By TYLER MASK
The Texas Forts Trail is a winding road that intertwines handfuls of Texas History. The trail, which spans 650 miles and 29 counties, is a massive undertaking for anyone. A few local counties the trail runs through include Palo Pinto, Jack, Erath and Young. To make the trip easier, people can now visit the trails in book form, “The Texas Forts Trail.”
Hailing from Farmers Branch Historical Park in Farmers Branch, historian, photographer and FBHP superintendent, Derrick Birdsall, compiled the book of photography regarding the Texas Forts Trail. Sunday, March 23, at 2:30 p.m., Birdsdall will be making a trip to the W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas in Thurber to give a free presentation on his new book.
The book, with text by Kristine Davis, highlights the eight frontier forts and one Spanish presidio that make up the trail.
According to Texas Forts Trail's website, 1848 to 1900, the U.S. Army built 44 major posts and established more than 100 temporary camps in Texas.
All the building was a result of settlers streaming west with hopes for new opportunities and the need for protection from Native Americans.
American settlers were intent on putting down stakes, while the Native Americans were left trying to hang on to their hunting grounds and way of life. Stuck in the middle was the frontier soldier, stationed within the forts.
From building the forts – literally from the ground up – and mediating between both parties, the soldiers were responsible for everything.
In time, the forts grew out of tents into “civilized” fortresses, the remains of which run all through the Texas Forts Trail Region.
Forts on the trail include:
• Presidio de San Saba.
• Fort Belknap.
• Fort Phantom Hill.
• Fort Chadbourne.
• Fort Mason.
• Fort McKavett.
• Fort Richardson.
• Fort Griffin.
• Fort Concho.
Texas Heritage Trails Program is charged with taking care of the trail and promoting tourism. THTP encourages communities, heritage regions and the state to partner with them and promote Texas's historic and cultural resources.
So far, THTP has seen success in their efforts in combination with statewide marketing of heritage regions, according to Texas Fort Trail's website.
The vision of THTP views Texas as a place where:
• The diverse places of the Lone Star State are preserved and promoted for present and future generations.
• Visitors and residents delight in experiencing, firsthand, the real places telling the real stories of our state's heritage and cultures.
• The total visitor experience of Texas' diverse places stimulates local economies.
• Heritage tourism is a community-based enterprise that contributes to its livability and sense of place.
According to Tarleton State University's website, the W.K. Gordon Center for Industrial History of Texas is a research facility belonging to the University. It is a combined museum and special collections library located in Thurber, covering the town's history.
The history of Thurber is rich and different from many other towns because it was established and owned by the Texas and Pacific Coal Company.
Every facility, from homes, schools and stores, right down to churches were owned by the company.
At the center, guests can hear stories about Thurber life from locals, examine exhibits filled with historic photos and artifacts, watch a film of Thurber residents, walk past reconstructions of the mercantile store, the livery stable, the town bandstand, the 655-seat opera house and the Snake Saloon. Ultimately, W.K. Gordon Center is filled with interactive exhibits exploring the birth and death of Thurber, a once booming “company” town.
For more information on the upcoming event, contact W.K. Gordon Center at 254-968-1886. To learn more about Texas Forts Trail, visit www.texasfortstrail.com. To learn more about W.K. Gordon Center, visit www.tarleton.edu/gordoncenter.