Fort McKavett

Historical Trail

Fort McKavett Historical Trail patchThe treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo in 1948, at the close of the Mexican War, provided that the United States receive an immense accession of territory.  The U. S. Army was given the additional duty of guarding this long frontier against the depredation of the bandits from Mexico and the Indians who frequently attached the settlers who being to crowd into the rich lands of the southwest.

Fort McKavett was first established on March 14, 1852, by the 8th Regiment, U.S. Amy on the banks of the San Saba River, two miles from its source.  It was named in honor of Captain Henry McKavett, an officer of the 8th Infantry who was killed during the U.S-Mexican War in 1846. The fort was evacuated on June 30, 1883 and turned back over to the local citizens.  In 1968 Fort McKavett became a part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife system as a State Historical Park.

We hope those who follow in the footsteps of  the soldiers of the 1800’s will come to better understand how Fort McKavett and the other forts of West Texas were a vital part of the rich history of  Texas!   Imagine yourself being stationed here  during that period of time.

As you tour the museum and hike the trail, we encourage you to learn as much as possible about the life of the soldiers who were stationed here far from their homes in a very remote part of Texas. 

Those Eligible To Hike The Trail

Any registered youth with the Boy Scouts of America or Girl Scouts USA, adult Scouters and other adults may hike this trail. Those groups hiking by units must have at least two adults (one of whom must be over 21 years of age) present with the group at all times and on a ratio of not less than one leader per ten youth.  Individual families may also hike this trail.   You will need to allow at least two and a half hours to hike the trail and see the exhibits.


Overnight camping is available at Camp Sol Mayer, located three miles east of Ft. McKavett,  at the Dixie Allison Girl Scout Camp located five miles east of Ft. McKavett and at Ft. McKavett itself.   Advance reservations for any of the camping sites must be made in advance.   Special permission must be granted to a group in order to stay at the fort overnight.   At Ft. McKavett you will be staying in a building on cots. 


Camp Sol Mayer:  Concho Valley Council, BSA, San Angelo, 325/655-7107
Camp Dixie Allison:  El Camino Girl Scout Council, San Angelo, 325/655-8961
Fort McKavett State Historical Park:  325/396-2358

Requirements For Fort McKavett

Historical Trail Award

1.  Hike the historical trail consisting of about two miles on the course described in this booklet and fill in the blanks found in the booklet.

2.  Do a service project either at Fort McKavett or one of the  camps.  Approval of the any project must be obtained in advance of any work done.

3.  Make application to the Concho Valley Council Service Center. 

Trail Rules 

1.  Your group must have at least two adults with it at all times, one of whom must be at least 21 years of age.   There should be one adult for every ten youth hiking the trail.

2.  Your group must stay together while on the trail.  Large groups may be divided into several groups, but each group must have at least two adults with them.

3.  An official BSA Tour Permit is required to all Boy Scout groups.   Local Scouts traveling from home who live within 500 miles of the park will need only a Local Tour Permit, those over 500 miles will need a National Tour Permit.  Girl Scout units will need an Out of Town Trip Application and parent’s permission slips.

4.  Those hiking this trail  should be mindful that they are a representative of the Boy Scouts of America or the Girl Scouts U.S.A.  They should always be courteous, dignified and follow the principles of the respective Oath and Law.  It is the responsibility of the leaders to keep the group under control.

5.  Obey all Fort McKavett State Historical Park regulations.  Do not climb on the walls of the ruins or buildings.  Do not pick up any artifacts or other historical objects from the ground.   The fort is closed for general use at night. 

6.  Please do not work on any service project without first obtaining permission from the Park Superintendent, Camp Ranger or the local Girl Scout office.  All work done at any of these sites must be done with adequate adult supervision.  And service project will qualified that will help the facility, whether it be picking up trash, building a structure or cleaning rocks at the fort.

7.  Upon arrival at Fort McKavett, check in with the Park personnel at the park headquarters located in the old Hospital building.

8.  Patches and medals are optional.  Upon completion of the requirements of the trail they may be ordered from the Concho Valley Council, BSA, using the enclosed order form.

9.  Scouts may also qualify for the Boy Scouts of America “Historical  Trails Award” if they meet those requirements.  Requirements and award application, Number 4408 may be obtained from your local Council Service Center.

10.  Emergency medical services are located at Menard, Texas located 23 miles east of Fort McKavett on U.S. Highway 190. 

11.  You may want to take a picnic lunch with you to the Fort as there are no eating establishments at the fort.  There is a restaurant located on Highway 190 about two miles north of the fort.

Hours of Operation

The park is open seven days a week from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.  You will not want to start a tour after 2:30 p.m. as you won’t have adequate time to complete the trail and look at the exhibits.


