Texas Frontier Fort Rises From the Ruins

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Tony Maples Photography


As the people in Fredericksburg suffered from limited food supplies and disease two and a half years from the arrival of the first settlers, the cavalry (in the form of a company of infantry, then dragoons) came to the rescue! The first western frontier fort in Texas was built on the eastern edge of Fredericksburg where the Pinta Trail from San Antonio crossed Barons Creek. It was originally called Camp Houston, but changed in 1849 to honor a casualty of the Mexican War. The continual arrival of new settlers almost resulted in open war with the various Indian tribes in the area, but a second treaty (the Treaty of Fort Martin Scott) was negotiated in 1850.

Pinta Trail Crossing Barons Creek in Fredericksburg

Pinta Trail Crossing

Photo: Robert Deming

The Pinta Trail was the area’s main route northwest from San Antonio, and the U.S. Army’s first Texas frontier fort was built there in December 1848. The town benefited from the jobs brought by the fort, which was built by stonemasons and carpenters from the fledgling communities of Friedrichsburg and Zodiac. This photo shows where the Pinta Trail crossed Barons Creek beside the fort.  This creek still flows clean and clear and is close to the hearts of the townspeople.

This recreated sign post shows the important settlements in the Hill Country.

Pinta Trail Signpost

Photo: Robert Deming

The Spanish had settled a fort and mission on the San Saba River near present day Menard almost a hundred years earlier in 1757, but it was destroyed and all the inhabitants killed a year later. Fredericksburg was the frontier, beyond which various Indian tribes held undisputed control. The fort brought security and jobs, but was closed in 1853 as the frontier moved west. The Texas Forts Trail is a 650 mile loop which connects the eight forts and the Spanish Presidio San Saba.

The Jail Survives

Fort Martin Scott Brig

Photo: Robert Deming

The jail was rebuilt in 1988. This structure is close to Barons Creek and was used after the fort was abandoned by the Braeutigam family as a home, bier garten, and horse race track. Local companies of Texas Rangers occupied the fort during the Civil War. Both Robert E. Lee and Phillip Sheridan brought troops to the property. The City of Fredericksburg bought the property in 1959.

Fort Martin Scott drawing by Gotthold G. H. Lentz  shows the original plan.

Fort Martin Scott by Lentz

Photo: www.fortmartinscott.org

The City of Fredericksburg is rebuilding the Fort and installing interpretive exhibits, and there is much to learn about its story. The restoration project has reproduced the blacksmith shop, sutler’s store, two officers’ quarters, and there are paintings of historical scenes around the grounds. Adjacent to the Fort, the Texas Rangers Heritage Center is being built on land leased from the City.  Someday, with historical tourism on the rise, this recreated frontier fort may be as popular for visitors as the National Museum of the Pacific War.

The Whipping Tree

Fort Martin Scott Oaks

Photo: Robert Deming

This oak tree, at over 300 years old, has witnessed much history. One soldier returned from town drunk, was held in the jail until the visiting military judge made his rounds several months later. He was sentenced to 50 lashes and branding, followed by dishonorable discharge from the Army.  This oak tree is thought to be the tree which soldiers were tied for this brutal punishment – 50 lashes with a whip, followed by branding a “D” on their buttocks (drunkard), then expulsion from the fort. U.S. Army units were issued branding irons for this purpose in the 19th century. You may be able to see the jail cells where soldiers were held if the interpreter is on duty. If you want to hear more of the story, contact the Fort about group tours, programs, and special events. Check the official fort website at: www.ftmartinscott.org.