Davis and its Buildings c. 1950
Photo Courtesy TXDoT
in a Pecan Shell
The county, town and fort were all named after Jefferson Davis,
although the county had originally been Presidio
County. Fort Davis was named prior to Davis' term as President
of the Confederate States. As U.S. Secretary of War - Davis signed
the order establishing the facility and was thus honored.
Originally the site of the fort was an Indian camp. A stage stop was
set up in 1850 for the mail route between San
Antonio and El Paso
with a man named Diedrick Dutchover in charge. The Fort
was formed in 1854 to billet the troops needed to patrol and
protect the area from Apaches.
During the Civil War, the Confederate Army left Diedrick in charge
of the fort, but he and his party were attacked by Apaches.and forced
to abandon the place. In 1867, The Ninth U.S. Cavalry reoccupied
the fort and the town experienced new growth as an important West
Ft. Davis had only 500 people in 1894, but the population remained
between 700-1,200 for decades. Various plans to develop Ft. Davis
as a tourist destination have failed over the years - not because
they were bad ideas - but because of the deaths of the would-be developers.
One such plan was instrumental in getting approval of Ft. Davis as
a National Historic Site in 1961.
Davis] is literally a “mile-high”, the environment holds a distinct
juxtaposition to the rest of the surrounding west Texas desert. While
and Terlingua all
radiate an aura of dust and heat, Fort Davis exudes a cooler, even
floral animus; even in July a sweater is needed in the evenings. However,
even more interesting was the history of the place. The territory’s
rich climate has drawn human activity for, well, a helluva long time.
The Native American pictograms that adorn the rocks and cave walls
throughout the area give evidence of this.
The first American settlers began to drive their cattle into this
fecund land in the late nineteenth century, at the end of the American
Civil War. By the 1870s the violence that the Native Americans (mainly
Mescalero Apache and Comanche tribes) and the new settlers were hurling
at each other warranted intervention by the United States government.
Military forts were established as protection for the stage lines,
the mail routes, the railroads and, of course, those early settlers
who chose to try to scrape out a living amongst all of the chaos that
permeated the territory. A peculiar lawlessness pervaded this section
of the country at this time. If you couple the inherent violence that
persisted in the region after the Civil war with the Indian “depredations”,
the early residents had to sacrifice personal safety for the quality
of the land they had chosen. Clearly, a military presence was needed
if any claim to permanency was to be hoped for or even expected.
Fort Davis, the actual fort, not the town, was garrisoned twice;
once ante bellum and then again, post bellum. It is the second effort
that is the more successful and historical. The famous “Buffalo
Soldiers” completed the second occupation of the fort. And, it
is the person and family of Colonel B.H. (Benjamin Henry) Grierson,
the commander of the Tenth United States Cavalry at Ft. Davis, who
exemplify the renowned history of the territory... next
Book Hotel Here
Landmarks / Attractions:
Photo courtesy TXDoT
Davis County Jail. Built at the same time as the courthouse (1910.)
No historical marker.
Photo Courtesy Terry
Jeanson, Dec. 2005
Photo courtesy Shirley Kirby, 2004
Ft Davis Officers
Photo courtesy Shirley Kirby, 2004
National Historic Site
Est. in 1854 -
deactivated in 1891.
This was the main Fort that garrisoned troops that patrolled the border
from El Paso to San
Antonio. The post was abandoned during the Civil War and re-occupied
by troops of the 9th Cavalry.
Museum. Open 9 to 5 daily except for major holidays.
TE photo, 2000
Former home of Nick Mersfelter, Barber, Justice of the Peace and
versatile musician. Many historical relics of early life in the
6 miles west of Ft. Davis on Park Road 3 off Hwy 118. 1,800 acres.
Desert Visitor Center
A must-see for the visiting naturalist.
On Hwy 118, 3.5 miles south of Ft. Davis.
View from Fort Davis looking NE toward Mt Locke
during a fast moving storm
Photo courtesy Coyne Gibson, February 12, 2013
Nearby, on top of Mount Locke (Altitude 6,800 ft.) - 16 miles NW
of Fort Davis. Managed and owned by the University of Texas. At
the bottom of the mountain.
Visitor's Center open daily 9 to 5. 1-877-984-7827.
"There is one telescope here that’s owned by 5 universities,
but not the whole complex. Everything here is managed and owned
by the Univ. of Texas. Also, if anyone wants more information about
the new Visitors Center here, they can check our website at
http://McDonaldObservatory.org or call our toll free information
line at 1-877-984-7827. Enjoyed your site! Thanks."
- Mark Cash, Public Affairs Specialist, U.T. McDonald Observatory,
September 28, 2002
The Chamber of Commerce: 432-426-3015
Davis Masonic Lodge
| First Presbyterian
Church in Fort Davis
Photo courtesy Barclay
homestead near Ft. Davis
Photo Courtesy Patrick Cantrell, June 2006
Moxie by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" column)
Thirty-seven years after the Army abandoned Fort Davis, a celluloid
cowboy announced plans to convert the old cavalry post into a motion
picture colony and resort....
