Texas. Talahina died of pneumonia in 1833. According to one story, she died of a broken heart when General Houston left her; another version asserts that he sent messengers back to Talahina asking her to join him by saying that "I have built a kingdom for you." Talahina is said to have replied that he had returned to his people and she would stay with hers.
One of the most interesting stories associated with Fort Gibson National Cemetery is the tale of Vivia Thomas. Legend has it this high-spirited daughter of a wealthy Boston family met and fell in love with a handsome young lieutenant at a ball following the Civil War. After several months of courtship, they announced their engagement, but shortly before the wedding he left, leaving only a note that he desired to go West in search of adventure. Broken-hearted and bitter over the abandonment, Thomas went in search of her lover. After learning that he was stationed at Fort Gibson, she set off on a journey of revenge. She cut her hair, dressed in men’s clothing and joined the Army. The disguise worked, as the former fiancé did not recognize her. One night as he was returning from a visit with his Native American girlfriend, she ambushed and killed him. Despite an intense investigation, the murder went undiscovered. However, Thomas grew remorseful and began to visit his grave late at night. Eventually she contracted pneumonia from the continued exposure to the cold and collapsed near his grave, dying a few days later. Rather than condemning her actions, her army colleagues were so impressed with her courage in coming alone to the frontier and carrying out a successful disguise that they awarded her a place of honor for burial in the officers' circle.
Fort Gibson National Cemetery was placed on the National Register of Historic Places on May 20, 1999.
Medal of Honor Recipients
The Medal of Honor is the highest award for valor in action against an enemy force that can be bestowed upon an individual serving in the Armed Services of the United States. Recipients receive the Medal of Honor from the president on behalf of Congress. It was first awarded during the Civil War and eligibility criteria for the Medal of Honor have changed over time.
Recipients buried or memorialized here:
Private First Class John N. Reese, Jr. (World War II). John Reese, native of Oklahoma, enlisted in the U.S. Army on December 18, 1942, and served with the 148th Infantry, 37th Division, during World War II. On February 9, 1945, Private First Class Reese participated in the attack on Paco Railroad Station in Manila, Philippine Islands. Heavy fire stopped his platoon, but Reese and a comrade continued forward. For nearly three hours they disorganized the defense and disarmed emplacements guarding the station. On the way back to the U.S. lines, Reese was killed by gun fire. He received the Medal of Honor posthumously and is buried in Section 2, Site 1259-E.
First Lieutenant Jack Cleveland Montgomery (World War II). Jack Montgomery, a native of Oklahoma and part Cherokee, joined the Oklahoma National Guard in the late 1930s and in 1940–1941. He re-enlisted shortly after the attack on Pearl Harbor, with the U.S. Army, 180th regiment of the 45th Infantry Division. The division had the greatest number of American Indian soldiers in its ranks, who chose a familiar cultural symbol, the "Thunderbird," for their insignia. First Lieutenant Montgomery shipped out with the 45th Division to North Africa and participated in the invasion of Sicily. Fighting near Padiglione, Italy, on February 22, 1944, Montgomery and his rifle platoons attacked three strong enemy positions; several soldiers surrendered to him. For his courage, Montgomery received the Medal of Honor. He died June 11, 2002. In 2006, the VA medical center in Muskogee, Oklahoma, was renamed for him, and the first to honor an American Indian veteran. He is buried in Section 20, Site 963.
Billy Bowlegs served in the Civil War for the Union in Company A, First Indian Home Guards, in 1862–1864. The First Indian Home Guards were companies of Seminole and Creek soldiers attached to Kansas regiments during the Civil War. Captain Bowlegs is believed to be Seminole warrior So-nuk-mek-ko, who adopted the Bowlegs name after the death of Seminole Chief Billy Bowlegs in 1859. Captain Bowlegs (So-nuk-mek-ko) died in 1864, and is the only officer of the Indian Regiment interred in the officers' circle (Section OC, Site 2109).
Corporal Mager Bradley (1917–1944) enlisted in the U.S. Army at Camp Shelby, Mississippi, in April 1941, leaving work as a farmhand. He rose to the rank of corporal in the segregated 333rd Field Artillery Battalion. The unit arrived in England in February 1944 and landed in Normandy a month after D-Day, providing artillery support to advancing American forces. In early December 1944, the American forces were overrun when the German army launched its last major offensive—the Battle of the Bulge. Bradley's unit supported retreating infantry, but he and 10 comrades became separated from the main U.S. force. They were sheltered by friendly Belgians in the town of Wereth, but neighbors sympathetic to Germany revealed the presence of the Black soldiers to nearby Waffen SS who quickly took the men prisoner. On the evening of December 17, the prisoners were brutally tortured and executed. Bradley was the only victim of the massacre whose family elected to repatriate his remains to the United States. He was interred in Section 6, Site 2698-E on December 15, 1947, almost exactly three-years after his death.
Talahina (born Tiana) was one of the most powerful Cherokee women of the Tennessee region. She was the niece of two tribal leaders, Chief John Jolly and Chief Tallantusky, and the daughter of Scotch trader Captain John "Hell Fire" Rogers, who lived with the Cherokees. She became the second wife of Sam Houston, when he returned to Oklahoma to live with the tribe, ca. 1830. Houston would become president of the Republic of Texas. Talahina Rogers died from pneumonia in 1839, and was buried in Wilson Rock Cemetery, Sequoyah County. On September 4, 1904, her remains were reinterred in Fort Gibson National Cemetery, recognizing her political status by birth and marriage (Section OC, Site 2467).
Vivia Thomas died January 7, 1870, and is buried in the officers' circle at Fort Gibson National Cemetery. Nothing else of her is known with certainty, but she is a significant figure in Oklahoma's folk history. Legend holds Thomas was from Boston and disguised herself as a man to follow her fiancé to the Indian Territory after he broke their engagement. She enlisted in the Army to be close to him and discovered his liaison with another woman. Thomas shot and killed him one night. Overcome with remorse, she kept vigil at the man's grave, where she contracted pneumonia and collapsed. The story ends with her comrades honoring her courage in traveling to the frontier alone and her interment in the officers' circle (Section OC, Site 2119).
Captain John P. Decatur - Section OC Site 2101
Major Joel Elliot - Section OC Site 2233
More than half of VA's national cemeteries originated with the Civil War and many are closed to some burials. Other sites were established to serve World War veterans and they continue to expand. Historic themes related with NCA's cemeteries and soldiers' lots vary, but visitors should understand "Why is it here?" NCA began by installing interpretive signs, or waysides, at more than 100 properties to observe the Civil War Sesquicentennial (2011-2015). Please follow the links below to see the interpretive signs for Fort Gibson National Cemetery.
Visit the Veterans Legacy Program and NCA History Program for additional information. Thank you for your interest.