4.14.2008,1:43 PM
Fort Richardson
Fort Richardson, Jacksboro, Texas
N 33°12’22.8”


Last Easter weekend I began what I have wanted to do since I first moved to Texas ten years ago: visit Texas forts and learn the history of this state. Now that first desire has grown to an expanded endeavor: a personal quest of the Trail of Tears and an understanding of the clash of two cultures. It began with my visit last year to a few historical places along the Trail traveled by the Cherokee in Arkansas. Until I can return to Tennessee and Arkansas, the presence and history of Cherokees in Texas have captivated my attention. Texas has its own Trails of Tears.

To fully understand the historical course of events, I have to know both sides of the battle lines. Even within the Indian tribes themselves, for they battled each other, too. I've found that trying to stay impartial to either side is nearly impossible, but also, as in any course of events in history, the realization is that it has been repeated elsewhere around the world. The actors have different names, languages, and skin colors. The atrocities committed by both sides of the Indian and 'white man' battles were similar. And echoed throughout the world during the history of our civilization.

For information, one can read books. But even those can be deceiving or misrepresenting. Going to the original sources for facts and personal perspectives is the best approach. One of those sources is the land itself upon which historical events occurred. It has its own language and speaks in a way many are deaf to.

This is one of the many reasons I ride a bike: to visit and experience these places. Other than walking, it is the closest way for me to realize that. In essence it is my horse, my war pony, my time machine. Considering many of our modern roads were once military, trading, or war paths and trails, I'm on my own scouting and exploring party.

This is the first stop in my Texas Forts visits. In essence they, too, are on the Trails of Tears. Tears of whites and Indians alike.

A raid by Noconi Comanche Indians[1] on several settler families in Parker, Palo Pinto and southern Jack Counties set in motion a wave of events that would rapidly change the futures of both whites and Indians alike. The 1860 slaying of mostly women and children enraged legislators in Austin leading to indiscriminate retaliation on all Indians by Sam Houston’s armies.

Ordinarily enemies, the Kiowa Indians collaborated with the Comanche and scaled up attacks on settler’s farms and Texas and Federal army posts. With increasing emigration by white settlers into western territory, the federal government established a line of forts along the ever-growing line of western expansion to protect settlers and state investments. The US army built a system of forts in Indian country: Concho, Griffin, Richardson in Texas, and Fort Sill in officially sanctioned Indian Territory, which is now Oklahoma.

While camped on the present-day square in Jacksboro in January, 1867, Major Starr sent men 26 miles north to Buffalo Springs to establish Fort Richardson. Because of a lack of timber and potable water, and after many encounters with Indian bands raiding to steal horses in only a few months, the army decided to move back to the Jacksboro area and establish FortRichardson on the banks of Lost Creek. They also decided to build a sister fort on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River: Fort Griffin.

Construction of the fort began on 300 acres rented from the then current owner of the survey. Estimated at a cost of $800,000, it was the last army outpost in north Texas along the military road to Fort Sill, and the largest Army post in 1872, listing 666 officers and men. Of the original 55 buildings the hospital cost $150,000 to build. It was the largest building in the Texas fort system and stands fully restored today.


Although the fort was decommissioned in 1878 after the area was secured and troops were ordered to Fort Griffin, it was reused several times after that for various purposes. Meanwhile, the original landowner allowed the buildings to fall into disrepair. Buildings were dismantled and used or moved elsewhere, even incorporated into construction of other buildings in the growing town of Jacksboro.

In 1936 the Texas Centennial Commission bought the 41 acres upon which the central area of the fort resided and several buildings still stood. In 1963 the National Parks Service declared the fort a National Historic Landmark. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department assumed operations of the fort five years later.

On the grounds of the park and its immediate surroundings are historical remnants of the area spanning nearly two centuries. In addition to the fort are reminders and remnants of growth that occurred in nearly all communities: the growth and demise of the railroad era, remains of technology and buildings that nurtured that growth, and the natural succession of environment as people moved through and established themselves.

It’s living history.

[1] The Noconi Comanches were known as the fiercest clan of the fiercest Indian tribe of all the North American Indians. Ironically, the chief of that tribe, Nocona, was the husband of a famous white woman, Cynthia Ann Parker. Captured as a child and rather than returned for ransom, she was adopted into the tribe and raised as a Comanche. Nocona eventually took her as his only wife (chiefs usually had more than one wife) and they had three children. Their son, Quanah Parker, become a formidable and important chief of the Comanche. He was also their last great chief.

During the Battle of Pease River, Cynthia and her baby daughter were recaptured and returned to white society. After 25 years of living with the Comanche she had lost all connection with white society and resented her capture. After several years and attempts of escape, she died still mourning the loss of her children, husband and his people.

Nocona’s band was nearly decimated at the Battle of Pease River and he lived a few more years embittered and grief-stricken at the loss of his wife and daughter. Quahnah claims he died four years later of wounds inflicted in a skirmish with the Apache and a broken heart.

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posted by Macrobe
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