Forgotten Forts Series: Fort Mason, Texas

Nathanb1

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Fort Mason, Texas, is located in the town of Mason, Texas, Mason County. It’s located on a line about 100 miles northwest of San Antonio and 100 miles Southeast of San Angelo (home to Ft. Concho). It was one of the forts authorized in 1848 to provide protection for settlers and travelers through Texas.

“Fort Mason's location on Post Oak Hill near Comanche and Centennial creeks in the northern part of what was then called Gillespie County was chosen by Lt. Col. William J. Hardee, assisted by Richard Austin Howard, on July 6, 1851. Hardee left the actual establishment of the post to Bvt. Maj. Hamilton W. Merrill and companies A and B of the Second Dragoons. The post was most likely named either for Lt. George T. Mason, who was killed at Brownsville during the Mexican War, or for Gen. Richard Barnes Mason, who died only a year before the fort was established.” (Handbook of Texas Online, TSHA)

Hardee was only one of the soon-to-be famous soldiers who passed through Ft. Mason. In the 1850’s the fort was closed several times; however its location in what could be considered the heart of prime Comanche country made it a valuable asset in the vain attempt to quiet depredations. “The fort reached its maximum population in January 1856, when the headquarters and companies B, C, D, G, H, and I of the Second Cavalry were all stationed there, with Col. Albert Sidney Johnston in command. Twenty officers stationed at Fort Mason before the Civil War became generals. Twelve fought for the Confederacy, eight for the Union. Among these generals were Earl Van Dorn, Fitzhugh Lee, E. Kirby Smith, George H. Thomas, Robert E. Lee, John Bell Hood, William J. Hardee, and Philip St. George Cooke. Fort Mason was designated regimental headquarters for the Second Cavalry several times. (Handbook of Texas Online, TSHA).


The Fort was abandoned to the Confederacy after secession in 1861. “For a short period during 1862 the Confederate Army held 215 men prisoner, mostly civilians accused of being Union sympathizers, in the fort. During August 1862 they were marched to Austin. Indian depredations during the Civil War and immediately afterward were worse than they had ever been. The area was terrorized by killings, thefts, and nuisance raids. Texas state troops and minutemen had been unable to cope with the problem. The United States Army, in the form of the Headquarters Company with field staff and officers and the regimental band and Company F of the Fourth United States Cavalry, reoccupied the fort on December 24, 1866. Gen. John Porter Hatch was the commanding officer.” (Handbook of Texas Online, TSHA)

Despite the end of the war, on the frontier some forts were still needed to quell the lawlessness that accompanied Reconstruction (including some nasty confrontations between Anglo settlers and the Germans who originally populated the area….think Johnny Ringo). “The fort was repaired and improved through the use of civilian artisans and military labor.

Reconstruction lawlessness also affected military personnel; a large number of desertions and courts-martial were reported. Cavalry were replaced with soldiers from the Thirty-fifth Infantry over a period of time. The last inspection of the fort occurred on January 13, 1869. The report listed twenty-five buildings, mostly vacant and in need of repair; only sixty-nine men were present. The order to close the fort was carried out on March 23, 1869.” (Handbook Online, TSHA)

Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the Comanches the war was over. During 1870 the state of Texas organized several companies of frontier forces. Fort Mason was reopened in September of that year as headquarters for Companies A and B, Frontier Forces. Capt. James M. Hunter, later county judge of Mason County, (and originator of the magazine “Frontier Times”) was in command for most of that year. During the next year the forces were disbanded or moved, and for the last time the fort was closed.

Although the fort buildings and land became private property, the rock buildings were gradually dismantled by local citizens. Many early homes in the town of Mason contained material from the fort. In 1975 a local group of citizens began reconstructing one of the officers' quarters at the site. Many people contributed and assisted in the building. Today, this building belongs to the Mason County Historical Society. (Handbook Online, TSHA)

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Nathanb1

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I've been looking for a photo of the house across the street....it was for sale a couple of years ago and was supposedly where the officers ate their meals....at least that's what the owner and some local historians claimed. It does date to the period, and would have been consistent with the layout of the fort. Anyway, the big selling point was that Lee ate there....apparently no one is a George Thomas fan. :smile:
 

Nathanb1

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I'll keep looking. I know I have a photo somewhere (probably on my school computer!) I could have bought anything in Mason for almost nothing in the 80's when I worked there. Not now. You'd think you were in Fredericksburg or Austin. :smile: Ah well, there's always the lottery!
 

Nathanb1

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That was cool! I was the County Agent/Home Economics from 84-86, at which time I found out my gg-grandfather was buried there, and I met a relative in her 90's who had a photo of my great-grandmother (age 12) and her brothers. Her house is still there on the main street, and all us Kisers are buried in the local cemetery.

The Seaquist House is one of the coolest homes ever...unfortunately it's going downhill after not being maintained for several years. My husband's cousin was married there, and one of the gentlemen who helped with 4-H told me stories of rolling billiard balls down from the 3rd story ballroom and hearing them hit the marble steps!

