Moseying: History of the Southern Llano Estacado
The importance of Fort Lancaster State Park
October 12, 2005
Ft. Lancaster is a waste of taxpayers money. It is an exciting week if twenty people stop at that park. I have been there they have a little interpretative building and a few old ruins, with a little nature trail through 120 acres of cactus and mesquite. There is nothing there for anybody to do except look at a handful of insignificant ruins. It takes 10 minutes, twenty minutes max, for someone to visit the place. It is closed on Tuesday and Wednesday. You cant camp there, either.
Such critical language! I was standing in front of 50 adults during a question and answer session after a program on west Texas historical sites. I was not sure what to say to the gentleman I opened my mouth, but nothing came out. Then it struck me what to say What do you know about Ft. Lancaster?
It was a fort along one of the trails across West Texas. Some soldiers were posted here U. S. Army for a year or two before the Civil War, a few Confederates briefly and then the U.S. Army used it as a post for a couple more years in the 1870s. Nothing important in the grand historical scheme of things ever happened there.
I nodded. You are right. Nothing important happened there. But, do you know the story of Captain Frohock and the Kickapoo raid on December 26th, 1867? The gentleman shook his head. Go to www.historynet.com and read the story about it. There are several important themes that it reveals; the tension between white officers and black enlisted men, the mental deterioration of an officer as he served in an isolated location, the poor strategic planning on Frohocks part, and the role of the Anglos and Hispanics that accompanied the Kickapoos and capitalized on their booty. There is even mention of the bravery of Frohocks wife and sister-in-law during the fight.
I paused and walked in the gentlemans direction. Because the effort was made to preserve the location and to use it as a site for historical education, historians have dug out stories such as Frohocks. I must admit a liking for the backwaters and eddies of history and the stories of the so-called unimportant people of the past. 99.99 percent of humans dont play a pivotal role in the changes of their times, but they have to contend with those forces of change. Frohock ended up getting busted out of the army for gambling and trying to welsh on his bets. His second in command, Lt. Smith, blew his own brains out a few years later when his wife told him she was divorcing him. Was it all because of that raid? Or was it all because of the stresses of the job in such an isolated place?
Are you saying stories like that have importance? The gentlemans tone seemed just a tad scornful.
I believe it does. What is the importance of knowing something about the past? Is it merely just knowing the general flow of events such as knowing a list of events and their dates. Or is the role of history something different? I think it is twofold; to learn about our place of residence, our home region, and to learn about ourselves. I like history that is about people and how they deal with their lives. Im not saying Fehrenbach and other historians of the grand sweeping tides of history are not important, but I am saying there is value in personal histories of life here, such as Allen Bosworths New Country about Ozona at the beginnings of the 1900s, J. Evett Haley Sr.s Charles Goodnight, or Eve Balls Maam Jones of the Pecos.
I paused, and launched into preacher mode. Why have we, as a culture, neglected learning about our own home and its history, topography, and ecology? Despite our supposed transient society more than half our population lives and dies within 50 miles of where we were born. Im not totally sure why I feel so strongly about it, but I think it is I admire people like the Apaches and Comanches who fought against overwhelming odds to retain their way of life. What made them so resolute? Do we modern Americans feel that strongly? Shouldnt we? To me, the way to develop that deep of a sense of patriotism is to be knowledgeable about ones home.