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 Vivia Thomas

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Vivia Thomas

Birth
Death 7 Jan 1870
Burial Fort Gibson, Muskogee County, Oklahoma, USA
Plot , 2119
Memorial ID 3016919 View Source

The following story is among the most tragic, heartbreaking and strange many have heard. A young and handsome lieutenant was in Boston, while there he met a fair and lovely lady. She was from a prominent and rich Boston family. They soon became engaged. Their wedding date was drawing near and elaborate plans had been made for the happy occasion. A few days prior to the wedding day, Viva Thomas found a note from her beloved lieutenant which sent her world crashing down around her. He had written that he would not be able to fit into her world. He wanted adventure and was going west. She was so heartbroken and distraught, her grief was almost more than she could bear. The days turned into weeks and she devised a plan to go find the man who had jilted her so shamefully. She left the comfort of her home, family and friends determined to find the Army officer who had hurt her so badly. She checked until she found he was stationed in Fort Gibson in Indian Territory. She had no idea where that might be, but it didn't matter, she wouldn't stop looking until she found him. She soon started her long and extremely difficult journey. The fury in her heart pushed her on. The journey took weeks. It was during this time, Vivia cut off all of her long hair. She decided it would be safer if she dressed in men's clothes. She finally arrived in the Cherokee Nation, where she made a strange decision. Vivia kept her disguise on, went to Fort Gibson and joined the army – as a man. She was the first woman in history to be in the U. S. Army. Vivia was called Pvt. Thomas by the other soldiers. She did the duties assigned to her and saw her former sweetheart from time to time. He never recognized her. She noticed he would ride his horse out of the fort every night. She decided to follow him to find out where he was going. Vivia discovered he was going to see a Cherokee girl. She could hardly bear the thought of his being with another woman. One night she followed him and hid behind some rocks. He rode past and she shot him in the chest. He fell to the ground dead. The next morning an early patrol found his body. They assumed he had been shot by the Indians. He was buried at the fort's cemetery. Vivia, at first, was happy that she had finally gotten revenge. The satisfaction only lasted a short while and she was again filled with remorse and sadness. Vivia would go to his grave almost every night, throw herself over it, weep and pray for forgiveness for what she had done. On the morning of January 7, 1870, her body was found, lying over his grave, frozen to death. Vivia's body was taken to the doctor's quarters, where to his utter astonishment, he discovered Pvt. Thomas was a woman. The chaplain came forward and told him the story that Vivia had told him a few days before she froze to death. The story of what had happened to Vivia so touched the hearts of the fort's commanding officers, they said her body was to be buried in the Circle of Honor. It was only for soldiers who had distinguished themselves in service. Their headstones tell of their heroic deed. Today there is one that looks out of place there. It simply reads, Vivia Thomas, January 7, 1870.
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The original author of this account is unknown. Similar stories have been written and re-written. It seems for such an elaborate story we would know the name of the soldier that she shot or who her parents were. It's possible the whole tale is folk lore and Vivia is actually the daughter of an officer.
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From the superintendent of the cemetery, L. W. Wilson, dated June 18, 1937: Her original headstone was a sandstone marker, removed because of deterioration and replaced with a regulation marble marker and the name Vivia Thomas is inscribed on this stone and shows that she died January 7, 1870. This is in addition to the original stone. (from here the superintendent goes on to tell, more or less, the same story written above of her shooting the soldier and confessing to a priest.

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