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Fort Davis Frontier Military Post in West Texas: A National Historic Site

I live in Houston and have worked as a nurse. I have a lifelong passion for traveling, nature, and photography (preferably all together!).

Row of officer's housing at Fort Davis in West Texas as viewed from a nature trail above the fort grounds.

Row of officer's housing at Fort Davis in West Texas as viewed from a nature trail above the fort grounds.

West Texas During Pioneer Days

In order for the story of this frontier military post to come into focus, one must go back to the days of covered wagons full of determined and hardy pioneers and all of their earthly possessions creaking their way across the dusty plains of West Texas.

Travelers on the San Antonio - El Paso Road regularly traversed this trail heading west. This same road was a portion of the Overland Trail which took pioneers all the way to California. More than 60,000 people were taking this route to California in the mid-1800s. Stagecoaches also traveled this same path.

In addition to the normal problems of transporting people and possessions westward across a challenging environment, Apache and Comanche Indian raiders presented a threat to their safety. This trail crossed one of their regular paths into and out of Mexico.

Fort Davis National Historic Site

In 1963, the Fort Davis National Historic Site was created. 447 acres (181 ha) was set aside to preserve these adobe and stone buildings from the past. Some of them are mere remnants but one can easily surmise the size and scope of this military fort from former days as one walks the grounds.

In 1966 this National Historic Site was dedicated by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson.

The photo of the officer's homes furnished at the top of this post was taken on the nature trail which led up the North Ridge. From that vantage point, one can see a grand overview of the remains of Fort Davis. Additional photos can be viewed below.

Fort Davis

  • This United States frontier military outpost was established on October 23, 1854.
  • It is one of the best preserved southwestern military posts. The National Park Service is responsible for operating it.
  • Situated in a small canyon with portions of the Davis Mountains forming a dramatic backdrop, the fort has flatter land to the front of the old military installation.
  • Elevation is at 4,900 feet (1494 meters). A nearby supply of water made this site a prime location.
  • Fourteen regiments, some infantry and others cavalry, served at Fort Davis from 1854 to 1891 except for a time during the Civil War when it was temporarily abandoned.
  • Their primary job was to escort travelers moving westward while protecting them from Indians.
  • Buffalo Soldiers (African American soldiers) were stationed at Fort Davis and played an integral part in maintaining peace and subduing outlaws and warring Native Americans.
  • The famous Apache Indian Chief Geronimo ultimately surrendered in 1886. Just a few years later the fort became decommissioned as its use was no longer deemed necessary.
  • The fort was named after Jefferson Davis, who at the time was the Secretary of War.
  • When in full operation, the fort consisted of more than 50 buildings. There was a hospital, barracks for both the enlisted soldiers as well as officer's homes, corrals for horses, storehouses, a laundry, a sawmill, a jail plus other buildings. Some of the buildings have been restored on the interiors as well as exteriors.
  • Tourists can see the structures and surrounding countryside on self-guided tours.
  • Slideshows can be viewed as well as exhibits of military and Indian costumes plus other items of interest from that era.
  • In the summertime, costumed interpreters lend a flavor of what life was like back in those days.
Apache Indian Chief Geronimo

Apache Indian Chief Geronimo

The Davis Mountains

Formed over thirty-five million years ago, the Davis Mountains are volcanic in origin. The highest peak is at an elevation of 8,382 feet. Many people seek this destination for camping, hiking, and recreation.

My husband and I had traveled by car from Houston to see Big Bend National Park many years ago for a vacation. We had spent the night in San Antonio leaving our two dogs with my mother who would care for them in our absence.

Driving through West Texas is an experience for the uninitiated. Often one can drive for miles and miles without seeing another vehicle. Distances are vast.


The desert scenery in this southwest region of Texas provides mirages while looking ahead on the sun-heated roads. One would swear that sparkling water covers the road ahead only to find that image being pushed further off into the distance as one continues to click off the miles.

Imagine the disappointment of the pioneers who would have been seeking water in the desert. Mirages can actually be photographed.

Mirages are caused by the bending of light rays from the cooler air above striking the warmer air closer to the ground. Often they are seen on hot days particularly in desert surroundings. What one is viewing is actually a view of the sky reflected on the ground off in the distance which appears lake-like.

After my husband and I enjoyed Big Bend we decided to check out Fort Davis before heading back to retrieve our pets and make it home.

What appears to be water on the road ahead is merely a mirage.

What appears to be water on the road ahead is merely a mirage.

