Located three miles northeast of present Wheeless, in Cimarron County, Oklahoma, Camp Nichols was built in June 1865 by soldiers under the command of Col. Christopher "Kit" Carson. Positioned midway between Fort Union, New Mexico, and Fort Dodge, Kansas, the outpost offered protection to travelers on the Cimarron route of the Santa Fe Trail.
Possibly named in honor of Capt. Charles P. Nichols of the First California Cavalry, Camp Nichols consisted of about forty thousand square feet enclosed by native stone walls. Inside the post three hundred California and New Mexico troops were quartered in dugouts and tents. Also present were a commissary and hospital both built of stone. Officers' quarters were located outside the protective walls. Wives of a few officers and enlisted men were present at the isolated post.
Wagon trains traveling east from Fort Union, New Mexico, stopped at Camp Nichols biweekly. Troops at the post escorted the caravans to Forts Dodge or Larned in Kansas. On returning, travelers westbound to Fort Union or Santa Fe were guided to Camp Nichols. Never officially a "fort" as it is sometimes called, Camp Nichols was abandoned in November 1865. The Camp Nichols site was place on the National Register of Historic Places in 1966 (NR 66000628). Situated on private property, the camp has no remaining ruins.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Michael Everman, "Outposts in Post-Civil War Indian Territory," in Early Military Forts and Posts in Oklahoma, ed. Odie B. Faulk, Kenny A. Franks, and Paul F. Lambert (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Historical Society, 1978). Robert W. Frazer, Forts of the West: Military Forts and Presidios and Posts Commonly Called Forts West of the Mississippi River to 1898 (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1972). Carl Coke Rister, No Man's Land (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1948).
Jon D. May
© Oklahoma Historical Society