AKA (the town of) Fort Griffin
GRIFFIN STATE HISTORIC SITEA
place so rough, even the Army left
1701 North US Highway 283 Albany TX 76430
Shackelford County, Texas
Panhandle / North
Highway 283 where it crosses the Clear Fork of the
15 Miles N of Albany
13 Miles S of Throckmorton
50 Miles NE of Abilene
Griffin State Park Area Hotels >
in a Pecan Shell|
Remnants of the town are now protected as the Fort Griffin State Historic Site.
The town was situated between Fort Griffin and the Clear Fork of the Brazos River,
the water source for the facility. Since the fort held the strategic hilltop,
the town became known simply as the Flat.
The town, even in ruins, retains
its hard-won reputation for being one of Texas’ most
lawless communities. Populated (at one time or another) by many of the more colorful
characters of Western legend, the Flat had no municipal control since Shackelford
county had yet to be organized. The misbehavior in the Flat got so out-of-hand
that the commanding officer of Fort Griffin declared martial law in the mid 1870s.
Undesirables from the Flat were banished to towns that were short of undesirables.
With the riff-raff gone, the county was organized in 1874. (See Vigilantes
were the law in frontier towns)
The roster of trouble-makers included
Deno, Big Nose
Wesley Hardin, John Selman, John M. Larn. Other famous names included Pat
Garrett, Doc Holliday, and his long-time friend Wyatt Earp.
mid 1870s buffalo
hunters used the fort as a supply base. The Butterfield Stage route passed the
Flat (East-West) and cattle drives passed the town going north.
town peaked at 1,000 permanent residents – an enviable figure for the times. Transients
added to that number while the buffalo
roamed, but the population declined.
started accommodating the cattle herds that passed by and even the fort itself
had its contingent reduced. The Flat was hit with a double-whammy in 1881. Washington
closed the fort and the Flat was bypassed by the
It did manage to hang on as a shadow of its former self
(albeit a well-behaved shadow) into the 20th Century but today the population
consists of park personnel.
Town of Fort Griffin >
Western Cattle Trail Crossings at Fort Griffin >
Griffin Lodge Hall >
Griffin, Texas TodayPhotos
Gibson, February 2008
Griffin Historical Markers
Town of Fort Griffin Historical Marker |
US 283 and CR 184
Town of Fort GriffinIn
the 19th century, the U.S. government established forts along Texas' frontier
to protect pioneers. By the early 1850s, Col. Jesse Stem farmed along the Clear
Fork of the Brazos River, and Thomas Lambshead established his Clear Fork Farm.
As others moved to the area, troops at Camp Cooper in present-day Throckmorton
County, including then-Lt. Col. Robert E. Lee, provided military defense. Camp
Cooper closed at the start of the Civil War in 1861. After the war, the U.S. Army
established Camp Wilson, later renamed Fort Griffin, near this site in 1867.
Griffin sat on the high ground above the river. A settlement developed between
it and the water's edge. The town, known also as "The Flat," included merchants,
cattlemen and their families. Its permanent populace supported a newspaper, the
Fort Griffin Echo, as well as an academy, Masonic lodge and several stores and
saloons. A rough element of cowboys, gamblers and renegades mixed with black and
white troops to form a lawless scene. Among those attracted to the town were Doc
Holliday, Wyatt Earp, Lottie
Deno, Big Nose
Kate, Hurricane Bill and Hurricane Minnie.
Fort Griffin was a stop
for buffalo hide trade, and hides awaiting shipment crowded town lots. Located
along the Western cattle trail, it included immigrant residents from several countries.
Due to the distance from governmental authority, area residents formed Shackelford
County in 1874. The town's population steadily declined after Albany
became the county seat and the terminus of the Texas Central Railroad. Notable
local businesses included the Beehive Saloon, The Conrad and Rath Store, the Glesk
Boot Shop and the Occidental Hotel. The fort closed in 1881, but elements of the
town remained in operation into the mid-20th century. The school consolidated
with the Albany district in 1942.
Western Cattle Trail Crossings at Fort Griffin|
Western Cattle Trail Crossings at Fort GriffinCattle
have been important to Texas' economy since early Spanish mission days. Before
and after the Civil War, routes developed for driving herds through Texas
to sell in Missouri and Kansas. The best known was the Eastern, or Chisholm
Trail, but cattlemen continued seeking new trails and markets. In 1868, members
of the Barber Watkins Reynolds family drove cattle to New Mexico and California
from the Fort Griffin area.
In 1874, John T. Lytle drove 3,500 head of
south Texas to Nebraska on a new
trail, which he determined could sustain cattle to a shipping point at Dodge City,
Kansas. The route became known as the Western, Fort Griffin or Dodge City Trail,
and Fort Griffin served as an important watering and supply point. The trail began
and proceeded to Baird, where it fanned
out at several points for optimum grazing. North of Albany,
the route took drovers toward Fort Griffin, crossing the Clear Fork of the Brazos
River in this vicinity (1/4 mi. N) and at other upriver points. Multiple paths
continued northward, merged again and finally crossed the Red River in Wilbarger
Two years later, between 73,000 and 108,000 head--about a quarter
of Texas' northern-bound cattle--came through the Fort Griffin area. By 1879,
as rail lines extended across the Eastern Trail area, the Western Trail became
the primary Texas cattle route and continued as such until the last drive, led
by John Blocker in 1893. By then, three to five million cattle had passed through
this area on their way to northern markets. Cattle raising continues to be important
in Shackelford County, a legacy of the early trail.
Griffin CR188 Low Water Crossing|
Above Photos courtesy Barclay
Gibson, February 2008
Conversation With The Family... (of Longhorns)|
Gibson, February 2008
by someone else
me that's not beef jerky I see on your dashboard."|
drives? We don't need no stinking trail drives!|
then I told him: "if you think I'm working one minue past five, you're out
of your mind."|
forlorn longhorn. Ostracized from the herd for a discouraging word? |
Fort Griffin Lodge Hall
"...The flag is hanging backwards... See
section 7 item j of the United States Code Title 4 Chapter 1 – The Flag. j. When
displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be
uppermost and to the FLAG’S own right, that is, to the observer’s left. When displayed
in a window, the flag should be displayed in the same way, with the union or blue
field to the LEFT of the observer in the street..." - Dwinn Ortiz, Administrative
Assistant, Historic Sites Division, Texas Historical Commission, February 12,
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, please contact
Fort Griffin is included in "More Ghost Towns of Texas"
by T. Linsay Baker