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SHACKELFORD COUNTY

A History

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In the 1700's, the area that was to become Shackelford County was home to the Indians, particularly the Kiowa and Comanche tribes, who moved south into the area around 1750. In 1759, it is believed that the first European to visit the area was Diego Ortiz Parrilla, who was on his way to a Spanish fort in Montague County on the Red River.  Almost fourty years later in 1787, more Europeans visited the area.  Pedro Vial, a Frenchman working for Spain, explored the trail between San Antonio and Santa Fe, and Jose Mares, a Spaniard, explored a trade route from Santa Fe to San Antonio.  Both men assuredly crossed the area on their way.  The area remained untouched by white men until 1829, when the Stephen F. Austin Colony mapped the area.  In 1848, Captain Randolph B. Marcy escourted California emigrants from Fort Smith, Arkansas to New Mexico.  His return trip crossed the Clear Fork of the Brazos near the future site of Fort Griffin.  This became the Marcy Trail, a route used by thousands of people bound for the gold fields. Marcy was the first to leave a written record of the Fort Griffin area.  Also in 1848, the first western defense line of forts was established, beginning at Fort Graham, near Fort Worth, running south to Fort Duncan at Eagle Pass.  At this time, the Fort Griffin area was beyond the civilization and was unprotected.  But in 1851, that changed when the military arrived in the area and established Fort Phantom, which was located just west of the present county line in Jones County.  In 1852 Jesse Stem, an Indian agent from Ohio, became the first person of European descent to own land in the area around Fort Phantom.  Subsequently, in 1854, the Comanche Indian Reservation was established near future Fort Griffin. Two years later in 1856, First Lieutenant Newton C. Givens closed Fort Phantom and built himself a home, the Old Stone Ranch, which is today located on the Watt Matthews Ranch.  At that time, the home was the last one in Texas on the western frontier.  Also in 1856, the military post of Camp Cooper was established 9 miles north of future Fort Griffin and was commanded for over a year by Robert E. Lee.  In 1858, the first stagecoach passed through the area and the Peters Colony, later known as the Texas Emigration and Land Company, attracted settlers to the county by laying out 320 acre tracts of land, thus establishing Shackelford County from Bosque County. The county was named for Dr. John Shackelford, a Virginian who came to Texas in 1835 to help in the cause of freeing Texas from Mexican control.  The first settler of Shackelford County was J. C. Lynch, who established a ranch between present day Albany and Ibex in 1858.  Two years later, George Greer became the second settler when he established his home near Hubbard Creek, a few miles north of present day Moran.  Today, Greer's home is the oldest surviving structure still standing in the county. In 1862, William Ledbetter established a salt works business at Salt Springs on the Salt Prong of Hubbard Creek, south of present day Albany.  After the Civil War, as more settlers arrived in Shackelford County, more protection became necessary from Indian raids and other dangers on the frontier.  So, in 1867, Lieutenant Colonel Samuel D. Sturgis and four companies of the Sixth Cavalry arrived in the county with orders to establish a fort. The new fort was named Camp Wilson, but was renamed Fort Griffin in 1868, after Major General Charles Griffin, commander of the Army's Department of Texas, when it was moved from the bottomland along the Clear Fork of the Brazos River up onto a nearby plateau.  Arranged around an open parade ground, the post structures included tent barracks, huts, officers' quarters, and a commandant's residence--which was a log cabin that had been moved from a neighboring ranch.  Except for the cabin, the first buildings at Fort Griffin were of temporary picket construction with walls of vertical logs hastily erected in trenches and covered with roofs of sod or canvas.

Buffalo bone haulers in front of the recently completed first floor of the new Shackelford County Courthouse being constructed in 1883

After a sawmill was brought in from the military depot at San Antonio, the picket buildings were gradually replaced with more substantial structures of roughsawn lumber. The board walls were chinked and plastered, and most of the buildings had shingled roofs.  The Army intended to construct even more permanent stone structures. Some masonry buildings were completed, but most of the frame and plaster structures remained until the fort was abandoned in 1881.  After the fort was established, a settlement began to grow around it, known as the town of Griffin, or the Flats.  In 1868, John Ledbetter, son of W. H. Ledbetter, who was to become the first county judge of Shackelford County, was kidnapped by Indians, and in 1872, the Able Lee family was massacred and two children were carried into captivity by Indians. Frank Eben Conrad came to Texas in 1868 as a post trader at Fort McKavett. Two years later, he moved to Fort Griffin. Conrad's store did a thriving business during the years of the Indian campaigns, and once the buffalo slaughter got underway, the store supplied the hunters with guns, ammunition, and supplies of all kinds.  In partnership with Charles Rath, Conrad moved the store to the town of Fort Griffin in 1879.  In 1874 Joe McCombs, John Jacobs, and John Poe outfitted the first buffalo hunt out of Fort Griffin and the final slaughter of the great herds began. Also, T. E. Jackson built his rock house on the Clear Fork, and as the county was organized as a separate legal entity from Jack County, the county seat was moved from Fort Griffin to Albany.  The town of Albany was established in 1874 and was named after the county clerk's hometown of Albany, Georgia.

The Shackelford Co. Courthouse today

In 1879, the first issue of a Fort Griffin newspaper was published. At this time, the population of Fort Griffin began to move towards Albany. In 1881, Albany outbidded Fort Griffin to have the Texas-Central Railroad Company build a line through town. This was a fatal blow to Fort Griffin and the town slowly faded into history.  In 1883, the Shackelford County Courthouse was constructed in Albany and George Washington "Swope" Hull, a Virginian, arrived in southeastern Shackelford County to establish a general store at the crossing of the Texas-Central Railroad and Deep Creek. Later, he bought and surveyed land nearby and sold lots, thus establishing the town of Hulltown, which later was renamed Moran in 1892. Shackelford County's future was now set and secured.

Most of this text was taken from a history of the county written by James Lantrip, former Shackelford County TXGenWeb Site Coordinator 1997

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