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The Fort Polk area has experienced a rich history ranging from early exploration and settlement to historic military training. Early settlement in the area around Fort Polk is not well documented due in part to a disputed area of land between the Sabine and Calcasieu Rivers, known colloquially as the “Neutral Strip”. The Neutral Strip was a forty-mile-wide strip of territory that served as a buffer between Spanish controlled Texas and the United States from 1806 to 1821. Some settlement occurred in the disputed territory during this time, but more extensive settlement began after 1821 and throughout the later part of the 19th century. The settlers of the Fort Polk area were mostly Scots-Irish immigrants who brought with them a lifestyle of subsistence farming or a “living off the land” mentality. From the late 1800s to the 1930s, the combination of railroads and the timber industry significantly changed the landscape of the Fort Polk area and opened a path for the military to conduct a series of maneuvers in preparation for the Second World War. The Army began construction of Camp Polk in 1941. Camp Polk was changed to Fort Polk in 1955 and the installation later became an Infantry Training Center in 1962. From 1974 - 1992, Fort Polk was home to the 5th Infantry Division. At present, Fort Polk is home of the Joint Readiness Training Center (JRTC). Several historic books and resources are available detailing the history of the Fort Polk area. Please see the publications tab
under the Heritage Program to download these references for further reading.
In accordance with Federal Regulations, archaeologists working on Fort Polk have discovered thousands of Native American sites since beginning this work in 1972. Excavations completed to help interpret and protect the sites have shown that in most cases these are small scatters of stone tools and associated debitage (byproducts of stone tool making) as well as pottery. These prehistoric (before written history) sites represent the remnants of activities related to tool making and natural resources procurement. Other prehistoric sites on Fort Polk contain evidence suggesting temporary hunting camps were present throughout the landscape. Artifacts and archaeological dating techniques indicates prehistoric activity continued on Fort Polk from Paleoindian (ca. 10,000 B.C.) to Late Prehistoric (ca. 1600 A.D.) times. Fort Polk consults with Native American Tribes who have prehistoric and historic connections to this area on the management of cultural resources. A more extensive overview of Fort Polk prehistory and cultural resources management can be found in the book titled “Archaeology, History, and Predictive Modeling: Research at Fort Polk, 1972 – 2002” by David Anderson and Steven Smith.