|View of Fort Stockton Parade Grounds|
The fort itself was not built behind a stockade which was how many people thought frontier forts were situated. This was how most old west motion pictures portrayed them. Fort Stockton is essentially a group of buildings all situated around a rectangular parade ground. This included everything from the officer's quarters to the jail. Fort Stockton is officially owned by the city of Fort Stockton. It is listed on the National Register of Historic Sites and is managed by the Fort Stockton Historical Society. The Friends of Fort Stockton is another group that helps in fund raising and the ongoing development of the site.
There's many stories to tell about Fort Stockton and probably the best two have to do with it's action during the mid 1800's as a protector of the crucial San Antonio to El Paso mail and stage route and it's place in the role of the Buffalo Soldiers on the western Texas frontier. The basic threat to westward expansion in the area wwere the Comanches and to some degree the Apaches. A mail, freight and passenger stage trail was established during the early 1850's and the Indian threat remained front and center.
Also among the exhibits on display at the Fort Stockton Museum are genuine artifacts of the era. Pictured below right is a leather message carrier which was used for communications among the various military outposts.
|Military mail pouch|
History books tell of the anticipation for the arrival of the carrier. People gathered around as names were called out by the officer distributing the letters. At a remote military fort such as Fort Stockton, the arrival of the mail also was a morale booster.
When you travel the western United States visiting the former cavalry outposts, the type of artifacts on display can vary widely. At Fort Stockton there is am excellent collection of cavalry and infantry equipment and clothing. The articles of clothing on display are exact replicas of the period and were put together with much historical research.
The photo at left is a standard issue U.S. Army belt buckle which I believe would be post Civil War.The photo below it is a reproduction of a 1st Sgt's Infantry uniform. All of these exhibits and many more are displayed in the Fort Stockton Museum. There was a big difference in headgear. The infantry hat shown is quite different than the cavalry Stetson hat (not shown).
Another excellent artifact on display at Fort Stockton is a cavalry bugle. The bugle shown below right is similar to what is called a "Spanish Bugle". The bugle was used by the frontier army for a variety of purposes including calls to formation, call to quarters, call to church, call to drill, fire call, charge call, First Sergeants call, call to arms, taps and several others. The bugle was basically used to communicate with a large body of troops. The instrument was also used to play ceremonial tunes certain ranking officers and VIP's. The bugle on display at the Fort Stockton Museum is a rare and invaluable find.
Also see our Western Trips visit to Historic Fort Richardson Texas.
Buffalo Soldiers at Fort Stockton
Fort Stockton was also home to four regiments of Buffalo Soldiers. This was also the case with among others, Fort Davis and Fort Concho, both in Texas. The Buffalo Soldiers were established in 1866 and most of their service was in the frontier west during the height of the Indian Wars.
|Enlisted man's quarters|
A visit to Fort Stockton during your next Texas vacation will be both fun and educational. It's one of the best family side trips while traveling through west Texas on Interstate-10. The fort museum also has a very good selection of books relating to the frontier era in west Texas. Located directly on Interstate-10, Fort Stockton is about 240 miles east of El Paso Texas and about 312 miles west of San Antonio.
(Photos from author's private collection)