Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Fort Griffin and "The Flats"

File:Fort Griffin State Historic Site in 2009.jpg
photo attribution:
TxHC at English Wikipedia
Since I wrote about Fort Martin Scott, I thought it might be fun to search out other forts and write about them. Actually, I love visiting old forts in my search for possible locations for stories so I’ll probably start with those forts I’ve been to.
This past summer, my husband and I made it a point to veer off the beaten trail on our way home from Dalhart so that we could visit Fort Griffin. Unfortunately, the fort itself was closed for renovations, but we were allowed the pleasure of driving through the reconstruction of a nearby western town.
Built in 1878, the Fort Griffin Civil Jail
housed as many as 18 at one time.
Fort Griffin opened its doors in 1867 to help protect settlers against Comanche and Kiowa attacks. A stepping-off point for expeditions headed west, it served many wagon trains and cattle drives. A very rough town called “The Flats” settled just north of the Fort. The town was also known as Griffin. We visited with the woman at the visitor’s center for the fort and she claimed that during its peak the town boasted over twenty saloons and over twenty cat houses (she told us an exact number and I remember it being something like 21 or 22 but I failed to write it down), all there to serve the cowboys and military personnel that passed through. When the drives came through on the Western Trail headed for Dodge City, Kansas, the trail would be five miles wide with cattle.
Clampett's Wagon Yard
Some very notable characters visited “The Flats”; Bat and Jim Masterson, John Selman, Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp and Dave Rudabuagh.  In 1874, Fort Griffin became the temporary county seat to Shackleford County but the citizens felt that the unsavory element surrounding the fort would not do for a county seat. An election was held and it was voted to move the county seat to land offered by Sheriff Henry C. Jacobs. In 1875, the town of Albany became the county seat but emotions ran high between the two towns and Albany struggled until the waning fur trade and cattle drives forced the demise of Fort Griffin. In 1881, the army abandoned the fort. The railroad came to Albany and while Albany prospered, the town of Griffin and the fort became all but a ghost town.


  1. Ciara, a very nice post. I haven't visited Fort Griffin in many years, but I remember Albany being a pleasing town. Thanks for sharing.

  2. Interesting post Ciara. We visited Fort Griffin many years ago, I think in the late 70s. I'm sure it's much nicer and more complete now. I just love history and I can imagine some great stories coming from that area. I'll be watching for yours.

  3. Ciara--I haven't visited many forts, but I really should. Fort Griffin is often mentioned in wagon train stories, as I recall.
    The one that stand out to me is Fort Davis way out in West Texas. It's a wonderful place to visit.
    Your photos were very good.

  4. Thanks all. And Celia, I've been to Fort Davis also. Just can't locate the photos I took of that one but I think it's because they're in an album somewhere and not readily at my fingertips.

  5. I would love to visit a fort like this. I have been in alll the gold rush buildings in Placerville and love the history you can feel coming from the walls and floors - if only they could talk!! :)


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