I recently visited Ft. Clark in Brackettville, Texas as research for the new visitors guide to the Lower Pecos I’m working on. Brackettville is a small community on U.S. 90, about 30 miles east of Del Rio. Fort Clark is one of the best kept secrets in Texas. It is currently run by the Ft. Clark Springs Association, which has maintained it since 1971. In addition to a fascinating history, Ft. Clark has the third-largest spring-fed swimming pool in Texas, good enough reason for me to go. Visitors can also stay overnight in the renovated limestone barracks building for about $65.00. Golfers can play an 18-hole course, and there are miles and miles of hike and bike trails for birdwatching. Las Moras Grill with outdoor seating overlooking Las Moras Creek near the golf course is open weekends. If that’s not enough for you, read on!
Fort Clark was an important part of the United States system of defense in the Southwest from 1852 to 1946. The fort was home to many infantry and cavalry regiments, including Buffalo Soldiers and famous Black Seminole Indian Scouts. Originally established to protect stage routes, units from Fort Clark saw action in various Indian campaigns in the U.S. and Mexico. The fort was occupied by the Provisional Army of Texas early in the American Civil War. Over 12,000 U.S. Army troops were posted at Ft. Clark before shipping out to Europe in 1944 during World War II. A section of Ft. Clark was also briefly designated as a German prisoner of war camp. The end of horse-cavalry led to de-activation of the post in 1946.
Black Seminole Indian Scouts served at Ft. Clark from 1870-1914. Under Lt. John L. Bullis, who commanded them from 1873-1881, the scouts played decisive roles in many Indian campaigns, including excursions into Mexico. Col. Ranald Mackenzie led attacks from Ft. Clark against
Kickapoo and Lipan Apaches at the village of Remolino in Mexico in 1873.
Four Black Seminoles at Ft. Clark were awarded the Medal of Honor in 1875 for their actions during the American Indian Wars: John Ward, Isaac Payne, Pompey Factor, and Adam Payne. Ward, Factor and Isaac Payne are credited with saving Lt. John Bullis’s life during an encounter with Indians in 1975. Adam Payne was recognized for his efforts during the Red River War in the Texas Panhandle.
The Ft. Clark Museum features relics of cavalry and infantry soldiers as well as the Black Seminole Indian Scouts. Over 100 years of military history from the 1850s-1946 is presented. The museum is open only on weekends, but has free admission. Over 21-miles of trails criss-cross the 1600-acre property, including a seven-mile trail along Las Moras Creek. Bikes and horses are allowed on the trails, but no motorized vehicles. A bird list is available at the office, but also watch for both axis and white-tailed deer.
The historic renovated cavalry barracks now used as a motel overlooks a nine-hole par 3 golf course which used to be an old parade ground. Each motel room has two queen beds, a private bath, cable and wifi. Handicapped rooms are available.
In addition tent camping is available in beautiful shaded spots along the creek. A large RV park with all hook-ups, laundry, and recreational hall is also on the property.
Most of the remaining limestone buildings of the fort date to the 1870s, but the old post headquarters building dates back to 1857. For more complete information on Ft. Clark, see www.texasbeyondhistory.net.