Fort Davis Family Fort
One of the thirty tombstones in the cemetery at the site of Old Fort
Photo by Wyman Meinzer.
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
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
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."
(Samuel P. Newcomb was a young school teacher at Fort
Davis. To reach his gravesite location, go N on Hwy 183, turn right
FM Road 1481, then left CR 285 and follow the marker.)
Map from the book, Interwoven, A Pioneer Chronicle, by Sallie Reynolds
Illustration from the book, Interwoven, A Pioneer Chronicle, by Sallie
From the book, Texas Rivers, by John Graves. Photo by Wyman Meinzer.
The above story is from the book, Interwoven, A Pioneer
Chronicle, by Sallie Reynolds Matthews.