Fort Phantom Hill

The occupation of Fort Phantom, north of Abilene, only lasted two years and five months.  Yet, on some days, it must have felt like a lifetime.

Soldiers traveled from forts in Arkansas and from the Indian Territory to erect this new fort.  The purpose of the fort was to protect travelers and settlers from Comanche raiding parties.

The grand, ghostly chimneys don’t begin to convey the hardships endured during these short years.  Yet, the feeling of isolation is still present even though a state highway divides the fort.

While living in tents, the soldiers constructed wooden houses for the officers using limited building supplies.  The enlisted men lived in pole huts with dirt floors and grass thatched roofs.

The Guard House or Jail was used to house soldiers for fighting or drinking whiskey, called bug juice.

Unusual for Texas, some houses had a cellar.

The ubiquitous Prickly Pear Cactus was as thorny a problem for them as for present day land owners.

Rattlesnakes are a fact of life in Texas. As the soldiers traveled to this location, a Texas Blue Norther struck.  Temperatures dropped quickly and the wind blew fiercely.  One teamster, twenty-seven oxen and mules froze to death in the sudden cold.

In the beginning, there were few problems from the Comanches.  But by 1853, travelers were attacked, some killed and scalped and others kidnapped.  After Indian Agent Jesse Stern was slain, the mood changed.  A new commander did not change the situation and the fort was abandoned.  As they left, he ordered that the fort be burned.

The water near the fort was full of minerals and tasted bad.  A deep well was dug but often ran dry, so water had to be hauled from a small spring four miles away.

Mesquite trees provided the only shade.

Hardships included scorching hot summers, freezing winters with ice and snow, and the ever present wind.  And, then, there were snakes, spiders, insects, ants, and other vermin.  There was rarely enough food and illnesses resulted.

What is it?

This stone bottom level of a two story commissary remains.

The monotonous view contained these three elements:  cacti, prairie grasses, and mesquites.

Across the present day highway, the Magazine still stands.  It was designed with a tall ceiling and vents to keep the gunpowder and shot dry.  The fort had muskets, rifles, and two brass cannons for protection.

Anyone want to go back to the good old days?  Not me.

“I cannot imagine that God ever intended white man to occupy such a barren waste land.”  Lt. Clinton W. Lear, Nov. 19, 1851

“Other states were carved or born, Texas grew from hide and horn.”  Berta Hart Nance

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2 thoughts on “Fort Phantom Hill

  1. Your pictures contain elements that became so familiar to me when we lived in Las Cruces, NM, and traveled in the area and back across Texas to Tennessee. In Las Cruces, we lived on the edge of the desert where tumbleweed often blew over the tall cinder block fence into our back yard, dumping lots of seeds into our thick Bermuda grass, resulting in prickly green plants in the spring. Mesquite grew on vacant lots and along the roadways. The area behind our house has now been developed into the second 9 holes of the golf course.

    • I guess you felt like you were in an alien land. Growing up in west Texas, that landscape was all we knew. Now, I definitely prefer the greener side of life.

      Thanks for your comment. Hope all’s well with you guys.
      Wanda

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