January, 2012. Fort Stockton, Texas and Etc.

Posted on January 17, 2013


The Roadrunner isn't the state bird, but they are all over Texas..

The Roadrunner isn’t the state bird, but they are all over Texas..

Fort Stockton may not be the prettiest town to visit, but there’s no arguing its historical interest.

But let me back up a moment.

Before Fort Stockton, before Sonora, (my last post) there was Camping World.

Camping World, that refuge for the broken down and disabled, is always located at the corner of Sticker Shock and Desperation, and is well-known to all who haul their homes over the road. It was our campground of-not-our-choice for too long while we recently made the switch from a truck and 5th wheel trailer to a car and motorhome.

As you could see from our posts from San Marcos and New Braunsfels we were able to do some sightseeing while holed up at CW – but too many hours were spent with a nice bunch of depressed and dispirited folks in the Parts and Repair lounge, drinking cold coffee and eating junk out of the vending machine.

But we finally waved good-bye to those in the lounge less fortunate, and headed to Sonora.

Now, to start getting caught up again.

From Sonora we drove on to Fort Stockton, the name of both a historical Army fort and a small city of around 8500 hardy souls.

Restored Guard House

Restored Guard House

The historic Fort was established in 1859, and originally garrisoned by Company H of the 1st US Infantry. Their job was to provide protection for the Butterfield Stage route and the wagon freight road between San Antonio and El Paso. They also secured Comanche Springs, which was at one time the third largest source of spring water in Texas.

When Texas seceded from the Union at the start of the war, Federal troops evacuated Fort Stockton. The Confederate Army occupied the fort for a short time – until they were needed elsewhere. After all military presence was gone, the Cheyenne were soon on an unimpeded rampage though west Texas.

Following the Civil War, freed Blacks were “welcomed” into the US Army, but placed in segregated troops under White command. Fort Stockton became home to the 10th US Cavalry, an all-Black regiment that became known as the famous Buffalo Soldiers.

photo (2)One story says that the troops were given their nickname by the local Cheyenne Indians, who thought their black curly hair looked like a buffalo’s coat.

After arriving in 1867, the Buffalo Soldiers rebuilt and enlarged the fort to better protect white settlement from the threats posed by the hostile Cheyenne, who had been running amuck since the beginning of the Civil War. The Fort was closed in 1886.

Today’s Fort Stockton is the small city that quickly grew up around the Army installation, and the remains of the old Fort are somewhat preserved with a few buildings restored and open to the public. There is a nice little Museum on site with information and films about the Buffalo Soldiers and the West Texas Indian Wars.

The town itself has seen better days, though it seems to be trying to change its economic focus from ranching to energy production, including wind and solar as well as oil and natural gas.

Another interesting stop was the Annie Riggs Memorial Museum.
Annie Riggs

The Museum is housed in a building that was once a hotel, built in 1899 by a group of local entrepreneurs, and boasts a rich history of gun slinging, lawlessness and murder, that pretty much parallels the history of the town itself.

In fact, Annie Riggs was married to a notorious gunslinger. Perhaps to make amends, in later life she became one of the most upstanding and charitable residents of Fort Stockton. She ran the Riggs Hotel from 1904 until her death in 1932.

The Museum today is chock full of pioneer memorabilia and artifacts memorializing not only Mrs. Riggs, but the rootin’ tootin’ days of the Wild West in West Texas.

Life-size metal figures located near the Fort Stockton Visitor's Center echo the city's Western heritage.

Life-size metal figures located near the Fort Stockton Visitor’s Center echo the city’s Western heritage.

photo (58)

Posted in: Travel - Texas