If you find yourself in west Texas near the towns of Alpine, Marfa, or Fort Davis, you might wish to visit the Fort Davis National Historic Site—particularly if you are a history buff. The fort preserves a frontier military post from the mid to late 1800s. It is one of the many Texas sites well worth exploring.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Peggy Woods

Comments are welcomed!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 18, 2014:

Hello GetitScene,

Glad you liked that part of my opening sentence. :)

Dale Anderson from The High Seas on August 13, 2014:

"One must go back to the days of the covered wagons creaking their way across the dusty plains of West Texas" so jealous I didn't come up with that opening sentence.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 15, 2013:

Hi Suzanne,

I seriously doubt that it has changed in appearance in many years. Glad that it brought back memories of your visit.

justmesuzanne from Texas on August 10, 2013:

I went here with my cousins in the late 1970s. It looks like it hasn't changed a bit! :D Voted up and interesting!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 28, 2012:

Hi sweetie1,

So glad you liked this look at the historic old buildings of Fort Davis and the West Texas scenery. Appreciate your votes and comment.

sweetie1 from India on November 28, 2012:

Very nicely written hub. Beautiful pictures. voted up and awesome

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on November 28, 2012:

Hi Rajan,

Looking at the historical buildings of Fort Davis takes one back in time to the pioneers crossing America in covered wagons. Quite the dramatic setting! Glad that you enjoyed learning about it. Appreciate your votes and the share.

Rajan Singh Jolly from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar, INDIA. on November 28, 2012:

Enjoyed this trip to Fort Davis with some beautiful photos and glad to learn a bot about its background. Thanks for sharing, Pggy.

Voted up, beautiful and shared.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 24, 2012:

Hi Becky,

It must have been a temporary glitch on Alastar's end that he could not see these Fort Davis photos. That fort played an important role in history during the migration west. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 24, 2012:

Hi Alastar,

Glad that you could see the photos of Fort Davis. Thanks for your comment.

Becky Katz from Hereford, AZ on July 24, 2012:

I loved this hub, so interesting. The pictures were fine here so it must be Alastar's.

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 24, 2012:

They're fine and colorful now!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on July 24, 2012:

Hi Alastar,

All the photos are just where they should be with regard to this Fort Davis hub. It must be some kind of a problem with uploading on your end. Sorry! Wish you could see them!

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on July 24, 2012:

Really want share this great look at the old west frontier post of Fort Davis but the pics wouldn't upload- check and see how they are on your end Peggy.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 23, 2011:

Glad to be a tour guide to you Billy. :)) West Texas certainly has its attractions!

billyaustindillon on August 23, 2011:

Peggy thanks for updating me on the Fort Davis history and historic sites - never ceases to amaze me how much I keep learning about the great state of Texas through your writings.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 21, 2011:

Hi Dim,

If you liked seeing Fort Davis in West Texas, there is so much more to the State of Texas that you would also enjoy seeing. Hope your wish comes true someday. Thanks for your comment.

Dim Flaxenwick from Great Britain on August 21, 2011:

What a wonderful chunk of History you covered, whilee showing us the modern day terrain.

I have always wanted to go to Texas, so I thank you for taking me there.

take care,

Dim x

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 20, 2011:

Hi Hello, hello,

So glad to be able to show you frontier miliary posts like Fort Davis in West Texas. It goes back to an earlier day and age in the United States. Thanks for your comment.

Hello, hello, from London, UK on August 19, 2011:

Thank you, Peggy, for such a wonderful tour and, especially for me on the other site, very interesting/

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 16, 2011:

Hi Om,

I can see where Fort Davis and the Davis mountains would remind you of the movie. So many movies like that were filmed in the West. Thanks for your ratings and comment.

Om Paramapoonya on August 16, 2011:

What an awesome historic site. I really like the first photo. It kind of reminds me of the movie, True Grit. hehehe....Rated up and awesome. :)

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 16, 2011:

Hi Cheryl,

Had we not gone to Big Bend National Park, we probably never would have seen Fort Davis which turned out to be very interesting and historic. Will be working on a Big Bend hub soon. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 16, 2011:

Hello Eiddwen,

Nice to know that you found this Fort Davis hub of such interest. Always nice to hear from you and I look forward to reading one of your latest hubs. Thanks!

Cheryl J. on August 16, 2011:

Great job. Very informative history and photos and videos of Fort Davis Frontier Military Post. A very nice dedication of the National Historic Site by Mrs. Lyndon B. Johnson. A great piece of history. Awesome hub.

Eiddwen from Wales on August 16, 2011:

Wow how interesting is this one Peggy:

Answer; Brilliant and here's to many more to share.I vote up as always.

