By Wilson White, Fort Lancaster Staff
Fort Lancaster State Historic Site, a Texas Historical Commission property, spans 82 acres and commemorates the remnants of a fort established in 1855 to protect the Lower El Paso-San Antonio Road from American Indian raids.
During the 1850s through the 1870s, numerous people traveled west along this route. These travelers included California bound gold seekers (the 49ers), western settlers, the U.S. mail line, and the stagecoach. Despite the isolation, Fort Lancaster did see a fair share of action including the Camel Corps, Confederate soldiers, Buffalo Soldiers, and a major American Indian attack. It was undoubtedly an important post for travelers and served as a place of safety in the American West.
Currently, a new and exciting project is taking place at Fort Lancaster—our visitors center in being renovated! The new facility will include a museum and exhibit area portraying the fort’s history. One of the main attractions in the new exhibit will be the Camel Corps display. Visitors will learn about the camels and have the opportunity to sit on a life-size camel replica.
Other exhibits will portray frontier soldier life and the usual guard duty. The Civil War era will be represented along with the post-Civil War occupation of the Buffalo Soldiers. A scale model of the fort will show exactly what Fort Lancaster looked like during its years of operation. The additional back porch will provide picnic tables for families and display a stage coach replica for visitors to climb aboard. A new meeting room will be available for people to host events and gather to hear presentations about the fort’s history.
Today, visitors can see the incredible ruins of the fort as well as the original cemetery and foundation of the old stage station. In the background lies the picturesque landscape of West Texas. Still isolated today, visitors can gain a good understanding of what life was like at Fort Lancaster. Interpretive signs are located along the trails connecting the ruins throughout the fort grounds. Flying overhead is a large American flag with 33 stars, representing the original flag that would have flown over the fort from 1859–1861.
Fort Lancaster stands as a special place in West Texas. We continue to welcome travelers to our site to enjoy the rich history of the fort and learn about the role Fort Lancaster played in shaping the American West.