Menu

Texas Forts Trail Region

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

Abilene: Fort Phantom Hill


Photo by Steve Butman Photography

Originally known as the "Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos," Fort Phantom Hill was established by the U.S. Army in 1851 and occupied until April 4, 1854.  Later, the post served as a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, a resting point on the Goodnight-Loving cattle trail, a camp for the Confederate Frontier Battalion and a sub-post for Fort Griffin. Visitors can follow trails among the ruins, which include buildings, foundations, and a large number of now-orphaned chimneys scattered around the 38-acre property. Portions of the site are wheelchair accessible, but this is a rustic site.  A visitors' pavilion provides interpretive materials and restroom facilities.


Location

  • 10818 FM 600
  • Abilene, Texas
  • 79601

Contact

Hours & Fees

  • Daylight hours

  • Free


Map & Directions

From Abilene, exit Interstate 20 at FM Road 600 and go 12 miles north on FM 600 (continue north past Lake Fort Phantom Hill). The main portion of the fort is located on the east side of FM 600.  Paved parking is available.


In 1849, Captain Randolph B. Marcy was sent by the federal government to explore and mark the best route through the Comancheria, the area north and west of Austin inhabited by the Comanche Indians. The purpose was to provide a safer route for immigants heading west to the California gold fields. Based on Marcy’s recommendations, a line of forts that included Forts Belknap, Chadbourne, and McKavett was established. (This was the second line of forts to be established within Texas.)

On November 14, 1851, Lt. Col John Abercrombie and five companies of the Fifth Infantry arrived at the Clear Fork of the Brazos in the area of present Jones County. Work began immediately on living accommodations, the bakery, commissary and other post structures. Life at the fort was difficult. Elm Creek was often dry, and the waters of the Clear Fork of the Brazos were brackish. Nearly all supplies had to be brought in by wagon from several hundred miles away. The decline in the rank of its commanders indicates the decline of the fort's perceived importance on the frontier.

Fort Phantom Hill was abandoned by the U.S. Army on April 6, 1854. Shortly after the troops departed, the post was burned.

In 1858, the forts’ remaining structures were repaired and the post became Way Station Number 54 for the Butterfield Overland Mail Route. During the Civil War, the post was used by Texas Rangers and the Frontier Battalion Company. After the war, Fort Phantom Hill was used as a subpost of Fort Griffin, near present-day Albany. A community grew up near the post and the site became a buying and shipping point for buffalo hides. The town was the Jones county seat for five months in 1881 before Anson claimed that honor on November 14, 1881.

Today, the site is privately owned and operated.

 

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