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 186. 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 nicknamed the "Flat" appeared 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 town's businessmen "cleaned up" its reputation in the 1880s, and campaigned to make the town of Fort Griffin the county seat.
However, Albany, with its proximity to the railroads and heavy local investment, became the seat instead.   

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 but was also founded to protect the nearby Indian reservations (both of which were disbanded in 1856). In 1860, the Comanche
Chief Peta Nocona was killed along the Pease River in the
Caprock, 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 town of Fort Griffin (the "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.
Fort Griffin is now a state historic site that lies in extreme northeast Shackelford County.

From
Denton, take US 380 west to Throckmorton. Go south on US 283 to Fort Griffin.

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.

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.

From
Abilene, take I20 east to Baird and go north on US 283.
The only evidence of Camp Cooper and the Comanche Indian Reservation is this marker, which reads:

Site of the principal village of the Comanche Indian Reservation.
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 U.S. and Texas established a reservation for the Comanches, which Camp Cooper protected against the encroaching white settlers. A
Comanche School was founded 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, like this abandoned truss bridge.
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, indicates that the town of Fort Griffin did succumb in favor of Albany.
Administration building after the boss blew his top. Ha!
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
Ranching became a mainsta at Fort Griffin (the town) once the military fort closed and the cattle drives on the Great Western Trail diminished.
This is the W O O brand (Fort Griffin Echo, 1881)
Another snippet from the Fort Griffin Echo in 1881 explains that there is NO WAY theirs was a dying town.
The bridge at Fort Griffin (Flat) had originally cross-hatching on its lower trusses. (Library of Congress, historic strucutre survey).
How to
get there