Saturday, September 8, 2012

Did We Take A Wrong Turn?

Out for a drive this Saturday in the big town of Nocona, Texas.  On the map below:

When we see this sign:
(not my photo - I am not that quick. I have trouble getting my sweetie to make a lot of u-turns for my photography, 
so I have to be choosy when to pick a battle... This photo from Google Maps Street View)

Spanish Fort?!  It is no big deal to my sweetie, being from Wisconsin, he did not get the Texas history/geography lessons growing up.  Did I sleep through this lesson?  I did not recall a story about a "spanish fort" this far north.  So, I navigated us there.

View Larger Map

Home to two cemeteries I decided we must stop at one. 

Found this great little story. From
The site that Spanish Fort now occupies was once a Taovaya Indian village. Mostly, the natives peacefully farmed and traded with the French. In 1759, Spanish troops under Diego Ortiz Parilla tried to claim the territory after a Taovaya and Comanche raid on the San Saba mission. To thwart the Spanish, the Taovaya built a large fort, surrounding it by a moat. The Taovaya and Comanche tribes (some say with French help, although that was probably not likely) captured a Spanish canon, and used it successfully in a battle that made the Lords of the South run for the hills. If the natives had known high-fives back then, they probably would've exchanged several.

But the history of the Western Frontier proved that peace never remained for long. In the 1830s, American settlers, in their good ol' manifest ways, decided that the fort they found in the fertile Red River valley should be rightfully theirs. Since they thought it belonged to the Spanish (may have been the canon that led them to this conclusion), they named the "new" town they founded Spanish Fort. The Taovaya, decimated by smallpox, decided that the neighborhood was going to the birds, so they headed west and merged with the Wichita.
Soon, the Chisholm Trail cut its way to Spanish Fort, which now had a population of about 1,000. The crossing at the Red River signaled the entry into untamed Indian Territory, which provided the cowhands a reason to need lots of wine, women, and song. Spanish Fort complied by opening 4 hotels, several saloons, bordellos, and a few specialty shops, including the first store of that famous cobbler H.J. Justin. The town also boasted a doctor, who remained busy tending to the dying after gunfights. It has been told that on one Christmas morning, 4 men found their way into the red soil of the Spanish Fort cemetery after an all-night poker game at the Cowboy saloon went awry. Ghost Towns tells of the cemetery holding 43 graves: 3 suicides and 40 murders.
Once the railroad made the Chisholm Trail obsolete, Spanish Fort lost its glory. Being so remote from major roads and rail lines, the inhabitants moved south to greener pastures. By the turn of the century the rough trail town quieted into a laid-back, tiny community. With the discovery of oil in fields surrounding Spanish Fort, the town rebounded long enough to open a schoolhouse in 1924, but now it too sits forgotten along the road that once lead cattle across the banks of the Red River.  
More in depth story at the Texas State Historical Association site. I wished I had found out all the details, I would have tracked down all this little ghost town's monuments.


Shyrlene said...

("I'm baaaaaaack!") ... cool 'field trip'; having that kind of history just a drive away is fascinating. People like you n me, living their life - which is now a part of our history.

Bernie H said...

That's such a fascinating story. I always find old cemetaries so interesting. I just wander and wonder about the life story of the people there.

Marguerite said...

Loved the way that story is written. Interesting and humorous. The stones in the cemetary are wonderful, such beautiful artistry displayed there.

Randy Hyden said...

The "Nortenos", as the Spanish called the Comanche, Wichita, etc.. were very very troublesome indeed. They finally began to reach an accomodation with these peoples by 1795, but very shortly thereafter the Mexicans, then Americans moved in and it puzzled the Indians so bad as to why they didn`t act like the Spainards. Great post !

Heather said...

Sometimes a wrong turn has a great way of turning into something interesting. Nice pics.

Karen said...

Well, I didn't know you traveled to cemeteries, too? This is sort of an addiction for us. I love to look at old headstones and try to put together a family history of first wife, second wife, etc.

I loved the headstones in your photos, some I've never seen before. Always hard to believe towns can simply just disappear over time, isn't it? Dust in the wind, I guess, but it makes me melancholy.