Was History a boring class in school?  Make it interesting and have fun discovering history at an altitude of more than 5000 feet.  Many native Texans are not aware there are mountains in their home state.  What a beautiful surprise!

 
Picture of Big Blue







Start your history lesson by visiting the Overland Trail Museum and see artifacts from pioneer families and listen to stories from the volunteer docents. 

For a preview click on Museum button above.



 
  Bluebonnet pic of Museum





 

For Mining history in the Big Bend area,  visit CDRI,

the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute and view their display.

Mention “Texas” and immediately images of  long-horn cattle, cowboys, rodeos, and John Wayne spring into mind.  But does “mining” ever occur?  In the 1930's the mining area of nearby Terlingua was producing the most cinnabar (the source of mercury)in the country.  If you want to start a heated debate while sitting on the famous porch,  just ask the translation of “Terlingua”.  It means “three tongues” but does it refer to the three languages spoken there,  English, Spanish, and Native American, or to the three branches of the Terlingua Creek?

The demand for mercury evaporated and Terlingua is now the most visited ghost town in Texas.  Don't wander into the desert as many deep open shafts are scattered throughout the region.

 




  Picture of adobe ruins in Terlingua



 

The community of Shafter was the first major mining town in West Texas.  A silver mine, it was named after Army Col. William R. Shafter who was stationed at Fort Davis.  The 2000 census of Shafter counted 26 residents.  A recent attempt at extracting silver at the site was not successful.


For military history of the west, plan on a lot of time to visit the Fort Davis National Historic Site, renowned as the best restoration of a frontier fort in the country.  The fort was established in 1854 to protect those heading west on the San Antonio/El Paso Road.  When Union troops evacuated the fort in 1861, Confederate troops moved in and stayed for about a year.  Abandoned by the Army in 1891,  the site fell into disrepair until residents formed The Fort Davis Historical Society in 1953. And in 1961 the fort was designated a National Historic Site






  Pictures of fort





If the Big Bang excites the stardust in your veins, then on to the University of Texas' McDonald Observatory and the history of the universe.

Banker William Johnson McDonald left the bulk of his fortune to fund an astronomical observatory.  Dedicated in 1939, the telescope was the second largest in the world.  Today, two large domes perched on two adjacent peaks in the Davis Mountains break the horizon 18 miles west of Fort Davis.  Astronomers from around our planet reserve time year-round to study our neighboring planets and the billions of light years beyond.

The telescopes and visitor center are located on Mounts Locke and Fowlkes. Easily accessible on the Scenic Drive, daily tours and night-time star parties attract  thousands of visitors to the dark skies each year.  If you go be sure to take a warm jacket because when the sun sets the temperature can drop precipitously at 6,790 feet and the star parties are outside, weather permitting.  You might want to plan your visit to avoid the full moon to get the clearest view of the heavens.

 

 

   Pix of Observatory and a nebula

 

 

Need a break from history?  Explore the outdoors, breath the pure air, and soak in the beauty of your surroundings.  Take any of the hiking trails at the Fort or CDRI or if you drive the 75 mile Scenic Loop, the highest highway in Texas, stop and enjoy the Sky Island, one of only three in Texas.

What is a Sky Island?  It is a cooler, wetter, landscape surrounded by arid lowland desert.  It is also biologically diverse.  The Nature Conservancy's mission is to preserve this precious area.  It has  accumulated 102,675 acres via acquisitions and conservation easements to do so.

Ponderosa pines, quaking aspens, pinyon pine, gray oak, alligator juniper and mountain mahogany grow on the south-facing slopes.  Black bears and montain lions traverse the land while rare birds such as Mexican spotted owls and slate-throated redstarts stay reclusive in the trees.

The Scenic Loop is mile after mile of breathtakingly

beautiful mountains and expansive green valleys,

 
Picture of sawtooth mtn

                     FORT DAVIS SCENIC LOOP – MILEAGE LOG MILES

START: Jeff Davis County Court House.............................................................................................................0.0

South on Highway 17 to Route 166 North.......................................................................................................... 2.4
Directly ahead is Blue Mountain – In the Spring, with sufficient rain, both sides of the
highway are a mass of colorful wild flowers.

Point of Rocks picnic area on right......................................................................................................................10.5

Davis Mountains Resort (DMR) gate on right...................................................................................................12.5

Bloy's Campground on left.....................................................................................................................................15.0


Crow's Nest RV Park on right.................................................................................................................................16.0

Junction of Route 505 Ranch Road on left.........................................................................................................24.2

Picnic area on left – stone picnic table and benches, shade tree, bar-b-q, view of rocky tors............34.5

Junction of Route 118 south and north—turn right, south—Texas Mountain Trail..............................44.0

Lawrence E. Wood picnic area – six picnic sites, trailhead Madera Canyon Trail, 2.4 mile hike.....49.8

Madera Canyon Creek – look for Obsidian.......................................................................................................50.2

Photo op turnout on right........................................................................................................................................57.0

Picnic area on right at Eppenauer Ranch entrance..........................................................................................57.6

McDonald Observatory entrance, Spur 78, on left...........................................................................................58.0


Second entrance to McDonald Observatory left and picnic area under tree on right..........................58.4

Picnic area with grand view on right....................................................................................................................60.6

Limpia Crossing gate on left...................................................................................................................................65.9

Entrance to Davis Mountains State Park on right............................................................................................69.4

Return to Jeff Davis County Court House..........................................................................................................73.6

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Fort Davis Historical Society

Designer: Marcus Seguin

welcomes you

To The Historical Town of Fort Davis Texas

Fort Davis Historical Society

Created By: Veronica Kiley

Suggestions or opinions?  Please

Email us your thoughts, or come see us in person.

Copyright © Ft. Davis Historical Society.

All rights reserved.

The Fort Davis Historical Society was organized and incorporated in 1953 for the purpose of preserving the 19th century frontier Fort for which the town is named, and the history of Far West Texas.
In 1961, the Fort became a National Historic Site and the Society expanded its activities to include the Overland Trail Museum, the Pioneer Cemetery, a monthly year-round lecture series, an oral history program, and participation in community events.
The entire small unincorporated community of Fort Davis is historic. Tucked against a backdrop of Sleeping Lion Mountain, it retains much of the charm of the early unsettled west. We hope through this website to introduce you to the serenity, beauty, and history of one of the last pristine areas of Texas.

The name “Fort Davis Historical Society” does not limit its mission of preserving area history to just the community. The current threat of a 42” natural gas pipeline, if built, will mark the beginning of the end of this pristine region beloved by so many around the world. Because of this imminent threat, it is even more important that we work diligently to preserve a way of life that greed is about to

destroy, if not in reality, at least in memory.
Dirt roads abound. There are no traffic lights. Stop signs appeared only recently. Most of the nearly 2000 residents of Jeff Davis county are scattered throughout the mountains, with the balance clustered “in town”. But come visit and see for yourself. In the meantime let us tell you a little bit about our home.