While Fort Davis by Big Bend National Park gets more coverage, and Fort Concho
in San Angelo is more visited (and both are deserving in their own right) - more
than any other fort, Fort Richardson embodies American Indian reservation policy.

The fort's original location was supposed to be near Buffalo Springs in today's
southern Clay County, but a dry spell made water scarce, and instead, a new site
along Lost Creek was selected instead. Established in 1868, the fort served - like all
Texas forts did - as a station of protection and offense against the Comanches and
Kiowas. Fort Richardson, named after Union General Israel Bush Richards,
encompassed three hundred acres and boasted fifty-five buildings, was by far the
largest installment in Texas. Being in such proximity to the Red River, Fort
Richardson became the staging area for the
Red River Wars, waged from 1871-1874.

Southern Plains tribes like the
Comanches, Kiowas, Cheyennes, Apaches, and
others  had camped around the confining protection of
Fort Sill since the Battle of
the Washita of 1868, where General George A. Custer and his troops slaughtered
men, women and children in an incredible war of attrition. The Battle of the Washita
occurred a year after the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaties had been signed to prevent
such a massacre.

Kiowa chief Satanta had participated in the Medicine Lodge Peace Treaty of 1867,
but he did not agree to the terms. His iconic speech given at the meeting echoed
much of the Native sentiments: "I have heard that you intend to settle us on a
reservation near the mountains. I don't want to settle there. I love to roam over the
wide prairie, and when I do it I feel free and happy, but when we settle down, we
grow pale and die Hearken well to what I say. I have laid aside my lance, my bow,
and my shield, and yet I feel safe in your presence. I have told you the truth. I have
no little lies hid about me, but I don't know how it is with the Commissioners; are
they as clear as I am? A long time ago this land belonged to our fathers, but when I
go up the river I see a camp of soldiers, and they are cutting my wood down, or
killing my buffalo. I don't like that , and when I see it my heart feels like bursting
with sorrow. I have spoken." *

By 1868, the Kiowas, Comanches, and other Plains people had resumed the war
path. In 1871, Kiowa bands under Chiefs Satanta and Big Tree raided the Warren
Wagon Train along the former
Butterfield-Overland Stagecoach route and military
road. Seven teamsters were killed in what was termed the Salt Creek Massacre.

William Tecumseh Sherman, by now the General of the U.S. Army, ordered the
arrests of the leaders of the Wagon Raid. Prior to the
Civil War, Sherman had served
at Camp Cooper in Texas, where he had witnessed hostilities from whites against
Native Americans. After the Civil War, he practiced total warfare against the Plains
Tribes in order to open up the U.S. interior to white and black settlement, including
ordering the Battle of the Washita in 1868. Sherman was at
Fort Griffin when the
Salt Creek Massacre took place, narrowly escaping the ambush just a day before.

Sherman treated the participants of the massacres as criminals, not as war foes.
After an investigation that led to the arrests of Satanta, Big Tree, and others, they
were jailed at Fort Richardson to individually stand trial in a military criminal trial.
This marked a continuation of Indian reservation policy set in 1862, when over 150
Dakotas were sentenced to death by hanging in Minnesota Territory for waging war
against settlers.

Though sentenced to death, the punishment for the leaders of the Wagon Train
massacre's was commuted by Governor Edmund Davis. After serving time in
Huntsville, Satanta and Big Tree were sent back to Fort Sill, but they continued to
fight to preserve the Kiowa way of life, participating in the Red River Wars in 1874.
After the Kiowa and Comanche surrender, Satanta was re-arrested and sent back to
Huntsville, where he committed suicide. Big Tree died in Anadarko in 1929.

By 1876, the "frontier" was considered secure, especially after a federal law barred
Native Americans at the Fort Sill reservation from entering Texas. The fort closed in
1878. Today, Fort Richardson is an interesting state park not far from Jacksboro,
with restored buildings and a hiking trail. It's hard to imagine that this serene park
saw so much brutal history a mere 130 years ago.

* Excerpted from My Early Travels and Adventures in American and Asia (London:
Sampson, Low, Marston and Co., 1895) by Henry M. Stanley. In Our Hearts Fell to the
Ground: Plains Indian Views of How the West was Lost, ed. by Colin G. Calloway.Boston:
Bedford/St. Martin's, 1996.
Fort Richardson
Fort Richardson's hospital is now a museum. The morgue building behind the
hospital tells of the many soldier's deaths on the frontier that were not due to
fighting but came from TB, dysentery, and other diseases.
Ruins of the Fort
guardhouse (the fort's
The Salt Creek, site
of the
Wagon Train Raid in
Young County. This
raid, staged by
Kiowa and
Comanche men,
changed U.S. policy
against southern
plains natives from
the "Quaker Peace"
policy to one of total
Quanah Parker and a few
members of his family.
Parker, son of Nocona and
Cynthia Ann Parker, was
designated the Chief of the
Comanche after the Red
River War by McKenzie
because he worked well in
both the white and
Comanche worlds. He
preferred the Comanche
ways, however, steadfastly
refusing to give up his
religion and his way of life,
which included his many
wives. (Portal to Texas
Fort Richardson's
historic landscape has
been modified many
times over the
decades. The Chicago,
Rock Island & Texas
Railroad sliced
through the
northeastern side of
the fort, leaving
behind its
foundations, ranch
chutes, and its train
depot (the depot was
moved from Jacksboro
to the fort's walking
1941 graffiti adorns
the interior of the
powder magazine at
Fort Richardson.
The officer's quarters
building is still in its
original location and is
in fairly original
condition - a rarity
considering that its
construction material is
Along the
walking trail is a
garden patch
once used by
the fort; an area
where clothes
were washed
and hung to dry;
and across Lost
Creek is the ruin
of an 1890s' mill.
Fort Richardson
was built along Lost
Creek. A wonderful
and historic walking
trail takes hikers
from the Rock Island
right-of-way to a
path along the
creek. Jacksboro's
primitive  baptismal
area is located just
off the trail.