Adults - $2.00
Children 6-12 - $1.00
Children under 6 - Free

History Of  This Area

The Lipan Apache Indians were among the first “settlers” of this area.  The Spaniards found them among the most powerful tribes of the Southwest.  During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries and probably earlier, the eastern Apaches were the predominate people of the southern plains.

The Apaches had traditionally lived from spring until harvest time in small villages during which time they planted and harvested their crops.  In the fall they embarked on a buffalo hunt which lasted until the following spring and the new planting season.

They dwelled in bisonhide tepees and lived in small groups throughout West Texas.  They could discharge a dozen arrows while a man was loading a gun.  A Lipan Apache could present and string his bow, then shoot an arrow almost as quickly as we can shoot our modern rifles today.

They were clothed with skins of buffalo and some wore blankets.   The women wore a sort of trousers made of buckskin and shoes or leggings.  In the summer the men wore a breechcloth, leggings and moccasins; in winter a buckskin shirt and blanket were added. 

The Warriors would cut off the hair on the left side of the head even with the top of the ear and allowed the hair on the right side to grow long, sometimes almost reaching the ground.  The log hair normally was folded up and tied with string so that it did not fall below shoulder level.  Feathers and trinkets adorned the hair.  The left ear was pierced with from six to eight holes, the right one with one or more.

Comanche Indians

From the beginnings of Anglo-American Texas until 1875 the Comanche Indians were the principal and most stubborn adversaries the Texans had.  Until the last years of their independence they raided throughout much of the state and killed or captured men, women and children and carried off what loot they could, and burned the rest.  They conquered the original Indian residents of the southern plains - the eastern Apaches, Tonkawas and other.

Their war parties painted their faces red and most of them wore headdresses of buffalo horn.  Their long lances were painted red and each warrior carried a shied of tanned buffalo hide painted in vivid colors and decorated with a circle of feathers.  Late in the nineteenth century some wore feather war bonnets.

The Comanches were taught to ride horses and how to use the shield in connection with the lance by the Spaniards.  The shield was said to be able to stop a musket bullet.  They became the best horseman of all the Indian tribes.  This made it possible for them to ride for many years while other braves were forced to walk. 

They followed the buffalo all over the Central United States and set up only temporary camps.  Riding the horse gave them mastery over all other tribes.

Historical Trail Tour of Fort McKavett

Enter the parking area and proceed to the Hospital at Fort McKavett.  Be sure and lock your vehicle.

#1 - Hospital:  This is where you will register your group, pay park fees and check on your service project if you are  going to do one at the fort.

Tour the displays inside and learn about the history of the fort.  This hospital was completed in 1874 and was the second hospital built at the post.  The first hospital was located just southeast of this building and was believed to have been made of board and batten.

When you first enter the building you will notice the “breezeway” which cuts through the the middle of the building.  This was called a “Dog Trot” back in the days when the fort was active.  The verandas located around the building allowed the patients to be taken outside and yet protected from the sun and weather.

In the ceiling of the large hospital ward (the display room now) is a unique ventilation system.  The air would enter the room from the large windows on the sides and doors and flow out at the top of the room through the ventilators built on top of the roof.  The air flow was controlled by flutter valves operated by ropes.

The hospital housed the patient ward, a kitchen, dining room, dispensary, offices and quarters for the hospital steward.  The restroom, called a “sink” was located behind the hospital on the west side.  Next to the “sink” is the dead house where bodies were taken and prepared for burial in the cemeteryThere was normally one doctor at the post.  Cases treated at the hospital included “intermittent fever, digestive problems, pulmonary and respirator ailments,” according to a report by Assistant Surgeon S. Wylie Crawford to Colonel Freeman on the medical situation of the post during the year ending June 30, 1953 when some 1.043 cases were treated.

#2 - Officers’ Quarters:  These _____ buildings, which are located on the south side of the parade ground, were built in 1953 for the post officers and their wives.  Prior to this they lived in tents.  Unlike most posts where the officer’s quarters were built first, here they were built last.  These buildings were reworked and enlarged on reactivation of the fort following the Civil War.  Water for the houses was obtained from the Government Springs in barrels hauled to the buildings in wagons. 

The last building, nearest the Headquarters, was built into an “L” shape and at one time housed both a single officer with his “striker,” and a married couple with their child and servant.  It has been furnished in the period of that time and you may look through the windows and doors at how people lived.  Note the uneaten _____ still on the table. 

Behind the building is the latrine used by all members who lived in the quarters.    The interior has not be restored.   A removable zinc-lined tray filled with dirt was removed each day by a detail from the guardhouse.

