In June 1851, General William Belknap set up a small fort in Young County that served as a protection for white settlers against Plains
Indians and for Indians on the Brazos River Reservation against white settlers. Fort Belknap, as it came to be known, was first made out
of rock dugouts called jacals, but eventually the campus included several native stone buildings quarried from the area.

Belknap centered the western frontier as a hub for the various roads that crossed North Texas. The ubiquitous Butterfield-Overland Mail
line stopped here, as well as feeders for the
Shawnee cattle trail.

A small auxiliary town sprung up around the fort, housing both whites  and Natives of the Tonkawa, who sought refuge from the more
powerful Comanche. Tonkawa men also served as scouts, and stayed with Confederate forces as the Union troops headed for
Leavenworth in 1861.

The fort was too far west for major Civil War action, though the Texas Rangers - who lead raids on non-Confederates - used Belknap
as a staging area. Many
depredations from Indians took place in the area during and after the Civil War, which eventually led to the Red
River Wars.

Upon defeat, the fort briefly held troops to secure the frontier until Fort Griffin and Fort Richardson opened, thus moving the frontier
further  west -and Belknap was abandoned.

Locals and new settlers dismantled many buildings and fences to help build their own houses. However, the Citizens Group of Young
County, together with the help of Senator Benjamin G. O'Neal, restored what was left of the camp in celebration of the Texas Centennial.
The fort is now a jewel of a relic, with camp sites and a large picnic area.  Inside the administration building is a very interesting museum,
and a restored barrack is home to fort archives. One of the outbuildings serves as a historic dress museum, at least when I visited it.

Fort Belknap is unique, too, in that it's a county park and not a state park. The fort is now a good destination for family reunions, weekend
drives, and civil war reenactments.
Fort Belknap lies northwest of Graham by Newcastle. From Graham, take US 380 west to
Newcastle, then veer south on either TX 251 or TX 61. Signs will guide you to the fort.
In the 1930s, locals citizens restored the Fort, adding several amenities to the grounds. This  picnic spot uses a network of grapevines for the
roof. Eating under the cool shade is a great way to spend an afternoon!
Antebellum Frontier
Finds at the museum
Relics abound in the museum
Robert S. Neighbors' grave lies at the Fort Belknap cemetery. A federal Indian agent stationed for some time at Fort Belknap, he was murdered
for being
too fair to Native Americans.
Questions or comments? E-mail me: robin@redriverhistorian.com
The Butterfield Stage Coach schedule from 1858 shows Fort Belknap as a prominent stop.
In 1934, the U.S. government conducted a historic building survey in preparation of grant funds to be disbursed for the fort's restoration. The
condition of the fort before the restoration - which coincided with the Texas Centennial of 1936 - is well
documented in the Library of Congress.
Fort Belknap served as a station on the Butterfield Trail. (Partial map from Abilene Public Library, n.d.).
How to Get
There