Tree by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" column)
The giant pecan, which still stands outside Helen Bentley’s house
in Fort Davis, grew from a sapling planted in 1873...
Emily by Mike Cox ("Texas Tales" column)
One of the most romantic stories in the lore of the Old West originated
at Fort Davis... In the late 1860s, an Apache female fell wounded
in a skirmish between cavalry troops stationed at Fort Davis and
Photo Courtesy Kat Copeland
Photo Courtesy Kat Copeland
Do you know
where this gas station in the Davis Mountains was?
Photo courtesy Nancy McVickar
Davis Mountain Station/Davis Mountain Junction
I just ran across the photo posted by Nancy McVickar. I believe
that station was located at the Junction of US 80 and US 290 - now
I-10 and I-20. That location is noted in the lower right of a
very old map from the University of Texas' collection:
I've long been interested in Davis Mountain Station (a/k/a Davis
Mountain Junction). It seems to have been not much more than that
gas station and was completely obliterated when the I-10/I-20 split
Have you ever run across any other information about it!? - Many
thanks, Martin Bartlett, El Paso
know where this gas station in the Davis Mountains was?
My Grandparents owned a gas station at Davis Mt., Texas (see photo).
Would you or any of your readers know the address of this station?
I doubt it is still standing. The photo which was in my grandmother's
photo album belongs to my cousin who was planning a trip out that
way in mid-September and doesn't recall the address or the highway.
She spent some time with our grandparents there when she was a little
girl when they were running the station. Any information would be
appreciated. Thank you. - Alysia (Meyers) Hargus, August 26, 2004
Naming Jeff Davis County
Just a note to correct a misstatement by one of your correspondents
on the Ft. Davis page. C. F. Eckhardt wrote on June 3, 2006, that
Texas has the only county in the country named after the Confederate
president, Jefferson Davis. This is actually an error. *There
is a Jeff Davis County in Georgia (where else?!); the town of Hazelhurst
is the county seat (it's in Southeast Georgia).
I ran across Texas Escapes more
or less by chance (I was searching for the Texas Cowboy Poetry Gathering
website at the time), and I immediately bookmarked your production.
It is a wonderful resource for those who are interested in Texas,
its people, its geography, and its history. I am not a Texas native,
but two of our four daughters are--and they are quite proud of that
fact. My wife and I spent three quite enjoyable years in Austin
while I earned my Ph.D. in English at the University of Texas ("Hook
'Em, Horns!"). I look back on my days in Texas
as among the best three years of my life. (I'm now a retired college
Thank your for the effort you have put into making Texas
Escapes such a good [magazine]. - Cordially, Rick Thurman, (Dr.
William R. Thurman, Jr.),Thomaston, Georgia, August 28, 2007
Naming Jeff Davis County
Fort Davis, the military post, was originally named for then-Secretary
of War Jefferson Davis, who expanded the army & for the first time
started calling Regular Army horse soldiers cavalry. Up to then
they'd been dragoons & mounted rifles. After the War Between the
States, when the US Army reoccupied Fort Davis, it was announced
that the post would no longer be Fort Jefferson Davis, but Fort
Edmund J. Davis. E. J. Davis, the reconstruction governor, was probably
the single most hated man in Texas at the time. Therefore, when
the county was split off from Presidio
County, the people voted to name it 'Jeff
Davis County,' restoring the name of the original fort. As a
result, Texas has the only county in the country named for the Confederate
President*--and the only county in
the world named for Ireland's patron saint--San
Patricio. - C.
F. Eckhardt, June 03, 2006
on Court House Grounds
Around 1993 when I had taken a group to the Big Bend and we stayed
at the Prue Ranch, I asked one of the local citizens about the turnstiles
on the Jeff Davis Court House grounds. She informed me that they
were placed there to keep the burros out. Originally, trade between
the US and Mexico was conducted by traders using the burros as pack
animals to carry the trade goods. When the burros were replaced
by wagons, the traders let the burros run loose. The burros made
the court house grounds part of their home. They became such a nuisance
that the locals built the fence and the four turnstiles around the
court house to keep them out. - John Gibbs, March 25, 2006
Courtesy Mr. and Mrs. Bailey
© 1996 Kermit Lancaster
was a pioneer reenactor at the Fort. She and her brother Kyle (not
pictured) would remind visitors that there were children out west
too. The photo was taken in 1996 by Kermit Lancaster who added that
"….Caitlyn was a wonderful addition to our visit to Fort Davis. My
own daughters were 10 and 6 at the time. Caitlyn showed them how to
wash clothes "pioneer-style" in a washtub with lye soap and hang them
out to dry. It was great fun for the girls to perform that menial
in its purpose to preserve historic, endangered and vanishing Texas,
asks that anyone wishing to share their local history and recent
or vintage/historic photos, please contact