Sunday, July 6, 2014

Fort Davis - Protecting Early West Texas


 
I always thought it strange that my folks spent their honeymoon at the Davis Mountains in Texas, but then maybe not. We took our family on a road trip in 2005 that took us to that part of the world.
Troopers established a post in 1854 on the eastern side of the Davis Mountains. These men bravely defended this part of West Texas from Apache and Comanche attack. In 1861, confederate troops occupied this area until Union forces took over in the summer of 1862. The fort was abandoned soon after and gathered dust until 1867, when the U.S. Calvary returned and began construction on the various buildings that would secure Fort Davis a more permanent place in West Texas.
By 1869, most of the buildings necessary for fort life had been constructed. The men manning the fort saw to the safety of freighters, mail wagons, travelers and settlers from Apache and Comanche attack on the San Antonio-El Paso Road. Some of the more famous inhabitants of the fort were the Buffalo soldiers (the 24th and 25th U.S. Infantry and the 9th and 10th U.S. Cavalry which were all black regiments).
Life for a soldier wasn’t easy and they adhered to a strict routine. Reveille sounded at 5:30 AM and the day was spent grooming horses and training for battle. As their horses were a main part of Calvary life, stable call was announced twice a day. The day ended at 5:15 PM followed by supper at 6:00 PM. Not only was life inside the fort rather tedious a boring, but many troopers had to combat a language barrier with other troopers. Enlisted men and even troopers came from a variety of backgrounds. Many were immigrants who didn’t have full command of the English language. Some were criminals seeking a place to hide or serving time in the military instead of time in jail.
An enlisted man’s starting pay was $13 a month. Examples of commissary prices in 1885 included: flour at 7¢/lb, sardines at 25¢/lb, cigars at 3¢ and sugar at 25¢/lb.
Fort Davis continued as a military post until it was abandoned in 1891 having served its usefulness. The town of Fort Davis continued, though. In the 1880s, the town became an important ranching center. Jeff Davis County was established in 1887 with Fort Davis as the county seat. The town population suffered a blow once the fort was abandoned and businessmen tried various schemes to revitalize the area. One such dream was to make it a western movie center but the Great Depression saw an end to that plan. In 1946, the property was bought by David A. Simmons of Houston, former president of the American Bar Association.  His hope was to restore the fort and turn it into a resort for tourists. He died before seeing his dream bear fruit but in September, 1961, Fort Davis National Historic Site opened its doors for all to enjoy. 

3 comments:

  1. Ciara--is that an interesting place? It's sort of eerie, I think, and standing there imagining it populated is pretty hard.
    In one of the buildings, there are preserved letters--under glass--from the wives and sweethearts of the soldiers. Priceless artifacts I hope someone is watching.
    Thanks--I do love Fort Davis.

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  2. I enjoyed your post, Ciara. It reminded me of our visit to the fort many years ago.

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  3. I need to visit again. We made this visit in 2005 and at the time, I didn't realize how much research I could glean from the visit. Ah, hindsight, eh?

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