RECOVERING HISTORY FROM THE GROUND UP
The military history of Fort Chadbourne, a north central Texas frontier post established in 1852, may have ended after a brief sixteen years, but the Fort’s remarkable story had actually only just begun. Providing safe stopover for the Butterfield Overland Mail Company stagecoach four times a week, Fort Chadbourne helped to secure Anglo movement westward in an environment hostile to settlement efforts. But by the late 1800s, the region had become largely ranch land and Fort Chadbourne’s military force was no longer necessary. As cattle grazed where skirmishes with local Native Americans once dominated the countryside, the Fort’s stone structures slowly crumbled and collapsed, leaving nothing but ruins by the late 1900s. Aware that an important part of Texas history was being lost, a group of concerned individuals formed the Fort Chadbourne Foundation and set about managing, preserving and protecting this registered national historic site. Under the supervision of professional archeologists, volunteers and Foundation staff have stabilized all existing ruins and restored a number of military structures over the past decade, including an officer’s quarters and the Butterfield Stage Station. The restoration for some of the buildings involved a total reconstruction, essentially returning the structures to their original states based on archeological findings and, in some cases, archival photographs. Throughout this process, the Foundation has been able to uncover over five hundred thousand artifacts that help tell the entire story of the Fort and many of them can be seen in exhibits at the Fort’s new visitor center.