- This question's not likely to show up on "Jeopardy" but here goes:
Name the third oldest continuously-occupied military post in Texas.
To come up with the correct answer, of course, you have to know
the oldest installation and the second oldest. Number one is Fort
Bliss, established at El
Paso in 1848. Number two is Fort Sam Houston in San
Antonio, built in 1876.
And now the reveal. The third oldest active military post in Texas
is Camp Mabry in Austin.
Located west of Loop 1 (MoPac) between 35th and 45th streets, Camp
Mabry was established in 1892 as the permanent training ground for
the Texas Volunteer Guard, forerunner of the Texas National Guard.
Until 1891, Texas guard units held summer encampments near one city
one year, somewhere else the next year. But as the last decade of
the 19th century began, the summer drill was staged in Austin.
of citizen-soldiers from across the state in town for a couple of
weeks proved a nice economic windfall for a community. That stimulated
a group of local boosters to try to land the annual encampment permanently
in the Capital City.
A "public minded and patriotic committee" found a suitable tract
of land along a tributary leading to the Colorado River about three
miles northwest of the Capitol, a location that back then was out
in the country. Prominent businessmen helped underwrite the purchase
of 90 acres. The land was then deeded to the state.
the summer of 1892, the camp was ready for its first volunteer guard
gathering. Austinites went by horse and hack to the camp to witness
what were called "sham battles," training exercises with the citizen
soldiers maneuvering and firing blanks when they engaged the "enemy"
force. To obtain money for more land, the guard sold tickets to
With the onset of the Spanish-American
War, troops from Texas were mobilized at the camp. When Adjutant
General W. H. Mabry-who commanded the guard and the Texas Rangers-died
of malaria four months after arriving in Cuba in 1898, the camp
was named in his honor.
The annual encampments and the faux fights they featured reigned
for years as one of Austin's
biggest entertainment events, far exceeding the crowds generated
by the nascent collegiate sport called football. The International
and Great Northern Railroad ran regular trains from downtown to
the camp and back, a round-trip ticket costing a quarter.
In 1906, spectators saw the Blue Army take on the Brown Army, with
each guardsman issued 20 blank cartridges. Infantrymen marched and
took positions while cavalry troopers dashed around on their horses,
training in all aspects of combat for a war few would have thought
likely at the time.
But when revolution broke out in Mexico in 1910, it took only four
years before a U.S. invasion of Mexico seemed imminent. That didn't
happen (except for a brief Naval occupation of Vera Cruz), but in
1916, mounted forces under Gen. John "Blackjack" Pershing did splash
across the Rio Grande from New Mexico in
search of an illusive Pancho Villa.
A year later, the U.S. entered the building world war in Europe
and watching fake battles was no longer considered a recreational
sport as Americans began dying along the front.
Located adjacent to the Missouri-Pacific
Railroad main line, Camp Mabry grew significantly during World
War I. Numerous limestone and wooden buildings still in use
in modern times date from this period. The post hospital cared for
soldiers afflicted with the so-called Spanish flu, one of the most
vicious pandemics the world has known.
In 1935, the camp became headquarters for the newly-created Department
of Public Safety, which stayed there until 1952 when it moved to
its own building on Lamar Boulevard in North Austin.
the post covers more than 375 acres. Though still headquarters of
the Texas National Guard, weekend warriors no longer stage large-scale
combat training at the camp, but it remains a busy installation.
parade ground, where horse cavalry and infantry once drilled, is
now encircled by a mile-long exercise track. It used to be that
anyone could drive past the un-guarded entrances to the camp and
walk or run on the track, but visitors now have to check in at the
south gate that had to be built after the camp tightened security
following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attack in New York.
Despite the emphasis on modern military matters, since 1992 the
camp has been the home of the 45,000-square foot Texas Military