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  • BENFICKLIN, TEXAS
    AKA Ben Ficklin

    Former Tom Green County Seat, 1875-1882

    Texas Ghost Town
    Tom Green County, Panhandle / West Texas
    Historical marker
    4 miles S of San Angelo on Hwy 277

    Ben Ficklin, Texas Area Hotel:
    San Angelo Hotels
    Former Tom Green County courthouse  in  Ben Ficklin , Texas
    The former Tom Green County Courthouse, later used as a school
    Photo from old newspaper clipping, no date or name of paper

    Ben Ficklin Points of Interest

  • History in a Pecan Shell
  • Ben Ficklin Centennial Marker
  • Major Ben Ficklin Historical Marker
  • Early Settlers
  • Ben Ficklin Cemetery next page
  • History in a Pecan Shell

    The short history of Ben Ficklin has many of the elements that other counties have built legends upon. A county seat rivalry, a rowdy frontier fort, friendship beyond the grave and a disaster that killed many of the inhabitants - it sounds a little bit like a lot of places. If it was not for the name Ben Ficklin sounding like a bearded hermit or a Charles Dickens character, the town's story would be familiar to all Texans.


    The Man Ben Ficklin
    Born in 1827 and a graduate of the Virginia Military Institute, Ficklin served as a Corporal in the Mexican War. He helped establish stagecoach and mail routes across the U.S. and was involved in the creation of the romantic (but short-lived) Pony Express. He served Virginia during the Civil War where he became a European purchasing agent after having served as the Virginia State Quartermaster. His involvement in Texas started with his establishing a mail route from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to California. He bought the land where the town Ben Ficklin would later be. His untimely death in 1871 was the result of choking on a fishbone at a dinner in Washington, D.C.

    The Town Ben Ficklin
    In 1868 Major Benjamin F. Ficklin bought 640 acres around a spring that supplied Fort Concho with its drinking water. This was about 5 miles South of the fort. As the population of the area increased, a growing number of people wanted to distance themselves from the fort and especially the saloons and "businesses" that catered to it. Since it is was common knowledge that it was difficult for drunks to stagger more than 3 miles, the decent element felt they were safe at the springs. It is reported that the place was so tough that the officers of the fort would confine themselves to indoor activities like board games and letter writing, rather than risk an after-dark confrontation with the enlisted men.

    The town throve as a stop on the San Antonio to El Paso Mail Route. Major Ficklin died (in the freak dining mishap previously mentioned) in 1871 and left his interests to his friend F.C. Taylor. Taylor moved the stage stop a mile away and filed an application for a post office with the name of his friend and benefactor Ben Ficklin. It was accepted and Taylor became the first postmaster. The town became the county seat in 1875 and Taylor died four years later.
    The stage coach at Ben Ficklin, Texas
    "The stage coach at Ben Ficklin.
    Mr. F. C. Taylor sitting with the driver. Mr. Taylor known as the father of Tom Green County"
    Photo circa 1887, courtesy Hiram Joel Jacques
    San Angela (as the town across the river from the fort was then known) thought that they should be the county seat and they voiced their desire. The situation may have turned into one of Texas' many "courthouse wars" but Mother Nature settled the feud. She arranged a flooding of the local creeks and rivers on the night of August 24th 1882. The ground had already been saturated from a rare wet summer and a wave of water hit the unsuspecting town while everyone slept. Most of the town was washed away and 65 citizens - more than 10% of the population - drowned.

    With the demise of Ben Ficklin, San Angela applied for a post office and was told that authorities in Washington were appalled at their bad Spanish. The postal authorities would accept Santa Angela or San Angelo, but not San Angela. And so San Angelo came into existence, even though it was named after Carolina Angela, the wife of land developer Bartholomew J. DeWitt.

    Ben Ficklin Today
    There is a marker for Ben Ficklin four miles South of San Angelo on Hwy 277, even though this is not the actual site (see letter from Mr. Bill Green below).


    © John Troesser
    Ben Ficklin Tx Centennial Marker
    Centennial Marker
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, January 2010
    Ben Ficklin Tx Centennial Marker text
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, January 2010
    More Texas Centennial
    Historical Marker on US 306 & Ben Ficklin Rd.
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, January 2010
    Historical Marker Text

    Major Ben Ficklin, C.S.A.

    (1827-1871)
    Called Mystery Man of the Confederacy. Educated at Virginia Military Institute. At age 18 served as a corporal in Mexican War. In 1850s worked with stagecoach and mail lines from Missouri to San Francisco. Helped to start the Pony Express Line in 1860. Promoted idea of the railroad that later was the Union Pacific-- the first to span the U.S.

    Was a soldier and state quartermaster in Virginia at start of Civil War. Appointed Confederate purchasing agent, his swagger and success in Europe excited Federal envy. Personally ran blockade and passed through New York and Washington on secret missions.

