Saturday, May 16, 2015

Black Springs Mystery Fort

Black Springs Fort
Today, on the grounds of the Palo Pinto County Museum, sits a three story, centuries old mystery; a sandstone structure that local historians describe as being a fort or block house – perhaps a handy sanctuary against Comanche raids.  Like a communal storm shelter, families, cavalrymen, rangers and their faithful steeds could gather inside and hopefully weather out a raging war party.  Once located on the banks of Black Springs, near the Palo Pinto community of Oran, the fort poses a number of questions as to its origin and purpose.

Oran, like many North Texas communities, was subject to Comanche and Kiowa raids in the 1800’s.  Roving bands, under fierce war chiefs like Peta Nocona and Satanta, could strike suddenly with overwhelming numbers and no early warnings.  The only alternative, it would seem, would be to pull up stakes and head back east. For those resilient settlers who stayed, the U. S. Cavalry and local militia units helped defend their homes.  A chain of U.S. Army forts, extending from the Red River down to the Rio Grande, tried to wall off the horse bound Comanches, but they were too fast and elusive for stationary forts. You either had to take the fight to them or barricade yourself when they came to you.  There was no surrender, only a slow gory death if you did.

The three story fort at Black Springs offered protection for the few inhabitants and travelers in Oran, a small town where the famous cattleman, Oliver Loving, once resided.  Upper level windows and low level gun ports on all four sides were cleverly placed to cover all angles of attack.  A lofty basement was used for the horses, while the 2nd and 3rd floors were for their owners.  The fort was built of stone on a bed of sand, nearly impervious to fire and arrows.  After close analysis by Texas A&M archeologists, the sand was determined to be from Galveston.  The sandstone was not from the Palo Pinto County, but from another distant region of Texas.  Question is…who hauled all that sand and stone all the way up to Oran? Spaniards are believed to be the culprits.  Early colonials fitted and plastered together the sandstone rocks to construct the small fort. 
The present day landowner, F.O. Cooper, donated the fort to the Palo Pinto County Museum.  In 2007, piece by piece, the fort was dismantled and reconstructed in Palo Pinto. 


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