#3 - Parade Ground:  The buildings of the fort were organized around the parade ground.  It was about 400 feet square, divided into quadrants by bisecting pathways.  Living quarters and headquarters enclosed the parade ground while support buildings and corrals formed a loose perimeter.  A __________ was erected in the center.
Later, in 1871, an adjoining secondary parade ground was developed south and east of the headquarters building located on the east side of this parade ground.

#4 - Flag Pole:  The original flag pole was erected in  1952.  This replica stands sixty-two feet about the ground and is buried 8 1/2 feet into the ground.   The flag pole is made of pine obtained from East Texas.  We are not sure what the original pole was made from.  The U.S. Flag flying from the pole is known as a “garrison flag” and has 37 stars and is 10 feet by 19 feet long.

The four original guy wire anchors, which support the guy wires of the flag pole, are located at the four corners from the post.  They were put in place by the soldiers by digging in to the rock and then melting lead and pouring it around the guy wire anchors.  The flag pole is held steady by ____ ropes that are attached to the guy wire anchors.

The flag is raised and lowered each day.  Check with the park personnel about your group participating with the raising or lowering of the flag.

#5 - Barracks:  This is one of the barracks for the enlisted men.   The building is 102 feet by 23 feet and was built from stone picked up off the ground.  The building was heated from ______________ located at each end of the room.  All the barracks at Fort McKavett originally had dirt floors and were without glass windows or doors.  Later, materials for these purposes were freighted one hundred miles from Fredericksburg.

The soldiers of each company performed the labors of construction, quarrying the stone, cutting the wood and erecting the buildings used by their respective companies and officers.

#6 - Bakery:  This building was built after the Civil War to replace the old bakery located just north of it.  The bakery was used to bake all of the bread for the post, some several hundred loaves of bread each day.  Notice the two air vents located in the north and south walls at ground level and the vents on the upper part of the west wall.  This building contained two rooms, an oven room with ______ovens, each 15 by 3 feet and a bread room 20 feet square.  The ovens, doors and slides were made of small, flat, sawn bricks or blocks; capacity was  seven hundred and fifty rations of bread each.

#7 - Old Bakery:  Here you see the stabilized foundations of the old bakery which was replaced by the new building after it became “burned out” from continued long use.  This building became the bakery storehouse.

#8 - Shops:  This building was used to rework the post wagons and repair tools of the post.  There was a forge in the south section of the building where the blacksmith worked.  Note the ______ built to haul the wagons up into the shop for repairs. This was done by the carpenter and wheelwright. The north end of the building had two floors and was probably used for storage and by the saddler.

Please do not go beyond the fence onto private property.

#9 Stables:  The stables were located about 50 yards northeast of the shops.  Here they fed and took care of the mules and horses.   The post Quartermaster and Commissary stores were also located here.  During the inspection of 1856 there were eight teamsters, two herders and one carpenter.   They had four wagons, one ambulance, one house and forty-eight mules.  They had fresh beef, “texican” beans, bacon, salt beef, hard bread, flour, rice, sugar and “krout.”  After the rebuilding program in 1872, the stable area included the cavalry corrals, the quartermasters corral, two stone blacksmith shops and two forage rooms.

#10 - Enlisted Men’s Barracks Ruins:  This building was built in stages thoughout the post history.  the barracks was originally several buildings that were later joined together into one long building.  The kitchens were later located just north of the barracks.

#11 - Enlisted Men’s Barracks Restored:  This barrack was added on to at each end at a later date.  You can see where the “key-stones” (corner stones) were in the original building before it was expanded.   The two additions date from the second occupation in 1868.  The room for the enlisted men’s quarters in the original unit had a dirt floor throughout its military history.  You will want to go inside and look at the barracks furnishes as it looked in 1872.

A stone plaque on the outside wall of the barracks reads: “___________________________________ U. S. Army.”

#12 - Headquarters:  This structure was built after the Civil War.  It was believed to have been a frame building which was later rebuilt with stone.  It has _______ fireplaces to heat the building.   The building contains six rooms of nearly equal size, the Commander Officer’s office, the Adjutant’s office, the Sergeant Major’s and Clerk’s office, the post school-room, the Court-Martial room and the Post Library, the latter used at night for school for the enlisted men.  Later, when the telegraph came to the fort it was located in this building.  The bugle calls, which directed the activities of the fort were also sounded from this building.

#13 - Secondary Parade Grounds:  This parade ground was developed south and east of the headquarters building.  It was bisected by paths and had a bandstand in the center.   This parade ground is 200 feet by 400 feet with the Commanding Officer’s Quarters located at the south end and four sets of Captains’ quarters located on the east end. 

#14 - Captains’ Quarters:  The Captains’ quarters were built after the Civil War.   There are ____ quarters still standing.  Behind the Captains’ quarters are the ruins of a second row of quarters thought to have housed lower ranking officers.

