We thought the long Labor Day weekend would be a nice time to visit Fort Martin Scott, which is located in my hometown of Fredericksburg, Texas. Along with the Old Tunnel State Park and the Exotic Resort Zoo, this is another local attraction that took me years to visit.
Fort Martin Scott was established in 1848 to protect west Texas settlers and stayed active as an Army outpost until 1853. The fort was built a few miles out of town on Baron’s Creek. It is easily accessible right off of highway 290 and is open Tuesday through Sunday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. There is no set entrance fee, however the site operates with donations.
Old, beautiful oak trees surround the grounds of the fort and the manicured parade grounds.
A site drawing from Fort Martin Scott in 1853 outlined the layout of the fort which was composed of several officer’s quarters, enlisted barracks, stables, a storehouse, a blacksmith’s shop, hospital, sutler’s store and bakery. At the height of activity at Fort Martin Scott, it consisted of 21 buildings, housed over 300 soldiers and patrolled an area around Fredericksburg in central Texas.
As you visit the fort, you can tell that soldiers on the frontier lived a rough life. Amenities were sparse, and besides the private quarters, officers didn’t have any luxuries. Single officers would live together while married officers would be accompanied by their families and would live alone.
Furniture was often constructed once the soldiers arrived with what they could find on site. From the time that they woke, to the time they retired to their barracks, the animals took priority. Reveille would sound at 0530 and at 0535, men were expected to be at the stables to tend to the horses. The day would be spent drilling, performing various duties or chores around the fort, or out on patrol.
The limited free time could be spent playing dominoes, checkers or dice. When I think of what children on the fort would do, I think of the commercials that explain “we are settlers…the boy has his stick and hoop, the girl has her faceless doll”
Out of all of the buildings on the fort, the sutler’s store was the favorite of the men. A sutler is a civilian merchant who sells goods to soldiers in the field, camp or fort traveling with the army to remote outposts on wagons. They would develop monopolies on products such as tobacco, sugar and coffee. Men would gather here to socialize and joke around.
After the infantry left in 1853, the post was intermittently occupied by the Texas Rangers and the Confederate States Army however by 1866, it was abandoned by the military. The fort was purchased by the Brautigam family who owned the establishment from 1870–1959 at which time the city of Fredericksburg purchased it and began restoration.
The grounds of the fort provide a great place for kids to explore. Even though visitors are asked to stay on the trails, the kids had a grand time running on the “track”. You are able to look inside the buildings as well, either on your own or with a guided tour.
Fort Martin Scott was designated a Recorded Texas Historic Landmark in 1936. In 1986, archaeologists from the University of Texas at San Antonio conducted a dig to locate the foundations of the original buildings. The only original building standing at the fort is the guardhouse which the Brautigam family had transformed into their homestead. All others have been carefully reconstructed. Along with the foundations, the archaeologists unearthed 754 artifacts.
Adjacent to Fort Martin Scott, the Former Texas Rangers Association has completed phase 1 of their Texas Ranger Heritage Center which includes an open air pavilion, amphitheater and campanile (bell tower).
The large star symbolizes the Ranger Ring of Honor and lists many attributes that a Texas Ranger must posses: Determination, Dedication, Integrity, Respect and Courage. It is a memorial dedicated to honor those Texas Rangers who made the ultimate sacrifice providing safety and protection for the people of Texas.
Within the last month or so, this beautiful statue was added. The kids couldn’t get over how “big they were”.
As they continue to add features, phase two will start the main building that will house the story of the history, heritage and culture of the Texas Rangers in an immersive and engaging world-class exhibit.
We will be excited to see the additions to the Ranger museum and will update the post when we visit.
Overall, both Fort Martin Scott and the Texas Ranger Heritage Center provide an excellent example of the life of guardians on the Texas frontier.