March 17, 2015 — We noticed this place on the map and realized we were going to be driving right by it, and given that our goal on this road trip is to see all 59 national parks and as many of the other national park units as we can, how could we not stop? We were so glad we did, for we really enjoyed our afternoon visit here on our way up to Guadalupe Mountains National Park.
Fort Davis is one of several old Army posts that were established to protect emigrants, freight wagons, mail coaches, and those traveling through the American West during the late 19th century. It sits on the San Antonio-El Paso Road and the Chihuahua Trail, where wood, water, and grass for grazing were plentiful. Backing up to a box canyon provided a protective barrier to the rear and side, and for nearly 40 years (1854 to 1891) the fort’s primary role was to safeguard against Indian attacks and raids.
As the Indian Wars came to an end in West Texas, garrison life at Fort Davis became more routine. The soldiers stationed here repaired roads and telegraph lines, escorted railroad survey parties, and pursued bandits. In June 1891, having outlived its usefulness, Fort Davis was abandoned.
Fort Davis became a national historic site in 1963, and through a continued program of restoration and preservation, the National Park Service has been able to save many of the structures from the old military post. Today, 20-some buildings are restored, taking them back to the way they were in the 1850s and 1860s. The Enlisted Men’s Barracks, the Post Hospital, the Officer’s Quarters, Kitchen and Servant’s Quarters, the Granary and the Commissary are all available to tour – they’re very well done. Ruins and foundations of other buildings – Storehouses, Privys, Stables and the Corral – all still exist, as well.
In the Visitor Center museum, Fort Davis tells the story of the importance of African Americans in the West and in the frontier military. All-black regiments, known as Buffalo Soldiers, were posted here, and notably contributed to the settlement of western Texas and southern New Mexico. And as we’ve encountered in many other national park units, the volunteers serving this particular unit really added to our experience. We really enjoyed a talk given by three of them. Dressed in period attire, they told us of what life was like here back in the late 1800’s – living history, indeed, at a fort very much worth visiting.