Wilbur Sturtevant Nye: Frontier Historian
R. MICHAEL PATTERSON*
IN THE SPRING OF 1933, WILBUR STURTEVANT NYE, A THIRTY-FOUR-YEAR-
old army lieutenant stationed at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, was ordered
to attend the Field Artillery School at Fort Sill, Oklahoma, the following
fall. Graduates warned Nye that he would be required to write a thesis, an
assignment they considered the hardest part of the advanced artillery
course. They urged him to start the paper the moment he arrived on base.
Nye thought he could do better than that. He decided to write the paper
before he arrived. Fancying himself an expert in flash-and-sound ranging, he
devoted his summer to writing a monograph on the murky physics of pin-
pointing enemy gun emplacements. If none of his instructors understood
the paper, he hoped, they would give him a good grade. The report was
neatly typed and ready to hand in when Fort Sill's assistant commandant,
Gen. (then Lt. Col.) Charles S. Blakely, summoned Nye to his office shortly
after the young officer reported for duty.
"Nye, as you know, you must write a theme while you are a student,"
Blakely explained. Nye nodded.
"We generally give you your choice of subjects," Blakely continued. 'You
may write either a 'Fort Sill History' or 'The History of Fort Sill."'
'Yes, sir," Nye replied. He never took the prepared paper out of his
Fort Sill was established in the heart of the Kiowa and Comanche
reservations on January 8, 1869, by Maj. Gen. Philip H. Sheridan and
* R. Michael Patterson is Director of Planned Giving at Trinity University in San Antonio,
Texas, and a freelance writer speciahzing in Texas and Southwestern history. He would like to
express his appreciation to Helene Nye Rehkopf of Columbus, Georgia; to Towana D. Spivey,
director, and Anne Davies, archivist, of the U.S. Army Field Artillery and Fort Sill Museum, Fort
Sill, Oklahoma; and to the staff of the Elizabeth Huth Coates Library at Trinity University for
their assistance in the preparation of this paper. Nye donated his papers and artifacts to the Fort
Sill Museum. The collection has forty-five notebooks and fifty file folders containing Nye's inter-
views with informants, correspondence, manuscript drafts, research material, and other papers.
' Wilbur Sturtevant Nye, introduction to Carbine & Lance: The Story of Old Fort Sill (3rd ed.;
Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1969), xvii; unless otherwise stated, all subsequent cita-
tions are to this edition. A shorter version of this incident appears in the introduction to the sec-
ond edition, published in 1942; it is not mentioned in the first edition, published in 1937.
Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 101, July 1997 - April, 1998. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117155/. Accessed January 31, 2015.