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FORT SILL, Okla. (KFOR) – Officers or enlisted Army golfers hitting ‘right, left, right, left’ on Fort Sill’s course have an interesting hazard come into play on the 15th par 3 hole.

It’s a ditch that drains a low area on the base, and that digs into its history as well.

Regional Museum Director, Frank Siltman is a retired Colonel himself and a former American History teacher at the West Point Military Academy.

He’s familiar with this old drainage canal still in use, and with the young Lieutenant who was ordered to dig it.

Henry O. Flipper

Henry Ossian Flipper was born in Georgia, into slavery,” he states. “He was appointed to West Point in 1873 – not the first black cadet, but he is the first graduate.”

He arrived at Fort Sill in 1877 to help direct the 10th Black Cavalry, but he was trained as an engineer.

So, using some of the same black regiments that constructed the original buildings at the fort, Lt. Flipper dug a long ditch that drained the swamp downstream to Medicine Creek.

“It was a breeding ground for mosquitoes and malaria,” says Siltman.

Flipper went on to military escort duties, even cattle inspecting for the Army, but he wrote later that his fondest times were spent at Fort Sill.

Henry Flipper

Siltman says, “One of the comments he made after he left were that some of the best memories were of this place.”

His later service was marred by a court martial and discharge.

Official inquiries later cleared his name much like the swamp he drained so early on, and still doing its job nearly 150 years later.

Flipper’s Ditch is a National Historic Landmark today, still carrying excess rainwater, and a lot of history along its path.

Lt. Flipper served at Fort Sill from 1877 to 1879.

While stationed there, he also surveyed a road from the fort to Gainseville, Texas and layed out a telegraph line to Fort Supply.

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