4.14.2008,3:19 PM
Fort Richardson: Home on the fort.....
Part Four: Where the men roamed.

The officers’ quarters and the men’s barracks were simple buildings, and there were many of them. The common area, also referred to as the 'Parade Area,' separated structures for the enlisted men and the officers.

The same materials and design were used for both types of buildings: wooden tree trunks of relatively small diameter, set on end picket-style, and chinked with dried horse manure and mud. Some of that adobe-style material is still present in between poles of the buildings, but cement was used later to chink places where the adobe material had vanished.


In answer to my question where the wood materials came from, I learned that all the cottonwoods in the area were felled and used for the fort construction. When they ran out of that, they contracted wood harvested as far as Denton and south. All the wooden floors were rough-sawn oak planks. The only original flooring is in the commanding officers house.

From outside the officers’ quarters and the men’s barracks were the same. Inside the former, the structures were divided into small rooms with separate doors and windows. On the other hand, the men’s barracks were one long open room with bunks and accommodated more men per building than the officers’ quarters. Because so many officers were in and out of the fort, many lived in a line of tents called Officers’ Row. Some officers even brought their families to live at the fort and they occupied tents.

Mattresses for the enlisted men were made of ticking stuffed with straw which was changed every month. That straw was fed to livestock (ick!) and new straw from harvested wheat and oats repacked into the ticking and sewn shut. Their bunk beds were double bunks: two slept on top, two on the bottom. Space and materials were optimized as much as possible. Although two wood stoves, one at each end, heated the building, body heat probably helped keep them from freezing in the winter.


The commanding officers quarters was the biggest house on the grounds. The quarters at Fort Richardson is the only remaining wood frame standing in Texas from that era. Cottonwood board and batten covers the external walls and the interior walls are plastered. Of course, the porch adds more than charm to the building; it was also an excellent vantage point to observe most of the fort activities.


The ground floor contains a foyer, parlor, dining room, kitchen, and two bedrooms. The upstairs rooms were used for storage. Remember that arrival of supplies was unpredictable and infrequent.


Behind the officer’s quarters stands a thicket of mesquite and prickly pear cactus. These were some of the late arrivals into this area, after the fort was abandoned as the town grew. Up until that time, the entire area was tall prairie grass upon which buffalo and deer grazed. Cottonwoods and oaks grew in stands near and along the creeks, along with some native fruit trees and vines. Manhy of the natives used to periodically burn the prairies to rejuventate the grasses and kill weeds and shrubs. Now, mesquite and the prickly pear have encroached everywhere except for the immediate area where the main post has been restored.


Leaving the barracks and quarters area, I moseyed to the opposite corner of the post where other buildings remained, either intact or in ruins.


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posted by Macrobe
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