A Day at Fort Chadbourne

The West Texas Photographic Society, of which I am its newly elected President, took a field trip to Fort Chadbourne this past Saturday.

First, a little history: Fort Chadbourne was established on October 28, 1852 by a few companies of the 8th U.S. Infantry. According to the fort’s website, the fort was named in honor of 2nd Lt. Theodore Lincoln Chadbourne who was killed at the Battle of Resaca de la Palma during the Mexican war. During the years that the fort functioned as a military fort, as many as 450 or as few as 50 men were stationed there. Men such as Robert E. Lee, James Longstreet, George Pickett, Albert Sidney Johnston, and John Bell Hood all passed through its doors.

In 1877, long after the Civil War, the land that included the fort was purchased by Thomas Lawson Odom and his wife Lucinda for $500.00 in gold. Odom served in the Texas Legislature in 1882 and was pivotal in passing the law that made it a felony to cut another man’s fence in Texas.

The Odoms were the first of eight generations to call Fort Chadbourne home. Over the years, because of several generations without any boys, the name  changed from Odom to Wylie to Richards. Today Garland Richards and his wife Lana still reside on the property.

During the 125 years or so since Thomas Lawson Odom occupied the ranch, the fort fell on hard times. Many of the original buildings had fallen into decay.

In 2007, a massive restoration project began which aimed at restoring many of the buildings to their former state. Consultants were brought in and the buildings were restored precisely the way they were built originally. The project was completed in 2012 with a massive 12,500-foot Visitor Center and Museum, housing over 300 antique firearms and thousands of military and native American artifacts. The Visitor Center also features a well-equipped research library.

The ranch upon which the fort sits boasts a small herd of bison and two Texas Longhorns, named Duke and Daisy. On a previous visit to the fort, I actually got to witness one of the Longhorns sparring with a bison, something I’d never seen.

The Fort now hosts an annual living history event, Fort Chadbourne Days. That’s why we had come this week. Photographically, I was primarily interested in details. I was trying to isolate details that suggested an earlier, simpler way of living unique to our nation’s heritage. These were to be part of a growing body of work for me. Here are a few of my favorites:

One last shot just for fun. Apparently, the military experimented in the 1800s with using camels in the southwest. Dubbed the U.S. Camel Corps, the thought was that camels would be better adapted to the dry conditions of the southwest, and could carry more than a horse. Well, Fort Chadbourne had a few camels on the property on Saturday. I happen to like this image, in which the camel seems, at least to me, awkward and out of place. I wonder if he felt that way, too?

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