Paisano Pete, the world's largest roadrunner, welcomes people into Fort Stockton.
|Nickname(s): "Stockton; Stakitas; FS"|
Location of Fort Stockton, Texas
Fort Stockton is a city in Pecos County, Texas, United States. It is the county seat of Pecos County, located on Interstate Highway 10, U.S. Highways 67, 285, and 385, and the Santa Fe Railroad, 329 miles (529 km) northwest of San Antonio and 240 miles (390 km) east of El Paso.
The population was 8,535 at the 2010 census.
Fort Stockton (named Camp Stockton until 1860) grew up aroundComanche Springs, one of the largest sources of spring water in Texas, and near the military fort founded in 1859 and named for Robert Field Stockton. Comanche Springs was a favorite rest stop on the Great Comanche Trail to Chihuahua, San Antonio-El Paso Road, the Butterfield Overland Mail Route.
In 1861, the fort was garrisoned by 39 men of Company C, 8th Infantry, under the command of Capt. Arthur Tracy Lee, who evacuated the fort by April. The Confederates took possession of the fort on 9 May by Charles L. Pyron at the outbreak of the Civil War, but soon turned command over to Capt. William C. Adams. With the failure of John Baylor's invasion of New Mexico, a general evacuation of West Texas occurred in 1862.
In 1867, the Army rebuilt the fort on a larger and more permanent basis. Other forts in the frontier fort system were FortsGriffin, Concho, Belknap, Chadbourne, Richardson, Davis, Bliss, McKavett, Clark, McIntosh, Inge, and Phantom Hill in Texas, and Fort Sill in Oklahoma. "Sub posts or intermediate stations" also were used, including Bothwick's Station on Salt Creek between Fort Richardson and Fort Belknap, Camp Wichita near Buffalo Springs between Fort Richardson and Red River Station, and Mountain Pass between Fort Concho and Fort Griffin.
On 21 July 1867, Fort Stockton was reoccupied by Companies A, B, E, and K of the 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment, buffalo soldiers under the command of General Edward Hatch, while a new fort was built one-half mile north of the first post, on the west side of the creek. Major James F. Wade took command of Troops A, B, D, and E, 9th Cavalry, and Company G, 41st Infantry, on 2 Oct. 1868. Lt. Col. Wesley Merritt assumed command of Companies A and D, 9th Cavalry, G, 24th Infantry, and K, 25th Infantry in Feb. 1871. Major Zenas Randall Bliss assumed command on 15 May 1872.Troops B, G, and L, 10th Cavalry, and Companies A and I, 1st Infantry, under Lt. Col. J.F. Wade, were stationed at the fort when the Army decided to abandon it in 1882. Major George A. Purington was the last commander when the Army finally left on 27 June 1886.
San Antonio entrepreneurs, convinced the water from Comanche and nearby Leon springs could be used for irrigation, purchased large tracts of land for agricultural development. In 1868, Peter Gallagher bought the land that included the military garrison and Comanche Springs, platted 160 acres (0.65 km2) for a townsite named Saint Gaul, and established two stores at Comanche Springs. Later, Gallagher and John James purchased 5,500 acres (22 km2) along Comanche Creek. By 1870, the Saint Gaul region had a population of 420 civilians, predominantly Irish, German, and Mexican Catholics who had come by way of San Antonio. The first church in Saint Gaul was Catholic. When Pecos County was organized in 1875, Saint Gaul became the county seat. The name, however, was never popular with the citizens, and on August 13, 1881, it was changed officially to Fort Stockton.
By 1870, some settlers were using the water from the Pecos River for irrigation. Seven years later, irrigated farmland comprised 7,000 acres (28 km2), and by 1945, the total reached 12,900 acres (52 km2). After the military post was abandoned on June 30, 1886, and both the Texas and Pacific and the Southern Pacific railroads had bypassed it, Fort Stockton experienced a decline. By then, however, it was rapidly becoming the center for an extensive sheep- and cattle-ranching industry, and in 1926, the opening of the nearby Yates Oil Field brought on an economic boom. Fort Stockton was served by the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway.
Today, the original fort's guardhouse remains, and some of the officers' quarters have become private dwellings. Several other buildings of the fort have been refurbished to the 1880s. The refurbished fort site includes a row of officers' quarters, enlisted men's barracks, and the parade grounds. A museum and visitor's center can be found at the site. The history of the Fort Stockton area was chronicled by Clayton W. Williams, Sr. in his 1982 book, Texas' Last Frontier: Fort Stockton and the Trans-Pecos, 1861-1895.
Since the 1920s, Fort Stockton has experienced the economic boom-bust cycle of the petroleum industry. As of 2012, Fort Stockton is in a state of economic expansion as oilfield drilling and production has increased.
Fort Stockton is 100 miles (160 km) southwest of Midland International Airport. The town is within driving distance of the Big Bend country, including Big Bend National Park, 137 miles (220 km), and the Big Bend Ranch State Park, 171 miles (275 km), as well as the beautiful scenery of numerous "day drive" locations in the area.
The City of Fort Stockton is served by the Fort Stockton Independent School District.
Fort Stockton has two elementary schools, Alamo Elementary and Apache Elementary, both of which house grades K-3. Fort Stockton Intermediate School houses grades 4-5, while Fort Stockton Middle School houses grades 6-8 and Fort Stockton High School houses grades 9-12. The city and district share the old Alamo school building, utilizing it for the Recreation Department to host little league games. Another older school, Comanche is now privately owned. Butz High School now serves as the alternative education facility. Pre-K services, as well as other child care facilities exist in town.
The town has access to a branch of the Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Office, offering environmental systems management courses.
Fort Stockton is also home to the Midland College Williams Regional Technical Training Center (WRTTC). The center was built in 1996 through a joint effort by Midland College, and by leaders of Fort Stockton education, business, and government as a means to enhance higher education and workforce development in this part of West Texas. Fort Stockton and Pecos County are part of the Midland College service area. After just four years, the facility, named in honor of Fort Stockton native and WRTTC donor Clayton Williams, Jr., doubled in size through fundraising and program development.
The sprawling 220,000-acre La Escalera Ranch is located south of Fort Stockton on Highway 385 (Marathon Highway). The Fort Stockton Division was owned by the Giddings family for 100 years and operated as the Elsinore Ranch. The ranch is now owned by La Escalera Limited Partnership. La Escalera Ranch extends over much of Pecos County and portions ofBrewster County Archer, and Baylor Counties. It is known for its herd of Black Angus cattle and its abundant wildlife. Located near the entrance to the ranch is the Sierra Madera crater.