Friday, October 14, 2016

Spanish Fort, Texas

Just south of the Red River in Montague County (North Central Texas), 17 miles north of Nocona off of FM 103, you will find the ghost town of Spanish Fort, Texas.

The truth is, there are still people living in Spanish Fort. However, when taking into account the colorful history of this sleepy town sitting on the banks of the Red River, the term "ghost town" aptly describes this community.

The site that Spanish Fort occupies was once a Taovaya Indian village. Mostly, the natives peacefully farmed and traded with the French. In 1759, Spanish troops under Diego Ortiz Parilla tried to claim the territory after a Taovaya and Comanche raid on the San Saba mission. To thwart the Spanish, the Taovaya built a large fort, surrounding it with a moat. The Taovaya and Comanche tribes captured a Spanish canon and used it successfully in a battle that drove out the Spanish.

But the history of the western frontier proved that peace never remained for long. In the 1830s, American settlers claimed the fort. They named the place Spanish Fort. The Taovaya headed west and merged with the Wichita tribe.

Soon, the Chisholm Trail wound its way to Spanish Fort, which now had a population of about 1,000. The crossing at the Red River signaled the entry into untamed Indian Territory, which provided cowhands a place to blow off steam. Spanish Fort opened 4 hotels, several saloons, bordellos, and a few specialty shops, including the first store of that famous cobbler H.J. Justin. The town also boasted a doctor. It has been said on one Christmas morning, 4 men died after an all-night poker game at the Cowboy saloon went awry. Spanish Fort cemetery holds 43 graves: 3 suicides and 40 murders.

Once the railroad made the Chisholm Trail obsolete, Spanish Fort lost its glory. Being so remote from major roads and rail lines, the inhabitants moved south to greener pastures. By the turn of the century the rough trail town quieted into a laid-back, tiny community. With the discovery of oil in fields surrounding Spanish Fort, the town rebounded long enough to open a schoolhouse in 1924, but now it too sits forgotten along the road that once lead cattle across the banks of the Red River.

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