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Fort Davis Frontier Military Post in West Texas ~ National Historic Site Images
One must go back to the days of the covered wagons creaking their way across the dusty plains of West Texas with the determined and hearty soul pioneers and all of their earthly possessions packed inside for the story of this frontier military post to come into focus.
Travelers on the San Antonio - El Paso Road regularly traversed this path-ward west. But for those adventurous to see even more of the country, this same road was a portion of the Overland Trail which took pioneers all the way to California. More than 60,000 people were taking this route to California in the mid-1800s.
Stagecoaches also traveled this same path.
In addition to the normal problems of transporting people and possessions westward across a challenging environment consisting of much parched desert with the scenery of some mountains breaking the seemingly endless flat horizons, Apache and Comanche Indian raiders presented a threat to their safety. This trail crossed one of their regular paths into and out of Mexico.
Formed over thirty-five million years ago, the Davis Mountains are volcanic in origin. The highest peak is at an elevation of 8,382 feet and many people seek this destination for camping, hiking and recreation.
My husband and I had traveled by car from Houston to see Big Bend National Park many years ago for a vacation. We had spent the night in San Antonio leaving our 4-legged "babies" with my mother who would care for them in our absence.
Driving through West Texas is an experience for the uninitiated. Often one can drive for miles and miles without seeing another vehicle. Distances are vast.
The desert scenery in this southwest region of Texas provides illusionary mirages while looking ahead on the sun heated roads. One would swear that sparkling water covers the road ahead only to find that image being pushed further off into the distance as one continues to click off the miles.
Imagine the disappointment of the pioneers who would have been seeking water in the desert! Mirages can actually be photographed!
Mirages are caused by the bending of light rays from the cooler air above striking the warmer air closer to the ground. Often they are to be seen on hot days particularly in desert surroundings. What one is seeing is actually a view of the sky reflected on the ground off in the distance which appears lake-like.
After my husband and I enjoyed Big Bend we decided to check out Fort Davis before heading back to retrieve our pets and make it back home.
This United States frontier military outpost was established on October 23, 1854. It is one of the best preserved Southwestern military posts and the National Park Service is responsible for operating it.
Situated in a small canyon with portions of the Davis Mountains forming a dramatic backdrop, the fort faces flatter land ahead of it. Elevation is at 4,900 feet (1494 m) and a nearby supply of water made this site location a prime choice in addition to it being near those well traveled trails of the pioneers.
Fourteen regiments, some infantry and others cavalry, served at Fort Davis from 1854 to 1891 except for a time during the Civil War when it was temporarily abandoned. Their primary job was to escort travelers moving westward while protecting them from Indians.
Buffalo Soldiers (African American soldiers) were stationed at Fort Davis and played an integral part in maintaining peace and subduing outlaws and warring Native Americans.
The famous Apache Indian Chief Geronimo ultimately surrendered in 1886 and just a few years later the fort became decommissioned as its use was no longer deemed as necessary.
The fort was named after Jefferson Davis who at the time was the Secretary of War.
When in full operation the fort consisted of more than fifty buildings of which there was a hospital, barracks for both the enlisted soldiers as well as officer's homes, corrals for horses, storehouses, a laundry, a sawmill, a jail and other buildings as well.
Some of the buildings have been restored both inside and out and tourists can see the structures and surrounding countryside on self-guided tours.
Slide shows can be viewed as well as exhibits of military and Indian costumes and other items of interest from that era.
In the summertime costumed interpreters lend a flavor of what life was like back in those days.
National Historic Site
In 1963 Fort Davis National Historic Site was created and 447 acres (181 ha) was set aside to preserve these adobe and stone buildings from the past.
Some of them are mere remnants but one can easily surmise the size and scope of this military fort from former days as one walks the grounds.
In 1966 this National Historic Site was dedicated by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson.
The photo of the officer's homes furnished at the top of this post was taken on the nature trail which led up the North Ridge. From that vantage point one can see a grand overview of the remains of Fort Davis.
See more photos below.
If you find yourself in West Texas near the towns of Alpine, Marfa or Fort Davis and particularly if you are a history buff, you might wish to visit the Fort Davis National Historic Site which preserves a frontier military post from the mid to late 1800s.
It is one of the many Texas sites well worth exploring.
Have you ever had the chance to visit Fort Davis?
© 2011 Peggy Woods