Saturday, March 22, 2014

Fort Davis, Texas

Ft. Davis was established to help secure the western civilized front of the U.S. population growth in the mid 1800's but was vacated during the civil war.  After the war, it was re established but only lasted until 1891, as railroads and progress had already connected with California, and the troops were no longer needed to protect against banditos and Indian raids.  The land used to build the fort, had been leased and not owned by our government, so after 1891, the structures were rented out as housing and soon fell into disrepair.

Not a glamorous story but the truth.

When the government decided to get involved to save what was left of the buildings, a decision was made to only safe structures that were 70% intact.  Hence, many of the original structures that had not been rented later on, by the original land owner,  had fallen into near total disrepair and were not worth rebuilding. When wooden roofs rotted, the adobe walls soon washed away and began to crumble.

The dozen or so unmarried officer quarters, and half dozen of the married officer quarters, plus two long enlisted mans barracks were about all that got federal funding for a semi-rebuild.

Only one of the dozen Officer Quarters was brought back to original condition for display, the others were just stabilized.

The fort had been the base for cavalry, infantry and buffalo soldiers at various times.

 Mostly, they protected rail roads, ranches, telegraph wires and other infrastructure.  It was rare that fighting or chasing Indians were tasks at hand.

Weaponry used at the fort was on display inside the walls of one partially saved building.  Several cannons and a gatling gun and other equipment were in fine condition.
                                                                   Gatling Gun

The hospital was partially restored, with some rooms totally redone and displayed as if it was 1875, with doctors desk, examination tables and medical tools and books at hand.

Buildings not restored were made safe and stabilized in one way or another.

During my afternoon visit, a display of firearms used during the period, gave an example for kids, of the time it took to reload a bullet into an 1883 rifle.  All the kids were told to hide single file behind the big tree.  On que, the soldier would start to reload his gun, and the kids were told to run as fast as the could towards him and knock his hat off!  The kids 'Loved' this game and of course won.  They got the message and it was a funny exercise for all watching.

The small town of Ft. Davis is basically beside the fort and has about as many residents now as it did then.  A few restaurants, hotels and stores for food, hardware small schools and other necessities for life fullfil the needs of the population and tourists.

It's an interesting little place and glad I came back.  Stayed once again, at the Davis Mountains State Park a few miles N.W. of the town and once again, tried my luck at a night time visit to the MacDonalds Observatory 15 miles further into the mountains.  This visit was partially successful as the night sky was only partially blocked by clouds..  The last visit a few years ago was a failure.  Totally blocked sky cancelled the evenings viewings.

The area around Ft. Davis is either rolling hills or mountains.  One or the other but both have their own beauty and both extremely relaxing and quiet.

Short video clip here on a clear but windy day a few hundred yards East of the Fort.

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