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Texas Forts Trail Region

Participant in the Texas Historical Commission's
Texas Heritage Trails Program

Bronte: Fort Chadbourne


RECOVERING HISTORY FROM THE GROUND UP

The military history of Fort Chadbourne, a north central Texas frontier post established in 1852, may have ended after a brief sixteen years, but the Fort’s remarkable story had actually only just begun. Providing safe stopover for the Butterfield Overland Mail Company stagecoach four times a week, Fort Chadbourne helped to secure Anglo movement westward in an environment hostile to settlement efforts. But by the late 1800s, the region had become largely ranch land and Fort Chadbourne’s military force was no longer necessary. As cattle grazed where skirmishes with local Native Americans once dominated the countryside, the Fort’s stone structures slowly crumbled and collapsed, leaving nothing but ruins by the late 1900s. Aware that an important part of Texas history was being lost, a group of concerned individuals formed the Fort Chadbourne Foundation and set about managing, preserving and protecting this registered national historic site. Under the supervision of professional archeologists, volunteers and Foundation staff have stabilized all existing ruins and restored a number of military structures over the past decade, including an officer’s quarters and the Butterfield Stage Station. The restoration for some of the buildings involved a total reconstruction, essentially returning the structures to their original states based on archeological findings and, in some cases, archival photographs. Throughout this process, the Foundation has been able to uncover over five hundred thousand artifacts that help tell the entire story of the Fort and many of them can be seen in exhibits at the Fort’s new visitor center.


Location

  • 651 Fort Chadbourne Road
  • Bronte, Texas
  • 76933

Contact

Hours & Fees

  • Tuesday - Saturday 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.

  • Free - Donations Accepted 


Map & Directions

Fort Chadbourne is located midway between Abilene and San Angelo, Texas on U. S. Highway 277, 12 miles north of Bronte. Let the 30 foot cavalry spur at the front gate be your guide. “Ride On In” for a fun and educational day at Historic Fort Chadbourne.

 



Upcoming Events

The Fort Chadbourne Visitor Center, Roberta Cole Johnson Building, was completed in 2012. The 12,500 square foot facility houses over 300 antique guns, thousands of military and Native American artifacts, a Medal of Honor display, cowboy heritage, information on the restoration of Fort Chadbourne and much more. The Visitors Center also has a research library which is available upon appointment.    

Established on October 28, 1852, as many as 450 or as few as 50 men were stationed at Fort Chadbourne during its years of operation. Men such as Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, George Pickett, Albert Sidney Johnston, and John Bell Hood passed through its doors. 

At the outbreak of the Civil War the fort was relinquished to the Texas Regimental Forces, some of whom were mustered into the Confederacy at the post. Following the Civil War, Fort Chadbourne was reoccupied in 1867 by Commander Eugene Beaumont and the 4th U.S. Cavalry. Due to lack of water and supplies, along with deterioration of the buildings, the troops were moved to an area along the Concho River and established Fort Concho. Fort Chadbourne was decommissioned and used as a picket post until 1873.

The Comanche and Kiowa were the two main Native American tribes associated with Fort Chadbourne. Chiefs Satanta, Buffalo Hump, Satank, Kicking Bird, and Big Tree all roamed freely through the area.

Thomas Lawson Odom was the first of eight generations to call Fort Chadbourne home. In 1877, he and his wife Lucinda purchased land from Mary Maverick, widow of Samuel Maverick, that included historic Fort Chadbourne for $500 in gold. Odom served on the Texas Legislature in 1882 during the time of the fence cutting wars. He was pivotal in passing the law, making it a felony to cut another man’s fence in Texas. The Odom’s resided in what is now referred to as the Double Officer’s Quarters. The building burned in 1919. 

In 2007, the quarters was restored, and is now part of the Fort Chadbourne tour. It is presented as the first Ranch Headquarters of what would become the Chadbourne Ranch. The rooms are furnished with Odom family heirlooms.

Although the names have changed through the years from Odom, Wylie, to Richards, because of two generations of women, to this date eight generations have resided on the Chadbourne Ranch. 

A living history event is held annually on the first weekend of May.  Hundreds of school children attend the "education day" activities on Friday.  

There is no charge to visit Fort Chadbourne; however, donations are gratefully accepted.

 

Texas State Historical Association logo
Read more about Fort Chadbourne in the Handbook of Texas Online.