    In 1867 was awarded U.S. contract for weekly mail run from Fort Smith, Ark., to San Antonio and El Paso. Had his operational headquarters 3 miles below Fort Concho. Owned 640 acres of land here. Built corrals, blacksmith shop, storage rooms, adobe house, kitchen and commissary. On a visit to Washington, died of swallowing fish bone. Was buried in Charlottesville,Va. Associates carried on the mail stage runs, later named town near Fort Concho for the late Major.

    "Benficklin" was first county seat of Tom Green, serving until it was destroyed by flood in 1882.

    (1964)
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, January 2010

    The Historical Marker is Not Where the Town Once Was

    The town of Benficklin was not located where the park is, and the proper way to spell the name of the town is as one word, even though it was spelled both ways in the 1880s and since. I don’t remember what the official post office name was. Francis Corbett Taylor was a close friend of Ben Ficklin and supposedly said that he didn’t want anyone to misunderstand which Ficklin the town was named for, so he spelled it as one word.

    When I was growing up during the 1950s, I lived on a farm south of San Angelo on the Christoval Road, near Benficklin. We frequently drove around on Sunday afternoons.  My grandparents had rented the former site of Benficklin to graze cows during the 1920s and 1930s.  At that time, there were still some foundations located on the land. A housing addition has been built on it now—in fact, the whole area is covered with houses. It’s the low area along the river west of the granite marker on the hill, on the west side of Benficklin Road. There is an old dam called Metcalfe Dam on the South Concho immediately west of the town’s location. I once drove Miss Mary Bain Spence, whose mother was a sister Charles B. Metcalife, down a road into the area where the town was located and to Metcalfe Dam. There wasn’t a house anywhere at that time, probably about 1970. Her mother had told her about the town many times. The Metcalfe family lived at the stage station and some of them drowned in the Benficklin Flood of 1882.

    The Benficklin Stage Stand was where South Bryant Throughway crosses the South Concho. In fact, part of the site must have been destroyed to build the road. The marker for the stage stand at Benficklin park was located in some trees near a public bathroom, west of the Throughway by the road that crosses the old Benficklin Causeway. That was where part of the stage stand was located, according to the late Penrose Metcalfe who was the son of Charles B. Metcalfe. - Bill Green, Curator of History, Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, July 30, 2009

    Ben Ficklin Texas Forum

  • It is with great interest that I recently read your article about Ben Ficklin.

    In 1879, my greatgrandparents settled in Ben Ficklin and lived there until the flood in 1882. After the flood, they established a ranch on Willow Creek in the northern part of the county which later became Sterling City. Their names were Thomas and Ann Blezard Brennand.
  • Ann Blezard Brennand
    Thomas Brennand (L)
    Ann Blezard Brennand (R)
    Photo courtesy Ann Brennand Martin Williams
    They married in England in 1862 and came to America. They lived in Wisconsin until 1879 when they moved to Ben Ficklin. Thomas had a ranch and raised sheep and cattle. Thomas was the first County Commissioner to represent Precinct No. 4 and was present as a member of the Commissioners Court at its first sitting at the old Kildare Ranch in 1891.

    I do not know where Thomas was the night of the flood. His son William Henry Brennand, who was my grandfather, was in Midland. When he heard about the flood, he got on his horse and rode all night to see about his parents and sisters. When he got to Ben Ficklin, he found his mother and sisters sitting on the roof of their house. The only thing they were able to save was a pan of yeast. I guess they knew if they survived they would need something to make bread to eat.

    His sisters names were Jennie and Annie Brennand. I know this story is true because it was told to my father by Jennie who was one of the girls. - Very truly yours, Ann Brennand Martin Williams, February 25, 2004
    Ben Ficklin Texas settler
    "My great-great-grandfather, Tomas Jaques de Salazar (1800-1880), moved to Ben Ficklin around 1871-72 with his family."

    Photo courtesy Hiram Joel Jacques
  • My late father's ancestors have deep roots in Ben Ficklin and Knickerbocker history and also Tankersley. My great-great-grandfather, Tomas Jaques de Salazar (1800-1880), moved to Ben Ficklin around 1871-72 with his family.... - Hiram Joel Jacques San Jose, CA , August 14, 2003
  • There's a house out there used for the Stage Coach with stone walls 3 feet thick. Are there any online pictures of that house? - Kelly A. Allison, June 02, 2004

  • Good website. I am a decendent of Francis Corbett Taylor and Charles Metcalfe. My mother, Mrs. Simms still owns the cemetery in which the bodies of family members who drowned in the Ben Ficklin flood and from the original cemetery were interred. Thank you for preserving history in this manner. - Margie E. Kiser, San Angelo, 14/Nov/2002

  • I was born in San Angelo on Feb 6 1955. I enjoyed reading the story on Ben Ficklin. I went there many times as I was growing up, and we had a lot of family outings there. My parents are buried in San Angelo and when I go to visit there graves, I always make a trip to Ben Ficklin and remember the times we had there. I enjoy the website. Thank you - Larry Kohutek, Grandview, Texas, 10/Mar/2002
  • Ben FicklinTx - Ben Ficklin Cemetery
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, January 2010
    Ben Ficklin Cemetery
    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, and vintage/historic photos of their town, please contact us.
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