Western Trips

Western Trips

Friday, May 24, 2013

State Parks in Texas

Fort Richardson post hospital building

Western Trips had the opportunity of visiting one of the more interesting state parks in Texas. Many of Texas' state parks are historic sites and our visit of Fort Richardson in Jacksboro Texas, not far northwest of Fort Worth, gave us a good glimpse of frontier military life. It was designated a National Historic Landmark in 1963. This is a stop you want to add to your Texas vacation planner if you're in the Fort Worth area. It's an excellent fun and educational venue great for the entire family.

Fort Richardson is located in Jacksboro Texas, 60 miles from Fort Worth and 60 miles from Wichita Falls on U.S. Hwy 281/380.

Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site

Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site are the remains of a federal fort built after the end of the Civil War. The state park includes 454 acres.

Fort Richardson hospital ward
Established in 1867 by the Fourth Cavalry, Fort Richardson was tasked with both enforcing reconstruction laws in north Texas and also with protecting settlers from Indian raids. The fort was the northern most of a line of federal forts in Texas constructed after the Civil War.

Indians raids were a decades long problem for settlers in Texas and wouldn't end until about 1875.The Comanche and Kiowa tribes were the raiding parties. Fort Richardson was built at a strategic location where the North Texas Prairies meet the Panhandle Plains. The location is also not far south of the old Indian Territory being about 120 miles south of Fort Sill. Native Americans who resided in Indian Territory would often ride south and raid settlers across the Red River in north Texas.The raiding was often and deadly. The army was forced to set up several forts, including nearby Fort Griffin and Fort Belknap, to curtail the north Texas attacks.

The Units Serving at Fort Richardson

During the fort's lifespan, several army and cavalry units were stationed there. From 1868 to 1871 it was the regimental headquarters for the Sixth Cavalry. From 1871 to 1873 it was the Fourth Cavalry, from 1873 to 1876 it was the Eleventh Infantry. Other units who served at Fort Richardson included the Tenth Cavalry and the Twenty-fourth Infantry.

Old post morgue
It's interesting to note the range of duties tasked to the army units serving at Fort Richardson. These included escorting wagon trains, helping local law enforcement to catch fugitives, protecting cattle herds and even overseeing elections. In general, the troops and officers at Fort Richardson and the surrounding forts helped settle north Texas in a variety of ways. 

The End of the Red River War

It took the Red River War during 1874 and 1875 to finally put an end to the Indian threat. Expeditions from Fort Richardson arrested Indians responsible for the Warren Wagon Train Massacre in 1871 and fought Comanches in Palo Duro Canyon in 1874. An interesting fact is that Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman was actually at Fort Richardson on an inspection tour when word of the wagon train massacre just about twenty miles to the northwest reached the fort. General Sherman was the head of the army during the President Grant administration.

Another interesting historic note is that General Sherman personally arrested the suspects in the Warren Wagon Train Massacre later at Fort Sill and had them sent back to Jacksboro Texas for trial. Incidents like the wagon train massacre is what reportedly caused Sherman to give his officers the order to go all out and bring all Native Americans to the reservation. The Red River War was the result of his orders.

Treatment room
Due much to the success of the Red River War and the end of Indian raiding the fort closed in 1878.

Fort Richardson was named after General Israel B. Richardson who had served in the Texas military during the Mexican American War before joining the Union Army during the Civil War. When the Civil War broke out Richardson had retired from the army and had been farming in Michigan. After the engagement at Fort Sumter that started the war Richardson re-enlisted.

Links to additional Western Trips articles you'll enjoy include: 

The Old Ranch Town of Matador Texas

The Western Army / Fort Reno 

Lockhart / History and the Barbecue Capital of Texas 

Tour the Historic Homes of Waco Texas

The Post Hospital

What you'll see today of Fort Richardson are two replica barracks and seven original structures including the hospital, morgue and bakery. The Visitor Center and Interpretive Center are in the old officer's barracks. The park offers guided tours daily.

Officers Quarters
You'll see a restored military hospital, the main exhibitwhich is one of the surviving buildings. The structure was built of sandstone and has been expertly restored. Inside you can see the Dr's office, the hospital kitchen, general ward and other rooms all restored to their original arrangement.These are excellent exhibits and will give you a good feel for the old remote life on the Texas frontier.

State Park Facilites

Like many state parks in Texas, Fort Richardson offers hiking trails, camping facilities and picnic areas plus a picnic pavilion for groups. One trail is 1.7 miles in length for hiking and another is a 9.5 mile equestrian trail.

Fort Richardson is one of the most historic state parks in Texas, easy to reach from Dallas and Fort Worth and makes a fine addition to your Texas vacation planner.If your visiting the Dallas/Fort Worth area it fits in for a very good day trip adventure.

(Photos from author's collection)

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