After the Civil War, several forts (such as Belknap, Worth and Cooper) were
abandoned, and new ones established further west. One of these new forts was
Fort
Griffin, which opened in 1867, It was built on top of a hill in the beautiful, scrubby
countryside of Shackleford county to allow Texans to settle Comanche country. Along
with
Fort Richardson, which lay just to the northeast of Fort Griffin, these forts marked
the boundary line of 'civilization' from Indian Territory all the way to the Rio Grande at
Fort Davis.

A rough and tumble town called the "Flat" sprung up at the north side of Fort Griffin's
hill, where saloons and bawdy houses competed for the soldier's business. In the late
1870s, the
Great Western Trail had a stop at the Flat before pushing further north
towards Dodge City, Kansas.  

The antebellum Camp Cooper, where the famous Confederate General Robert E. Lee
commanded, lay just northwest of Fort Griffin in southern Throckmorton County.
Established in 1854, the camp served as the embarking point for many heated battles
against the Comanches. In  1860, during one of these battles, the Comanche Chief
Pete Nocona was killed, and his wife, Cynthia Ann Parker,  was re-captured and
brought back to the camp. (Cynthia Ann was a pioneer's daughter who had been
kidnapped during a raid on Parker's Fort in the 1836). Cynthia Ann's son Quanah led
the remaining Comanches during the
Red River Wars.

After the Red River Wars of 1871-1874, the threat in the western frontier waned
considerably, and Fort Griffin was closed. Today, the site is a quiet state historical
park that is also home to the
official state longhorn herd. The Fort Griffin Flat sits on
private but accessible land, and the owners are reconstructing it as a fun tourist
attraction. The site of Camp Cooper lies on private land and from what I gather,
nothing visible remains.

The peacefulness of this park belies the busy and often brutal frontier era.
A view onto the colorful, scrubby north Texas
prairie from the Administration building ruins.
How to get there

Fort Griffin lies in extreme northeast
Shackelford County along US Hwy 283.

I
f you come due North East:
From Denton, take US 380 west  to
Throckmorton. Go south on US 283 - Fort
Griffin will be on the right.

If you come due East:
From Fort Worth, take Interstate 20 west to
Baird, then go north on US 283 (through
Albany). Fort Griffin will be on the left.
Alternately, you can take I20 west to
Weatherford. Take the US 180 exit , and drive
west to Albany, then go north on US 283.

If you come due North:
Take US 283 from either US 67 (west from
Lawton, Oklahoma), US 287 (west from
Wichita Falls, Texas) or US 82 (Southwest
from Wichita Falls, Texas) and follow that all
the way south to Fort Griffin.

I
f you come due West:
From Abilene, take I20 east to Baird and go
nort
h on US 283.
Established in 1854 - Here Col. Robert E. Lee, C.S.A., then commanding Camp Cooper, held
a Peace Treaty with Chief Cacumseh on April 11, 1854.

The Comanches were forced onto a reservation, which Camp Cooper protected against the
encroaching white settlers. A Comanche School was established nearby. But the white
settlers,
weary of the Indian battles and leery of the Comanches, terrorized them until the
band was forced into Indian Territory.
Fort Griffin Flat is now a ghost town, but offers
some interesting relics.
I discovered this precarious footbridge over the Brazos River on my way to the Camp Cooper site.
There were lots of beer bottles around the iron ropes, no doubt discarded by responsible young people.
Of Ghosttowns and Longhorns
The Flat's drunk tank, complete with grass covered roof.
Administration building after
the boss blew his top. Ha!
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com