The former Tom Green County Courthouse, later used as a school |
old newspaper clipping, no date or name of paper
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.
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.
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
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.
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
Marker on US 306 & Ben Ficklin Rd. |
Photo courtesy Barclay
Gibson, January 2010
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.
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.
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.
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
Ficklin Texas ForumIt
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 (R)
Photo courtesy Ann Brennand Martin
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,
| || "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 |
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|
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,
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
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