Saturday, May 12, 2012

Fort Griffin TX to San Angelo TX

Friday May 11, 2012
Everything was wet from the rain last night so breakfast was eaten inside the Sprinter. Usually I cook inside but we eat outside at the picnic table. Our usual breakfast is coffee, juice, an egg  al la Jane in the microwave.  Paper coffee cup – add one egg, some cubes of cheese, and half a slice of precooked bacon torn up.  Microwave 1 minute (for 2) take out stir a little and cook 20 more seconds…can’t be beat and NO DIRTY DISHES! We have been having toasted English muffins but today we ran out – so plain toast!  I love the addition of the toaster oven to my cooking gear in the Sprinter.
Campsite at Fort Griffin
  We headed from the campground across the highway to the Fort Griffin Historic Site – we discovered this had been a Texas state park until a few years ago when it was transferred to the Texas Historical Commission. "Best thing that could have happened"  according to the young man who spoke with us.  We had a wonderful tour around the restored area – really very little rebuilding had been done – mostly stabilized buildings. The out of the ordinary thing this morning was they gave us a golf cart to tour around the buildings. There was no one else visiting the park until when we were leaving a school tour arrived.  The most interesting building was the bakery where all the brick ovens were still in evidence.  From the view point we were able to see to the Clear Fork of the Brazos River and our campground which was below the area of the Fort. Great location for a fort.

Our Cart and the Parade Ground

The Bakery ovens

After our tour we drove back down to the campground area to see the herd of Texas Longhorns that had been brought in to the cattle pens to be viewed by the school children.  They have 200 head here and others at the park in San Angelo. This is the official Texas state herd and their brand is the Texas star.  They were used to being observed and seemed to be coming over to the fence for attention!

One of Texas LongHorns
We headed down the road towards Abilene looking for Fort Phantom Hill along the way. Ben had plotted another jaunt on a county road and it worked for about 2 miles until we came to both a herd of cattle on the road and a no trespassing sign…so again we turned around and went to plan B…
The Butterfield Trail
We arrived at Fort Phantom Hill;,so named because you thought you were looking at a hill as you approached the fort but as you arrived the hill disappeared. It was on high ground but not what could be called much of a hill.  This fort was on land owned by a historic trust and was open to walk around. Not a soul here but us and the memories of many days gone by. There were ruins and partial buildings of several barracks, officer’s buildings, a blacksmith shop, and a bakery. The stage had come right along in front of the officer’s buildings so you could just imagine the excitement when the stage arrived twice a week!  

Fort Phantom Hill - Stage passed here
  We headed on towards Abilene where we bought gas. So far the cheapest diesel was in OK at $3.85. We skirted around Abilene and headed south towards San Angelo.  South of San Angelo was a marker for Camp Barkley, a military camp for 60,000 troops preparing for WWII. It also housed German POW’s.  Not sure what this says about our country – the forts from over 150 years ago are preserved in some manner – even if not too well as Fort Belknap – but the only thing for this camp for 60,000 from 65 years ago only got a highway marker – nothing else left.After lunch near the Camp Barkley Marker – we headed on down highway 277 towards San Angelo always on the watch for Fort Chadbourne.  We expected it to be nothing much and we would quickly look around and head to Fort Concho in San Angelo…were we ever in for a surprise!

Fort Chadbourne is another in the string of Army posts built between 1850 and 1890 to defend the western frontier. Fort Chadbourne was abandoned when the water supply became unstable and Fort Concho was built to replace it. The entire Fort Chadbourne area was purchased by a private individual for $500 in gold.  It has remained in private hands and in the past 10 years has been restored and a wonderful museum visitor center opened just last week!  We had a tour by Ann Pate who has written a history of the Fort Chadbourne area. She told us  4 individual had done all the work in preparing the exhibits in the museum. The owner had several extensive collections including a rifle and pistol collection that would compete well against the Army’s collection at the Rock Island Arsenal ! One unique thing exhibited was a laboratory balance like the one Ben had just gotten about a year ago from his Grandfather Harris! 

After touring the museum which had stagecoach that you could actually touch, we were treated to another ride around the fort – this time on a crew ATV – there were 4 of us and the driver. One of the restored buildings here was an actual Butterfield stage stop. They had researched and restored the building – you could tell by the stonework where the original stone was and the part that had been added. The building had one side for the stagecoach and horse trappings, a middle section where the stationmaster would have lived, and another room which would have been where the travelers ate. These stages stopped for only 15 – 20 minutes for the people to eat, the horses to be changed or sometimes the entire stage to be changed. The travelers continued day and night so the mail could go through.  The contract Mr. Butterfield had was to make the trip in no more than 25 days to San Francisco.  Records showed the Butterfield stage made it every time on schedule - in fact often ahead of schedule. There stages traveled the route – Fort Smith to San Francisco- twice a week. 
Butterfield Station at Ft. Chadborurne - notice original and restored sections

One of the Butterfield Stages

The coach rode on a leather sling
 We toured the barracks, officer’s quarters, hospital and several other buildings. Some had been restored and others were left in stabilized but their original condition.  The guy who drove us around had done much of the stonework.  He said he had always lived in this area and was pleased to be hired by the owner to restore these buildings. We must have been told 6 or more times how NO GOVERNMENT MONEY was used in restoring this location.  Establishing this museum and restoration is an impressive task. More information is available at  Parts of the film – The Lost Fort- was used as the introduction to the location. This film is the story of Fort Chadbourne, we will try to locate it when we get home. 
The Parade Grounds
About another hour down the road was San Angelo. Since it was nearly 5 PM we found an Albertson’s ( Food City of the southwest) and found a KOA nearby. So tonight Jane can catch up on the blog. We still have Fort Concho to view tomorrow before we head further west.  They have a Museum of Western Medicine funded by Robert Wood Johnson – so Jane is expecting great things.

It is still very comfortable temperature for sleeping- 69 outside and 74 in the Sprinter.  There are tornadoes quite a way south of us. It is disconcerting to hear tornado watch or warning if you do not know where you are.  Since we were in a watch area in Alabama once and did not know what county we were in – I make it a practice to keep that in mind now! Posting this next morning - no tornado here!

No comments:

Post a Comment