Western Trips

Western Trips

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Visit San Angelo / A West Texas Adventure

Like many towns in the west, the first pioneers built settlements opposite  military forts. Dodge City, Kansas... Kearney, Nebraska and Laramie, Wyoming just to name three. At the time, military rules forbid settlements forming directly within an army fort so the next best thing was to settle adjacent or fairly close to a fort. Some type of protection against Indian raids was preferable.

fort concho events
Fort Concho reenactors
In the case of San Angelo, Texas the fort was Fort Concho which served as the headquarters for the 4th and 10th Cavalry and 16th Infantry, the buffalo soldiers. The settlement was first named San Angela, in honor of Carolina Angela de la Garza DeWitt, the deceased wife of the towns founder, Bart J. DeWitt, a merchant and businessman. Later the name was changed to San Angelo and the town grew.

Today, San Angelo is the largest city in Texas that does not have an Interstate highway running through it.

San Angelo, Texas is located about 112 miles southeast of Midland, about 200 miles northwest of Austin and about 225 miles southwest of Fort Worth.

Historic Fort Concho

Fort Concho is quite historic and was a major west Texas military outpost during the days of Comanche raids. Fort Concho was established to replace Fort Chadbourne which didn't have an adequate supply of water. This new site was chosen in November 1867 at the point where the Main and North Concho rivers meet. The first name chosen for the new fort was Camp Hatch after the commander of the regiment, Major John Porter Hatch. The name was later changed to Camp Kelly for the recently deceased Major Michael J. Kelly. Finally in March 1868 the military outpost was named  Fort Concho. The fort was obviously named after the Middle and North Concho rivers which meet at San Angelo and form the Concho River.

fort concho buildings
Fort Concho old hospital building
Among other activities in and around the fort, the soldiers helped build roads in west Texas, scouted and mapped the region and skirmished with small parties of Indians. Fort Concho also played a significant role during several Indian conflicts including the 1872 campaign led by Colonel Ranald Mackenzie, the 1874 Red River War and the campaign against the Apache leader Victorio during 1879-80.

The City Takes Over the Abandoned Fort 

The army abandoned Fort Concho on June 20, 1889. This was during a period that many of the old frontier army forts were being closed throughout the west. Most of its buildings escaped demolition by being converted into civilian housing and commercial storage space.

Today, Fort Concho is owned and operated by the city of San Angelo and is a must stop during your trip to west Texas. The City took over the old fort in 1935 and started renovating the structures. The fort is kept up very well with nearly all of the original stone buildings still standing. If you like history and particularly old west history, then you'll thoroughly enjoy touring the old fort grounds.

The central parade ground is about 100 feet wide and nearly a quarter of a mile long. Original stone buildings line it's sides and the back. Seventeen of these buildings have been restored and five were reconstructed. Many of these buildings are open to the public and display a good collection of artifacts from the Indian War period. Fort Concho has been designated as a National Historic Landmark.

concho avenue san angelo texas
San Angelo's Concho Avenue
Downtown San Angelo

Downtown events in San Angelo revolve around historic events. The highest structure in the downtown area is the old Cactus Hotel which has the distinction of being the fourth hotel built by Conrad Hilton. The hotel, with its 14 stories, lavish decorations and elegant crystal ballroom, has been revitalized as the city's cultural center. The lobby has shops, art galleries and a cafe. There are no longer overnight accommodations offered in the building.

The first street in old San Angela was named Concho Avenue. Today, Concho Avenue features many shops and an antique mall offering country collectibles and memorabilia. Merchants offer a variety of art, gifts, clothing, furniture and more. The buildings and stores reflect the colorful history of San Angelo. Around every downtown corner, you'll find interesting treasures along with several historical buildings.

old historic hilton hotels
The old Cactus Hotel built by Conrad Hilton
Christmas at Fort Concho

One of the larger annual events in San Angelo is Christmas at Fort Concho. The event spans three days in early December. Included is shopping, living history and outside entertainment and a special area for children.

Included are reenactors in period clothes and military uniforms, shooting of cannons, an excellent telephone museum with an incredibly large collection of antique and experimental telephone gear over 100 years old, exhibits within the old fort hospital building and vendors spread all around the parade grounds. It's an event not to be missed if you're anywhere around San Angelo in early December.

See additional Western Trips articles on the links below...

The Red River Valley Museum

Visit Palo Duro Canyon Texas 

texas murals
Mural in downtown San Angelo, Texas
The Murals in San Angelo

San Angelo's artists have created beautiful and creative historic murals which adorn the downtown area. Historic Murals of San Angelo, Inc. is an exclusively charitable and educational organization.which makes the creation of these murals possible with donations. "The History of Transportation in San Angelo" became the first mural sponsored by Historic Murals of San Angelo, Inc.

The murals tell the story of the history of San Angelo from the old west frontier days including Fort Concho and it's commanders to the twentieth century with murals depicting activities at San Angelo's Goodfellow Air Force Base. When you visit downtown San Angelo, Texas you can't miss seeing these unique murals. 

(Article and photos copyright Western Trips)

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