Crossing Texas: Fort McKavett

After the California Gold Rush began, various speculators and other travelers from the eastern United States began to trek west across California. Those who took the southern route through San Antonio had two main choices to get to El Paso at the far end of Texas — the “upper” route and the “lower” route.

Fort McKavett sits on the “upper” route. It’s a couple hours drive or so these days, and not that far off a main highway. In earlier times, of course, the journey there would take much longer.

There are beautiful, long views. I visited four forts when traveling from San Antonio back to New Mexico a couple of years ago. In truth, I prefer the vistas around Fort Lancaster (really dramatic, winding hill roads with wonderful views–I’ll post about it down the road), but Fort McKavett is in better shape overall.

To say Fort McKavett is in better shape is not to imply it’s all been restored. As these photos show, there are a number of buildings which haven’t been.

That said, there’s a nice little store (about the only place around with air conditioning or at least a fan!) and a number of buildings showing the kinds of furnishings and facilities people living at the fort would have had.

For instance . . . the Dead House, complete with coffins (untenanted, I hope–I admit I didn’t check, but I also didn’t smell anything rotting so …)

The dead house included a room for the still living, and a display of surgical instruments (ouch) and potions/pills/other medical paraphernalia of the time. (Sage advice: if you ever do go back in time, try not to get sick or injured until you return to current times!)

Or the sinks (which I’m guessing were latrines?), divided of course class (i.e. enlisted versus officer). For some reason, one could view the enlisted but not the officer. I decided to keep a respectable distance from both.

And then there are the barracks for the enlisted folks — how many can one cram in? Depends on whether or not there are bunk beds, of course.

The officers quarters were slightly more off-limits, but here are a few views. They were better than enlisted quarters–but not necessarily less crowded. And the Army practices at the time meant quarters were strictly rank-based. So whenever a high-ranking officer came to visit or stay, the next highest-ranked officer beneath him was turfed out along with family and would promptly turf out the next highest ranking officer and family and so on until the last one in line might have to go live in a chicken coop, if that was all that was available.

So that’s a taste of Fort McKavett. I did visit a couple of other forts in Texas, with pictures, so stay tuned down the line for Lancaster and Davis. (I also stopped in Fort Stockton, but didn’t take much in the way of photos for various reasons.)

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