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SPANISH FORT, TEXAS

Texas Ghost Town
Montague County, Central Texasn North

National Register of Historic Places

33 57' 7.23" N, 97 37' 36.1" W (33.952009, -97.626693)
FM 103
17 miles N of Nocona
1 mile S of the Red River
26 miles NE of Montague the county seat
37 miles NE of Bowie
Cities within 60 miles:
Decatur, Gainsville and Wichita Falls
Population: 50 est.

Spanish Fort, Texas Area Hotels › Bowie Hotels
Spanish Fort Texas old store
The store
Photo courtesy Robin Jett

Spanish Fort, Texas

by Robin Jett

The Roads of Texas
atlas AND Ghost Towns of Texas by T. Lindsay Baker claim that Spanish Fort is a ghost town - but when I visited it, quite a few live souls waved at me from their riding lawn mowers. However, when taking into account the colorful history of this now-sleepy town on the banks of the river that runs red (ok, most of the time it's brown), the term "ghost town" aptly describes this community.

The site that Spanish Fort now occupies was once a Taovaya Indian village. Mostly, the natives peacefully farmed and traded with the French. In 1759, Spanish troops under Diego Ortiz Parilla tried to claim the territory after a Taovaya and Comanche raid on the San Saba mission. To thwart the Spanish, the Taovaya built a large fort, surrounding it by a moat. The Taovaya and Comanche tribes (some say with French help, although that was probably not likely) captured a Spanish canon, and used it successfully in a battle that made the Lords of the South run for the hills. If the natives had known high-fives back then, they probably would've exchanged several.

But the history of the Western Frontier proved that peace never remained for long. In the 1830s, American settlers, in their good ol' manifest ways, decided that the fort they found in the fertile Red River valley should be rightfully theirs. Since they thought it belonged to the Spanish (may have been the canon that led them to this conclusion), they named the "new" town they founded Spanish Fort. The Taovaya, decimated by smallpox, decided that the neighborhood was going to the birds, so they headed west and merged with the Wichita.

Soon, the Chisholm Trail cut its way to Spanish Fort, which now had a population of about 1,000. The crossing at the Red River signaled the entry into untamed Indian Territory, which provided the cowhands a reason to need lots of wine, women, and song. Spanish Fort complied by opening 4 hotels, several saloons, bordellos, and a few specialty shops, including the first store of that famous cobbler H.J. Justin. The town also boasted a doctor, who remained busy tending to the dying after gunfights. It has been told that on one Christmas morning, 4 men found their way into the red soil of the Spanish Fort cemetery after an all-night poker game at the Cowboy saloon went awry. Ghost Towns tells of the cemetery holding 43 graves: 3 suicides and 40 murders.

Once the railroad made the Chisholm Trail obsolete, Spanish Fort lost its glory. Being so remote from major roads and rail lines, the inhabitants moved south to greener pastures. By the turn of the century the rough trail town quieted into a laid-back, tiny community. With the discovery of oil in fields surrounding Spanish Fort, the town rebounded long enough to open a schoolhouse in 1924, but now it too sits forgotten along the road that once lead cattle across the banks of the Red River.

Robin Jett

Spanish Fort Landmarks

Spanish Fort Tx Closed School
Spanish Fort Closed School
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
1924 Spanish Fort High School, Texas
1924 Spanish Fort High School
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
See Texas Schoolhouses
Spanish Fort Tx Baptist Church
Spanish Fort Baptist Church
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
Spanish Fort Tx Closed Church
A closed church
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
See Texas Churches
1939 Spanish Fort Cemetery, Spanish Fort Tx
1939 Spanish Fort Cemetery Entrance
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
Spanish Fort Cemetery tombstones, Spanish Fort Tx
Spanish Fort Cemetery
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
See Texas Cemeteries | Texas Towns | Ghost Towns
Spanish Fort Tx Marker
Spanish Fort Texas Marker
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
Abandoned Bridge, Spanish Fort Texas
Abandoned Bridge SE of Spanish Fort
Photo courtesy Barclay Gibson, 2007
Bibliography:
Baker, T. Lindsay. Ghost Towns of Texas. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986.
Farman, Irvin. Standard of the West. Fort Worth: TCU Press, 1996.
Jelks, B. Edward. Taovaya Indians. Handbook of Texas On-line.
Texas A&M University. The Roads of Texas. Fredericksburg, TX: Shearer Publishing, 1988, rev. 1995,1999.

Robin Jett
May 2002
TX Montague County 1920s Map
1920s Montague County map showing Spanish Fort
NE of Montague & Bowie
From Texas state map #10749

Courtesy Texas General Land Office

Take a road trip

Spanish Fort, Texas Nearby Towns:
Montague the county seat
Bowie
Nocona
Decatur
Gainsville
Henrietta
Wichita Falls
See Montague County | Central Texasn North

Book Hotel Here:
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