Fort Davis

Late in 1863, the Frontier Regiment was transferred to the Confederate army by Governor Murrah. In response, the Texas Legislature declared that every man in Cook, Wise, Parker, Johnson, Bosque and McClellan counties would devote one quarter of their time in service to the Rangers. The headquarters for the northern area would be situated in Wise county at Decatur under the command of Major Quail. To the south, the Central Division, headquartered at Gatesville, would be commanded by Major Erath. Most settlers remaining west of the line forted up. Sometimes as many as one hundred families would gather in a common fort for the mutual defense of their families. North Texas forts, Blair, Buffalo Springs, Belknap and Growl, Owl's Head, Stubblefield, Mugginsville and Davis dotted the frontier.

We are fortunate to have Sally Reynolds Mathews' account of the situation in the family fort from her book, Interwoven: A Pioneer Chronicle.

    This Fort Davis, which is not to be confused with the old abandoned military post of that name farther west in the Davis Mountains, consisted of some thirty families. A conception of the general plan and construction of the fort is given in an item of Newcomb's diary, dated January 1, 1865.

    "Fort Davis is on the east bank of the Clear Fork, and about fifteen miles below Camp Cooper. There are now about 125 persons in the fort and others are preparing to move in. There is another fort about twelve miles down the river, but it is not so large as Fort Davis. Fort Davis is 300 x 325 feet, divided into 16 lots, each lot 75 feet square, with a 25-foot alley running through the fort from east to west. This fort commenced on the 20th of October and there are now some twenty good houses here. That is, good houses of the kind. They are built with pickets, covered with dirt, and the cracks are stopped with dirt, and while not very ornamental they are very comfortable…

    There was a kind, neighborly spirit of helpfulness at all times in this community. When there was sickness in a family, neighbors helped with the care of the sick one and also with the housework. When there was to be a wedding, they helped with the preparations for the festive occasion. As we had no corner store to which to go when supplies ran low, three or four men would take their teams and drive to Weatherford, a round trip of two hundred miles, and bring back supplies for all. Newcomb mentions one such trip in his diary.

    "January 31 (1865)-The crowd that left here before Christmas for breadstuff returned this evening. They came in good time as there were not many rations of flour or meal in the fort when they arrived. But people could live here without bread, as there is an abundance of good beef and other meat.

    Some rough country lies east of this section and it took this party well over a month to make the round trip.

    There was a community milkpen on each side of the fort where the milking was done, mostly by the women. The men sat on the fence with guns to guard against a sudden attack by Indians if there had been a recent report of Indians being near. At one time, some of the men had grown somewhat lax in their sentry duty, as may be seen in the following notation by Newcomb.

    "March 12 (1865)-Indian excitement has been high here today. About 9 o'clock Mr. McCarty came upon a large body of Indians about three miles from the fort. They gave him a close chase, but he reached the fort all right. The Indians were followed all day but made their escape. I think this will stir some people in this place to do their share of picketing."


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