Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fort Concho and the Concho Pearl

Concho PearlBy Lyn Horner The Concho River was named after mussels found in the river and lakes surrounding the town of San Angelo in west Texas. Called “Concha” by early Spanish explorers, the large gray mussels produce “Concho Pearls” in purple, lavender, pink and orange. The Spanish were enthralled by the lustrous pearls and enlisted local Indians to help harvest them. There may even be Concho Pearls in the Spanish Crown Jewels. Centuries later, Fort Concho was also named after the mussels, or more likely the river. The fort was established as a frontier U.S. Army post in 1867, with five companies of the Fourth Cavalry commanded by Col. John P. Hatch. Situated beside the North Concho River, the fort replaced the earlier Fort Chadbourne north of San Angelo.  Although built on flat, treeless prairie, Concho was described as “one of the most beautiful and best ordered posts in Texas.” Fort Concho cropped The fort was vital to settlement because five major trails crossed the area. An active post for twenty-two years, Fort Concho protected settlers, stagecoaches, wagon trains and the United States mail, and kept trade routes open. The Army launched campaigns against the Comanche and Kiowa from Fort Concho, as well as actions against the Comancheros who traded illegally with the Indians. Pecan wood was first tried as a building material for the fort, but it proved too hard to work with. Next, the soldiers tried adobe bricks but they didn’t know how to properly make adobe. Consequently, when heavy rain came, it dissolved the bricks. Finally, it was decided to build the fort out of native limestone, and the Army hired German stonemasons from Fredericksburg, in the Texas Hill Country to the south. Construction went on throughout the fort’s active period and was never completed. Today Fort Concho is a National Historic Landmark owned and operated since 1935 by the city of San Angelo. Over time several buildings have crumbled into ruins, but the remaining buildings are repaired and preserved by the city, assisted by the Fort Concho Foundation. While attending a conference in San Angelo several years ago, my husband and I visited Fort Concho and snapped a number of photos. Below are the best of the bunch. Unfortunately, I neglected to add captions after hubby loaded the pics to our old computer, and now I can’t recall what all the buildings are. I’ve labeled the ones I know. For more historical information and photos from the fort’s active period, visit 2
Officers Row 13
Officer’s Quarters 3
Enlisted Men’s Mess Hall 4

Enlisted Man’s Space (I think) 11
Reconstructed Hospital Building 6
Doctor’s Room & Supplies 8

Um, this one explains itself. 10
Mysterious Little Building 12
Ruins of Fallen Building The Kiowa and Comanche Indians were the most feared raiders on the southern plains. Subdued for the most part by the mid 1870s, by soldiers from Fort Concho and other posts, the tribes were confined to a reservation in tNew Cover 2013he Indian Territory.
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3rd lace 2013 sm

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  1. The buildings look amazingly modern on the outside. I liked the rather interesting outhouse room--a very inventive way to collect the "refuse". I just wouldn't have wanted to be assigned to latrine duty. Gross.
    Isn't it funny how the ugliest shells have the most wondrous treasures inside? Do they still get pearls from the Concho River?
    That's so great that you took all those pictures yourself.I should be more mindful of taking pictures, too.
    I have your Devlin books and, when I can get a bit of time to myself, I'm going to dig into them.
    I really enjoyed reading your informative and interesting blog.

  2. What a great look at this piece of American West history. Loved the pictures. I can picture the surprise when the rains dissolved the buildings made of those early attempts at adobe. Tweeted and shared.

  3. Interesting blog. The outhouse drawer looked like it contained...sort of kitty litter for people? Urgh.

    I've put Fort Concho on my hope-to-visit list.

  4. I must go to Fort Concho! Your photos are excellent--and I do know about the Concho Pearl. Texas has so much history it is absolutely amazing. The buildings reminded me of Fort Davis--very neat and orderly and clean.
    Good post--I especially love photos.

  5. Love all the pics! So helpful to truly get a feel for life! Great post!

  6. Sarah, yes the buildings do look rather modern from the outside, possibly because they've been restored to some degree. Also, yes they sure do still get pearls from the river and other streams around San Angelo. There's a jeweler there who advertises on the net. I want to go back and get myself a pearl pendant.

    We always try to take photos because they might come in handy for settings. You never know!

  7. LOL! I thought exactly the same thing, Barb. Those poor soldiers, laboring hard under the hot Texas sun only to see their work destroyed the first time it rained. Thanks for stopping by.

  8. Barbara, Fort Concho is well worth a visit. I hope you get there.

    I think it was some sort of ash in the drawers, not sure. Urgh is right! We're so used to our modern plumbing, don't knowhow we'd cope with the old ways.

  9. Celia, I really want to visit Fort Davis. Glad you like the photos. My hubby took most them. He's much better at it than I am.

  10. Thanks, Lana. I hope to make use of them one day in setting for a story.

  11. Thank you, Ella. Tweets are sweet!

  12. Hi Lyn,
    That was so interesting, the buildings seem to be in good repair for their age.



  13. Thank you, Margaret. I'm glad you stopped by.

  14. Lyn, I also fell in love with Fort Concho when we visited it years ago. Someday I'm going to use it in a book. Thanks for the virtual tour.

  15. These pictures are amazing, and so beautifully preserved. Definitely a place I want to visit. And the outhouse LOL. Drawers? There are so many places in American history and tidbits about it---I so enjoy learning new things. Great post.

  16. I loved the article and the pictures are great, Lyn. Thank you for the info.


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