Fort Coffee Cemetery
Your Guide To LeFlore County Oklahoma Genealogy
Part of the OKGenWeb Project

Fort Coffee Cemetery
aka Swallow Rock Cemetery

LeFlore County, Oklahoma

If you know of someone buried here that is not listed, please use our  Cemetery Submission form to have the information added.  If you have a photo of this cemetery or a photo of a tombstone in this cemetery, I would love to add it to this page.

Swallow Rock, Fort Coffee, Choctaw Nation
Major Francis Armstrong is buried in a small cemetery at Swallow Rock, Fort Coffee.  He was Superintendent of the early Choctaw removal and also Superintendent of the Choctaw Agency when it was established in 1832.  He died 1835 at the Agency and was brought to Swallow Rock, (Fort Coffee), for burial.
Named for General John Coffee, Fort Coffee was built in 1834 at Swallow Rock on a high bluff nearly one hundred feet above the Arkansas River located in the extreme northern part of current day LeFlore County, about six miles northeast of the present town of Spiro. The fort was a few miles up the Arkansas from the Skullyville landing, and only five miles from the Choctaw Agency. Fort Coffee was named for General John Coffee.
1nation1872.jpg (64026 bytes) 

The buildings were located in the bend of the river, which formed nearly a semi-circle, containing a dozen or more acres. The low and level land above and below the Fort was covered with heavy timber and brushwood which formed an almost impenetrable thicket.

[click map for larger view - Fort Coffee is located in top right hand corner]

Fort Coffee had been occupied by the troops before the western boundary of Arkansas had been surveyed; but in 1838, when the state line had been determined, it was abandoned having been maintained for only four years. The garrison was removed to the present site of Fort Smith and immediately occupied as the headquarters of the southwest division of the United States army.
A short time later the buildings were turned over to the Methodist Church for a boy's school - Fort Coffee Academy - which was operated until the Civil War. Some time during the War, the buildings were destroyed by fire. 
In the month of March 1843, Rev. William H. Goode was appointed superintendent of Fort Coffee Academy and Henry C. Benson was appointed teacher. The school took its name from the old military post.
In April 1843, nearly five years after the troops had removed to Fort Smith, Rev. Goode arrived with supplies for the school, a German family, a few friends from Fort Smith and set about preparing their surroundings and planting the land.
Joseph Benson Paine son of Francis Marion Paine and Sue Rich was born at Fort Coffee on July 11, 1855. His family came to Fort Coffee in November 1854 where his father was preacher, physician and teacher.
Nothing spectacular took place, either as a fort or a school. However it was a landing place for Choctaws who came later to the county and also to the Chickasaws who came this way to their home among the Choctaws.


  1. Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 7, No. 3, September 1929, A Reminiscence of a Methodist Minister's Daughter, p 260. Nov 2002.
  2. Chronicles of Oklahoma, Vol. 4, No. 2, June 1926, Life Among the Choctaw Indians, (By Henry C. Benson, written 1860), Early Schools in Choctaw Nation, p 160-161. Nov 2002.
  3. The History of Skullyville and Skullyville Cemetery. Nov 2002.  
  4. Henry L. Peck, The Proud Heritage of LeFlore County (Muskogee, OK: Hoffman Printing Co., 1967), p. 103-104.


Henry C. Benson, A. M., Life Among the Choctaw Indians, Fort Coffee Academy, p 11. Nov 2002

Susan (Moncrief) McClain and James C. Monroe McClain Descendants [  Original Enrollees, Nov 2002]  "During the boat trip many of the passengers contracted cholera and died.  Among those were the oldest daughter of Susan and James McClain, Helen Marr, seven years old, and an infant daughter.  They were hastily buried at Swallow Rock near Fort Coffee."

Mary Perkins. "William died in Ft Towson, and was removed to Ft Coffee and buried by the side of his wife, Nancy Irwin Armstrong. Francis Wells Armstrong is also buried there. The cemetery, as of 1957, had a large iron gate, and was in need of repair." Nov 2002  


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Marti Graham, County Coordinator & Webmaster