#15 - Commanding Officer’s Quarters:  This residence was built about 1857-58 which was prior to the Civil War.  It was built for the post commanding officer and is the only ______ story building on the post.  It was also the best building around and even had a wine cellar cut in the sold rock beneath one of the front rooms.  Many parties were held here as this was the social center of the area.   The “outline” of the building has been reconstructed.

The building burned in 1947 and had been used as a private residence and boarding house after the fort was closed.

#16 - Officer’s Duplex:  This practically restored building housed several officers, mostly lieutenant colonels, majors and others, whose duties were above those of the line officers.  This was also known as the field officer’s quarters and was a U-shaped building.  ________ was used to support the rock over the windows and doors.

#17 - School House:  The school was built following the Civil War in 1877.  Some of the first school classes were taught by a Corporal who was a well-educated man.  Normally the post chaplain ran the school, but there was no chaplain on the post at this time.   The Commanding Officer obtained special permission from Washington for the children in the area to attend the school because they were so poor.

Verbal accounts document that this building served as a school until the 1940’s.   Take a look inside.  This building had _____ windows and ____ fireplaces.

#18 - Government Road:  You are now back near the post hospital.  Be sure your group has canteens before you continue on this segment of the trail.  This road was built in the early days of the post to haul rock and water to the post from the quarry and springs.  You will be hiking this road to the quarry and springs and on to the cemetery, a walk of about 15 minutes.

#19 - Lime Kiln:  The lime kiln was designed to burn the limestone rock to make lime to use for mortar in building Fort McKavett.   The broken up rock obtained from the quarry was put in the top of the kiln, a layer of logs, rock, logs, rock, etc, and then set fire.  Lime and charcoal was thus produced and was shoveled out from the bottom of the kiln on the south side.  A poor grade of charcoal was produced.

#20 - Rock Quarry:  This is one of several known rock quarries in this area.  The rock was taken out by drilling holes into the rock with star drills, tamping in black powder and blasting.  The rock was then hauled up to the main post and used in construction.   Some of the rock from this quarry was also used in the lime kiln here.

# 21 - Springs:  This is one of the places where water was obtained for the fort.  The wagons came down to the springs on the Government Road each day to load up the barrels.   Water was dipped with buckets from the spring and poured into the barrels on the wagons.  Some records showed that there was one barrel of water issued to each building each day.

Fort McKavett had very little scurvy at the post due to the fact that “young poke”, “wild lamb lettuce” and watercress was used in the diet of the troops.  If you look along the springs here you might find some watercress growing in the water.

A few years ago they had a flood here and the the springs do not flow as well as they use to.  Some have filled up with silt.

We will now cross the steam and go to the dirt road on the other side.  The building you see in front of you is where the water supply for Fort McKavett comes from today.  Turn left onto the dirt road and walk to the dirt Fort McKavett Cemetery Road located about a quarter of a mile up this road.   Please do not take a short cut and cross the fences.  Take a right at the Fort McKavett Cemetery Road and go about a couple of blocks to the cemetery entrance.

#22 - Fort McKavett Cemetery:  This cemetery was established in 1849 upon land donated by the W. D. Stockton family.  It is still in use today. When the fort was closed officially on June 30, 1883, the soldiers that were buried in this cemetery were dug up and moved to one of the other military cemeteries.  However, there are a few interesting graves still located here.  One of them is of William McDougall who was killed in an Indian Raid on the post on August 6, 1866.  His grave is located about seventy-five feet to the right of the cemetery flag post.

Another interesting grave is that of John W. Vaden who was shot in cold blood while unarmed in Ft. McKavett by the gunfighter, Ben Daniels, on October 7, 1886.   His grave is located about 100 feet south of McDougal’s grave next to a tree.   See if you can find it.  He was born on _________, 1849.

You will see many old graves here.   These names pretty well tells the story of the families that settled this area before and after the civil war.  Many of their ancestors still ranch in this area.

You may now leave the cemetery and return to the fort by the way you came or just hike up the Fort McKavett Cemetery Road pass where you entered the road and go up to the entrance to the fort.   This would be the shorter of the two routes.   Be careful of cars and trucks driving down this road.   Stop and look at the Historical Marker located to the entrance of Fort McKavett State Historical Park.

You have now completed the Fort McKavett Historical Trail.  We hope you have a better idea as to why this fort was here and about the people who lived here.  Upon completion of your service project you will be able to apply for your Ft. McKavett Historical patch and/or medal.  The medal may be worn on your Scout uniform above the left pocket.   The patch would be worn on your right pocket.

Remember to get your service project certified by the one of the park personnel before you leave.  If you did a service project at one of the camps instead, be sure and get that signed too before you take off for home. 

Please drive safely home. 

Return to Historical Trails
Return to Home Page