4.15.2008,9:59 AM
Fort Richardson: Lost Creek
Part Six: Lost in Time

While visiting the fort I spent an hour or so wandering along the Lost Creek Trailway. An abandoned railway bed that ran along the fort grounds and Lost Creek was graveled and groomed in the early 1990's to become a ten-mile long trail for hiking, biking and equestrian riding. The trail connects two water reservoirs and parks in addition to meandering through time and local history near the fort. As I walked along the trail I walked through time and photographed some of the remnants of that passage. I share some of it here.

A tall steel structure captured my interest as I meandered over to the trail just beyond the old gate entry to the fort. A park sign on an old train depot confirmed my suspicions that it was a railroad trestle; the Chicago and Rock Island railroad ran alongside the fort and Lost Creek in 1898.


The Rock Island line was abandoned when another rail line was built through the growing town in 1910. Luckily the town and state preserved the depot, an example of western architecture that reminds me of Frank Lloyd Wright's southwest mission style. Although the exterior block work, similar to that of the fort buildings, appears sound the interior remains unaccessible and untouched, probably for decades.

On the far side of the depot are remains of the fort's commissary in various states of decay with some walls still solidly standing tall. What's interesting is how the townsfolk chose to build around these historical structures rather than demolish and build over them, erasing living history. Smiling, I remembered similar patterns of intermixing ancient history with new modern buildings and life in Europe, especially in Italy. As I have seen across the nation, people in this country tend to lack a sense of history, both personal and national; much less than in other countries.

I walked over to the train trestle, motivated to take several photographs. Here was an opportunity for juxtapositions of shape, texture and contrast with the struts and lines, a tunnel of dark rusted iron against the blue sky, white clouds, green grass and fort buildings from a different time and place in history. Something about train trestles captivates me. Remembering the wooden and iron trestle alongside a river in Tennessee when I pulled off the road with the Sherpa and grabbed the camera to photograph the contrasting textures of wooden struts and iron rails, I felt that same excitement in trying to capture every angle I could.



The trail continued upon the berm of the old railway passing the remains of brick, block and stone loading docks.


A grassy trail led along the berm while the gravled trail veered off to the right and below along the creek bottom land. Of course, I followed the 'trail less traveled' which led into the nearby woods and down to the creek. There I saw old broken hunks of concrete and stone next to the creekside, the berm continuing on the other side of the water. Perhaps here is where the train trestle once crossed the creek.


A trail of reddish-brown dirt led through the grass and tall brilliant-green bamboo on the right side and a less beaten path through the woods on the left side. Attracted by the bright bamboo and the reddish dirt trail, my wanderings returned me to the graveled trailway in the creek bottom. Here is where the fort gardens grew, watered by the creek and fed by rich creek-bottom organic soil. Every able-bodied enlisted man was required to devote some of their time to tending the gardens, while their wives and other women washed the laundry in tents set up by the water.

On the banks across the creek towered ruins of a large tall building. The top of these ruins captured my sight and interest earlier in the day. In fact, this was the impetus for me to wander along the trail: to discover what these ruins were. The draw was irresistible. Now the entire ruins were visible across the creek.


The three-story structure was once the Jacksboro flour mill and grain elevator. Built in 1898, it served farmers around the area, storing and grinding corn and wheat into flour and meal. In the early 1900's the town experienced rapid growth in industry and population, especially with the discovery of oil in the area. Alongside the mill appeared an electrical generating plant, creamery, cotton seed mill, bottling company and all the smaller opportunistic businesses that coincide with burgeoning populations.

Now all that remain are the crumbling walls of the flour mill on one side of the creek and restored structures of the fort that protected and nurtured settlement in the area. A few miles across the creek is a more modern town square of buildings that continue on with the tales of history as it unfolded and the city of Jacksboro grew. Legacies continued to be born and to die, some vanishing forever, others remaining in the form of stone, block, and plaques. Layers of time and history intermix here to be seen, felt and, if you close your eyes and imagine, heard.

What is missing, however, is history of the people that roamed here before any of these buildings and earth movements occurred. Those people who left little trace and impact of their lives upon these lands. The indigenous peoples that lived off, with and on the land long ago. Those people whom the builders of these structures sought to displace and even destroy.

What is their story?

A slideshow of Fort Richardson.

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posted by Macrobe
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