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Survey of Historic Sites and Buildings

National Historic Landmark FORT CONCHO

Location: Tom Green County; the general area bounded by Avenues "B" and "E," Rust Street, and South Oakes Street; San Angelo.

Fort Concho (1867-89) was one of a series of posts guarding the Texas frontier during the post-Civil War era. After the war, the Army reconstituted and reoccupied most of the antebellum posts in western Texas guarding the San Antonio-El Paso Road—Stockton, Davis, Quitman, and Bliss. In addition, it constructed a new group of posts—Richardson, Griffin, and Concho. With Forts McKavett and Clark, they formed an irregular line running from El Paso to the northeastern border of Texas and separated Indian country from settlements. At the very center of the line was Fort Concho, at the confluence of the North and South Concho Rivers, where a number of east-west trails converged to avoid the Staked Plains to the north and a semidesert area to the south, both infested with Indians. Deep in Kiowa and Comanche country, for more than two decades it was the headquarters of such noted Indian fighters as Ranald S. Mackenzie, William R. Shafter, Wesley Merritt, Anson Mills, and Benjamin H. Grierson. Situated on the Goodnight-Loving Cattle Trail (1860-1880's) and the upper branch of the San Antonio-El Paso Road, part of the Southern Transcontinental Trail, the fort was also a way station for travelers, emigrants, and cattlemen.

The garrison took part in no campaigns during the first few years of the fort's existence. In 1869, however, it clashed with Indians on two occasions on the Salt Fork of the Brazos River, and it patrolled regularly to stem the forays of Kiowas and Comanches from their "sanctuary" at Fort Sill, Indian Territory. Between 1870 and 1875 the troops accompanied Col. Ranald S. Mackenzie on several arduous campaigns. One of them, in 1873, in the pursuit of Lipan and Kickapoo raiders into Mexico, created an international incident. The garrison also participated in the Red River War (1874-75) including Mackenzie's victory at the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon (September 27, 1874), the turning point in the war. The last major campaign involving Concho forces was that against Victorio (1879-80).

Barracks at Fort Concho. (Fort Concho Museum Board)

In 1930 a group of San Angelo citizens acquired the old administration building of Fort Concho to house the West Texas Museum, later renamed the Fort Concho Museum, and spearheaded a drive to acquire the rest of the fort, which had passed into private hands in 1889, and develop it as a historic site. By mid-1969 the city had acquired the entire property except for a couple of small residential tracts and two large industrial sites. The complex, consisting of about 15 acres, is owned by the city and administered by the Fort Concho Museum Board.

An outstanding collection of stone buildings may be viewed. The main structure is the administration, or headquarters, building (1876), which today serves as a visitor center and houses a museum of Texas history. Other structures include nine sets of officers' quarters; the restored chapel, which also served as a schoolhouse; two barracks, reconstructed from the original stones, now housing museum exhibits; and the powder magazine, which has been moved stone by stone from its original site near the river and rebuilt behind the barrracks.

NHL Designation: 07/04/61

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Last Updated: 19-Aug-2005