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  
Butterfield Overland Mail line stopped here, as well as feeders for the Shawnee
cattle trail.

The fort became an important trading hub for Anglo settlement into the
Comanceria. Its role as a protector of the Brazos Indian Reservation also made it a
target of Indian-hating whites, who led raids against the reservation, murdered
Natives indiscriminately, and even killed Belknap's Indian Agent, Robert S.
Neighbors.

A small auxiliary town sprung up around the fort, housing whites, blacks, and
Tonkawas, who sought refuge from the more powerful Comanche.
Tonkawa men
also served as scouts, and stayed with Confederate forces as Union troops headed
for Leavenworth in 1861. While the fort was too far west for major Civil War action,
the Texas Rangers - who led raids on non-Confederates, or anyone they
considered an enemy - used Belknap as a staging area.

Many depredations from Anglo and Native gangs 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 (it's not always open).  Fort Belknap is unique, too, in that
it's a county park and not a state park.
Fort Belknap
Much of this frontier-era fort was restored in the mid-20th century.
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!
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.
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 restoration of
the fort coincided
with the Texas
Centennial of 1936.
Fort Belknap
served as a
station on the
Butterfield Trail.
(Partial map
from Abilene
Public Library,
n.d.).
The fort's museum displays numerous relics discovered on the property. The
chaotic nature of the displays brings lots of charm.