Pale Horse Revelations #10 - Spanish Fort, Texas.
Hello readers and welcome back to Pale Horse Revelations where we explore the historical elements of my debut novel "Behold a Pale Horse: The Legend of the Pale Rider Part I." This week's entry will focus on the town of Spanish Fort, Texas. (SPOILER ALERT - If you haven't finished reading the book you will definitely want to skip this entry until you have.) For those who have read the novel, my reason for focusing on this topic will be rather obvious. This is, perhaps, the most critical location featured in the story. It is where our story concludes. It is where Bean's meets his untimely end. And it is where Matthew Lloyd Garrison comes to accept who and what he has become.
But what about the town's historical significance? You should know that the description of the town found in the book, the layout, the businesses, and the characters encountered there, are all products of my imagination. But Spanish Fort is, indeed, a real place.
The town was officially called Burlington until 1876. At this time, its citizens applied for a post office and were rejected because another town in Texas held the same name. The citizens reapplied using the name Spanish Fort and the application was accepted. I chose to the use the later name for creative purposes.
The history behind the name is interesting in and of itself. It's a history that reaches all the way back to the early 18th century when the French established a trading post that would later be called San Bernardo by the Spanish. This trading post drew a great number of Native Americans to the area to trade horses and captives. By the middle of the 18th century a tribe of Wichita known as the Toyovayans and the Comanches had settled in a large, permanent village that spanned both banks of the Red River.
Due to a combination of factors that included disease and Anglo-American encroachment the tribes had abandoned the area by 1850. American settlers moving into the area stumbled upon the remains of the village and incorrectly assumed it was an abandoned Spanish Fort. This was what was on the minds of the two men who suggested the name of Spanish Fort when the town's first post office application was rejected.
The town would rise to prominence during the heyday of the Texas cattle drives which began shortly after the time period in which our story takes place. This was due to its location on what would become known as the Chisolm Trail. In its prime years Spanish Fort was a bustling town with numerous businesses and churches, a Masonic lodge, five doctors, four hotels, and several saloons. It gained a reputation as another of the well-known rowdy cow towns located along the Chisolm Trail. According to legend, forty murders (not including the killings performed by our protagonist) occurred during the heyday of the cattle drives.
One of the most successful and important businesses to spring up in the cow town was the cobbler shop owned by H.J. Justin, and enterprising businessman from Indiana. He quickly became known for the superior quality of his boots. Eventually, Justin Boots would become synonymous with Texas cattle driving history. Cowboys would place their order on the way through to Kansas and Justin would have the boots ready by the time they returned on their way back into Texas.
Like many cow towns of this era, Spanish Fort would fade from prominence when railroads and fencing brought an end to cattle drives. The railroad did not come near Spanish Fort and the town suffered as a result. It has nearly vanished through the course of the 20th century. By 1970 its school, post office, and newspapers all closed their doors forever. Even the oil boom could not save the dying town. Today, the town maintains a population of around fifty people.
On that sad note we end our brief look at the historical significance of Spanish Fort, Texas. As usual, I have tried to provide some interesting background information that may enhance your reading experience while trying not to bog the casual reader down with too much detail. I encourage anyone interested in learning more to dig in and do a little research of their own.
Please be sure to check back next week for the next installment of Pale Horse Revelations and thank you for your continued interest and support.