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Mason was also home to Fred Gipson, author of Old Yeller and many other regional works. One of my nicest memories is wandering around the old high school building where our office was, waiting for the copier to finish shooting out 4-H cookbooks, and finding the desk he carved his name on. :smile: The Odeon Theater was the site of the World Premier of Disney's Savage Sam...and a special premier of Old Yeller, with Cousin Fess, who
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was also a Mason native on his dad's side of the family. It's the theater we go to most often, and we enjoy the concerts they have there.
http://www.theodeontheater.com/history.html

Mason is also home to an anatomically correct statue of Old Yeller, at the county library. Yep, he's all there.
 

Nathanb1

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Todd Mountain, southwest of Mason, is one of my favorite historical spots. It's misspelled in the Handbook of Texas, but the story's fairly correct:

http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/rjt15

Alice Todd, the captive, was found...by author Scott Zesch, whose relative Adolph Korn was captured by the Comanches near Mason. Zesch found records while researching his excellent book, Captured, showing she'd married a Kiowa and was on the records in Oklahoma as a member of the Kiowa tribe.

The search for Alice is another of the stories that inspired Alan Le May to write The Searchers.

Here is a link to a great site...photos of the graves of Alice's mother and slave girl who were killed in the raid....and I believe there's one of Herman and Willie Lehman's graves in Loyal Valley, just the other side of the Llano River....and a few of my Hornsby relatives scattered throughout.

Just a pretty nifty site, I'd say! http://www.andrewbutlerphotos.com/H.../14143833_gxTJ3X/1097683993_pzLz6nS#!p=8&n=10
 

Nathanb1

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John Buford was one of the eight Union generals who served at Fort Mason before the war.

Thank you for that! I was going to go back and fix that but my computer is giving me holy you know what. Typing is like crawling through cold molasses.

The more I learn about who visited or was at Ft. Mason, the more astounding it is. You realize I've been around here my entire life, and of course, like many folks, take the local sites for granted....until lately, that is.
 

Nathanb1

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I think this is the list I was trying to find. :smile:

Twenty officers stationed at Fort Mason before the Civil War became generals - twelve of them fighting for the Confederacy, and eight of them for the Union. Among these generals were –
  • John Buford Union
  • Philip St. George Cooke Union
  • Kenner Garrard Union
  • Richard W. Johnson Union
  • George Stoneman, Jr. Union
  • George H. Thomas Union
  • Thomas J. Wood Union

  • George B. Cosby Confederate
  • Nathan "Shanks" Evans Confederate
  • Charles W. Field Confederate
  • William J. "Old Reliable" Hardee Confederate
  • Ben Hardin Helm Confederate
  • John Bell Hood Confederate
  • Albert Sidney Johnston Confederate
  • Fitzhugh Lee Confederate
  • Robert E. Lee Confederate
  • James P. Major Confederate
  • Edmund Kirby Smith Confederate
  • Earl Van Dorn Confederate
  • William H. C. "Little Billy" Whiting Confederate
I'd bet my bottom dollar Ben or Henry McCulloch showed up there a time or two as well.
 

NFB22

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Beautiful land, really...weve got some great looking land/rivers/lakes in Indiana but still. Makes me wanna take the shirt off and go lie in the rushing water...as long as there are no water moccasin nearby :unsure:
 

Nathanb1

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Beautiful land, really...weve got some great looking land/rivers/lakes in Indiana but still. Makes me wanna take the shirt off and go lie in the rushing water...as long as there are no water moccasin nearby :unsure:

Generally not, in the Llano. Too swift-moving for them. We used to have 4-H camp down on the river....some of my best memories are swimming, sunning on the big rocks, and eating Mason County watermelons while floating down the river. :smile:
 

NFB22

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Sounds like a great time. I have a Marine Corps buddy that lives down in Bryant, TX now. If i ever make it down to visit him and my god-daughter I'll have to look you up and make a trip to some of these sites.
 

Eric Wittenberg

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Thank you for that! I was going to go back and fix that but my computer is giving me holy you know what. Typing is like crawling through cold molasses.

The more I learn about who visited or was at Ft. Mason, the more astounding it is. You realize I've been around here my entire life, and of course, like many folks, take the local sites for granted....until lately, that is.

You're welcome. If you've spent as much time on John Buford's life and career as I have over the years, you'd have known that. :D

Otherwise, there would be no reason for anyone to know that. I'm happy to help.
 

Nathanb1

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You're welcome. If you've spent as much time on John Buford's life and career as I have over the years, you'd have known that. :D

Otherwise, there would be no reason for anyone to know that. I'm happy to help.

That's the sad part. I did know it. Old age is creeping up on me. But as long as I have people around to remind me to take care of stuff, I'm good.

You'd know the truth of that statement if you'd seen me whooping the day I read the list of names posted at the Fort and saw Buford's name. :smile:
 
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