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AKA (the town of) Fort Griffin

Fort Griffin State Historic Site

1701 North US Highway 283
Albany TX 76430

32° 55' 38" N, 99° 13' 56" W 32.927222, -99.232222

Texas Ghost Town
Shackelford County, Texas Panhandle / North Central Texas

A place so rough, even the Army left

Highway 283 where it crosses
the Clear Fork of the Brazos River (see map below)
15 Miles N of Albany the county seat
13 Miles S of Throckmorton
50 Miles NE of Abilene
Population: 0

Fort Griffin State Park Area Hotels › Abilene Hotels

Fort GriffinTx - Saloon And Jail
Saloon and Jail
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

History 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 Lottie Deno, Big Nose Kate, John Wesley Hardin, John Selman, John M. Larn. Other famous names included Pat Garrett, Doc Holliday, and his long-time friend Wyatt Earp.

During the 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.

The 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.

Albany 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 railroad.

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.

Historical Markers
  • Frontier Town of Fort Griffin
  • The Western Cattle Trail Crossings at Fort Griffin
  • Fort Griffin Lodge Hall

  • Fort Griffin, Texas Today

    Photos courtesy Barclay Gibson

    Fort GriffinTx Jail
    Fort Griffin Jail
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008
    More Texas Jails

    The Flat Tx Saloon
    The Saloon
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Fort GriffinTx  Blacksmith Shop
    The Blacksmith Shop
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Fort GriffinTx  Blacksmith Shop
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Fort Griffin Lodge Hall

    Fort Griffin  Tx Lodge Hall
    Lodge Hall
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Fort Griffin  Tx Lodge Hall interior
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008
    See Forum

    Fort Griffin Tx Lodge Hall
    Fort Griffin Lodge Hall Historical Marker
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Fort Griffin Historical Markers

    Fort Griffin Historical Markers
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Frontier Town of Fort Griffin Historical Markers
    Frontier Town of Fort Griffin Historical Marker
    US 283 and CR 184

    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Historical Marker:
    Frontier Town of Fort Griffin
    In 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.

    Fort 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.

    The Western Cattle Rrail Crossings at Fort Griffin Historical Markers
    The Western Cattle Trail Crossings at Fort Griffin
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    Historical Marker

    The Western Cattle Trail Crossings at Fort Griffin

    Cattle 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 longhorns from 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 near Bandera 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 County.

    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.

    Fort Griffin Related Stories

  • Robin Hood of the Tonkawa by Charley Eckhardt
    "Unlike many easterners who came to the Flat, stayed a few days or weeks, then left, Robin Hood took to frontier life as though born to it. The harder life got on the frontier, the better he liked it. When the Comanches or Kiowas raided, he was the first in the saddle in pursuit. Jacobs says “…he never knew when to quit.” That’s extremely high praise from a man who grew up on the frontier." more

  • The Night Smoky's Hair Turned White by Mike Cox
    Among the buffalo hunters and assorted hangers-on around Fort Griffin in the late 1870s, almost anyone tough enough to survive could be considered something of a character. But a loner named Smoky stood out.

    Edgar Rye, who met Smoky in 1877, first told his story in 1909 in his long out of print book, "The Quirt and the Spur: Vanishing Shadows of the Texas Frontier."

    Smokey showed up at Fort Griffin -- then a wild and wooly town adjacent to the military post that gave it is name ... more

  • Murder Mystery at Fort Griffin by Mike Cox

  • Vigilantes were the law in frontier towns by Delbert Trew

  • Fort Phantom Hill - A sub-post of Fort Griffin in the early 1870s

  • Lottie Deno: Queen of the Paste Board Flippers by Maggie Van Ostrand

  • James Brock's Honesty of Purpose by Clay Coppedge

  • Fort Griffin area Bridges
    Suspension Bridge over the Clear Fork of the Brazos River

    The Closed Bridges
    of Fort Griffin

    The 1885 Through Truss Bridge
    The US281 Through Bridge

    Photos courtesy Barclay Gibson

    Fort Griffin Tx CR188 Low Water Crossing
    Fort Griffin CR188 Low Water Crossing
    Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008

    A Conversation With The Family...
    (of Longhorns)

    Photos courtesy Barclay Gibson, February 2008
    Captions by someone else

    "Tell me that's not beef jerky I see on your dashboard."

    Trail drives? We don't need no stinking trail drives!

    "...and then I told him: "if you think I'm working one minue past five, you're out of your mind."

    The forlorn longhorn. Ostracized from the herd for a discouraging word?

    Related Topics


    Texas Explorers, Settlers, Founders & Native Americans

    Fort Griffin Forum

    Subject: Fort Griffin Lodge Hall Flag

    "...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, 2009

    TX  Shackelford County 1882 Postal Map
    1882 map showing Shackelford County, Fort Griffin & Clear Fork of the Brazos River
    Courtesy Texas General Land Office

    Take a road trip

    Texas Panhandle | Central Texas North

    Fort Griffin, Texas Nearby Towns:
    Albany the county seat
    See Shackelford County

    Book Hotel Here:
    Abilene Hotels | More Hotels

    Fort Griffin is included in "More Ghost Towns of Texas" by T. Linsay Baker ›

    Texas Escapes, in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas, asks that anyone wishing to share their local history, stories, landmarks and recent or vintage photos, please contact us.
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