Fort Griffin, established along the westernmost frontlines during the state’s battle to bring its lands under control, held command over the southern plains, one garrison in a line of defensive forts built in the second half of the 19th century. Although designed to be constructed from stone, most of Fort Griffin’s structures retained their temporary status throughout the garrison’s short term at defense, a span of a dozen years or so. Set high above the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, most of the fort’s buildings were rough log houses, tents, and frame buildings with earth and canvas roofs. An 1872 military inspection conducted at the fort declared the entire post “unfit for human habitation” due to the rugged nature of the structures. Not much changed, however, after the negative evaluation and only six of the fort’s 90 structures ended up in stone.
The town of Fort Griffin, also called “The Flat” and “Hide Town” developed in tandem with the fort, servicing fort soldiers with gaming tables, saloons, restaurants, livery stables, and bordellos. The nearby town also saw its share of rabble-rousers, including gamblers, outlaws, and buffalo hunters, requiring soldiers to help keep the peace.
Today, dramatic ruins remain of the fort, now operated by the Texas Historical Commission. A visitors center with interpretive exhibits, campsites, nature trails, the official Texas Longhorn Herd, and access to the Clear Fork of the Brazos River make for a full day at Fort Griffin State Historic Site.