Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Howe to Abilene - The Texas Forts Trail

We had a long way to go, and a short time to get there....hmm, haven't I heard that in a song? Either way, we didn't start our travel until after lunch, saying goodbye to family in Howe, Texas, we hit highway 82 out of Sherman to I-35, south to Denton, then highway 380 west to Jacksboro, home of Fort Richardson.

The northernmost post of a line of forts stretching from the Rio Grande to the Red River, Fort Richardson played an important role in conquering the native Plains Indians and forcing them onto reservations north of the Red River. Now a National Historic Lnadmark and Texas State Park, seven original buildings remain and have been restored, along with two replica fort buildings. If you're an RV'er, this park has several nice campsites to take advantage of.

Fort Richardson is also the home of the "Lost Battalion", a group of Texas National Guardsmen who were mobilized at the site during World War II and eventually were captured in Java, spending the rest of the war as prisoners. A historic marker at the park commemorates them today.

From Jacksboro we moved on down 380 to Graham, home of the largest town square in the US, then up FM61 to Fort Belknap, which is now simply a county park. The fort was used mainly as a base of operations and served as a hub for a network of roads, including the Butterfield Overland Mail. Abandoned prior to the Civil War, partly due to a lack of water, portions of the fort have been rebuilt on their original foundations, and it remains a National Historic Landmark.

From Fort Belknap north on FM61, back onto highway 380 to Throckmorton, we start our final trek of the day south on 283 toward Abilene with Fort Griffin on our mind. Late in the day, we didn't get to see all we wanted, but Kathy has actually been here before so we're covered. Little remains standing of this fort, originally named Fort Wilson, but renamed in honor of Major General Charles Griffin of the Texas Army Department, who made the original fort plans. The soldiers at the fort stayed busy keeping the Indians in check during the Red River Campaign which continued through 1874, meanwhile the town that formed nearby had a history of lawlessness as ruffians and outlaws moved in.

Several notable figures of American history are tied to Fort Griffin. Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp first met there. Gambler Big Nose Kate, lawman Pat Garrett and gunfighter John Wesley Hardin also spent time there.

Traveling from Fort Griffin to Abilene the sun was quickly setting on our day, but not before we got to see an ironic sunset. Well, not sure I should call it ironic, but a horizon dotted with huge wind mills intermingled with Oil Rigs is strange in my books.

We are using Abilene as a home base for a couple of nights. On our next blog, we'll take you south through the true Heart of Texas and back as we continue to explore the Texas Forts Trail. Also be watching our "What's New" page for stories on Fort Richardson and Fort Belknap coming soon.

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