Take care my friend.


Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 15, 2011:

Hi agusfanani,

So glad that you enjoyed this hub about Fort Davis and its history in West Texas. Thanks for the compliment on my writing style. I keep learning from other hubbers as well!

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 15, 2011:

Hello Happyboomernurse,

The distances are indeed vast and seemingly endless when traveling through West Texas. While most of these photos showed the more mountainous scenery, one can easily see by looking at the Google Map that most of it is flat and most of that flat land is desert. Glad that I could show you the remains of Fort Davis. It looks like the officers had really good quarters! Thanks for your comment.

agusfanani from Indonesia on August 14, 2011:

You've written this hub in an excellent narrative story that, like the other hubs, I enjoy reading it. So reading your hub not only will I get good story but also lessons how to present hubs interestingly. Thank you for sharing this wonderful experience Peggy W.

Gail Sobotkin from South Carolina on August 14, 2011:

Thoroughly enjoyed this hub and the trip through West Texas and Fort Davis. Thanks so much for sharing your personal photos which made me feel as though I was right along with you on this long drive.

Voted up, useful, interesting and awesome.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 14, 2011:

Hello moonlake,

Glad that this hub about the Fort Davis military post could bring back happy memories of your wedding in El Paso and your time spent in Texas. Thanks for your comment.

moonlake from America on August 14, 2011:

Love this hub. We were married in El Paso still miss Texas.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 14, 2011:

Hi Prasetio,

Hope you make it to Texas someday. If you come to Houston, contact me and I'll happily show you around. Glad you enjoyed this hub about Fort Davis. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 14, 2011:

Hi Alastar Packer,

You are correct in saying that Texas is a mighty big place. Will do a hub on Big Bend soon. Just got some old slides converted to a DVD. Too bad about your inherited land going to others. As you say...hope it made them happy. Thanks for your comment.

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on August 14, 2011:

I love this hub and all the pictures of National Historic Site. I have a dream to travel in TEXAS. Well done, Peggy. I always all your hubs. Vote up!

Love and peace,

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on August 14, 2011:

Texas is a mighty big place. Thanks for this look at Fort Davis. Love the history. Big Bend's got it in spades. Peggy I once was left 300 hundred acres in the county next to El Paso's as the deceased had been paying taxes on it. However, when the non paying title holders found out they got a lawyer and wanted those mineral rights so bad. It was right up against the Rio Grande, hope they're happy. At any rate looking forward to the next.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Hi dahoglund,

There is actually lots of flat desert-like land in West Texas except for when one approaches these mountains and others within the State. Happy to have provided you a glimpse of this area and thanks for commenting.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Hi Gene,

Enjoy your trip to the Davis Mountains! Drop us a line about your trip after you stay there again. Would love to hear about it. Thanks for leaving a comment on this hub. :))

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Hello Deborah-Diane,

If you like visiting historic sites dating back to the Civil War era, you will enjoy viewing Fort Davis in West Texas. There are other places in that part of the State worth visiting also. Will be writing about our trip to Big Bend National Park in the future. Thanks for your comment.

Peggy Woods (author) from Houston, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Hello applecsmith,

Not surprising that you have not seen Fort Davis in West Texas. The state is so large that one could spend a lifetime exploring all the sites within this 2nd largest state in the Union. One has to pick and choose and since we were within the general vicinity, we got to see this historic site. Thanks for your comment. Hope you get to traverse the entire state. Write about it if you do!

Don A. Hoglund from Wisconsin Rapids on August 13, 2011:

I used to work with a guy from El Paso, so it is sort of interesting to get a glimpse of the area he came from.I heard he retired to New Mexico though.Your pictures give a good idea of the landscape.Voted across except for funny.

Gene Jasper on August 13, 2011:

Peggy, Charlotte and I are on way to the Davis Mountains in about two weeks. this will be our second trip and we stay at the Indian Lodge in Davis Mountains State Park wonderful atmosphere and very relaxing. Glad to hear you like the area also.


Deborah-Diane from Orange County, California on August 13, 2011:

We travel to Texas frequently. We'll have to take a side trip and enjoy these sites!

Carrie Smith from Dallas, Texas on August 13, 2011:

Wow, this is a fabulous hub. I have lived in Texas my whole life and didn't know that this (or the other places featured) existed. I've driven to West Texas and to El Paso, but somehow I missed this historic location. It is much like you described, with being somewhat barren and cars are few and far between. This makes me want to take a road trip all over the state.

Thank you so much for sharing. The photos you posted are beautiful as well. Voted up and awesome!

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