Rich In History
Frontier Town of Ft. Griffin
In the 19th Century, the U.S. Government established forts along Texas’ frontier to protect pioneers. By the early 1850’s, Colonel Jesse Stem farmed along the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, and Thomas Lambshead established his Clear Fork Farm, as others moved to the area, troops at Camp Cooper in present-day Throckmorton county, including then Lieutenant Colonel Robert E. Lee, provided military defense. Camp Cooper closed at the start of the Civil War in 1861. After the war, the U.S. Army established Camp Wilson, later renamed Ft. Griffin, near this site in 1867.
Ft. Griffin sat on the high grounds above the river. A settlement developed between it and the water’s edge. The town, also known as “the flat,” included merchants, cattleman, and their families. Its permanent populace supported a newspaper, the Fort Griffin Echo, as well as an academy, Masonic Lodge and several stores and saloons. A rough element of cowboys, gamblers, and renegades mixed with black and white troops to form a lawless scene. Among those attracted to the town were Doc Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Lottie Deno, Big Nose Kate, Hurricane Bill and Hurricane Minnie.
Fort Griffin Lodge Hall
On site acquired August 18, 1877, for fort Griffin Lodge No. 489, A.F. & A.M., chartered on December 14, 1878. Stone was quarried nearby on Collins Creek. Volunteers built the hall. School, civic affairs and church services of many denominations were held downstairs, the lodge upstairs. In 1881, community was dealt two blows: The U.S. Army vacated Fort Griffin and the Texas Central Railroad line bypassed the town. In 1886, the lodge moved to Throckmorton.
Fort Griffin Civil Jail
The Mackenzie Trail
In the fall of 1874, Colonel Ranald S. Mackenzie and his 4th Cavalry Regiment were under orders to drive large bands of hostile Indians in Northwest Texas back to the Ft. Sill Reservation. In a fierce battle September 26-28, 1874, In Palo Duro Canyon, the Indians, who dismounted and fought from the rocks on the bluffs, were routed. The better of their captured horses were used as Cavalry remounts and others were given to the Tonkawa Guides but nearly 2,000 had to be killed because it was too far for any Army post to drive them there. Set afoot, the Indians could no longer depredate.
Mackenzie’s big supply base for the campaign, at the confluence of Duck Creek and the Salt Fork of the Brazos, was furnished from Fort Griffin, 1-1/4 miles ESE of this site. The road crossed here and the ruts made by the frequent wagon trains of supplies were plainly visible when pointed out about 1926 by J.A. Matthews, then owner of this site. The road continued west along the present fence line between the Matthews and Nail Ranches, crossing the Clear Fork on the Nail Ranch at what is still known as “The Mackenzie Crossing.” The Mackenzie Trail became a well travelled road used by both buffalo hunters and plains settlers.
Born in New York July 27, 1840, Mackenzie Died January 19, 1889, and was buried at West Point, where he had graduated highest in the class of 1862. Early in his career, General U.S. Grant had regarded him as “the most promising young officer in the army.”
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