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The Ghosts of Fort Phantom - Page 2

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Although the isolated fort was vulnerable to attacks, its garrison had only peaceful encounters with the Indians, including the Comanche, Lipan, Wichita, Kiowa, and Kickapoo. Because its occupation was relatively uneventful, the fort was abandoned on April 6, 1854. At the time of its evacuation, the Indian menace had been curbed due to the establishment of reservations on the upper Brazos and the Clear Fork to the northeast.

 

As the troops marched out of Fort Phantom headed toward El Paso, the looked back to discover the fort was in flames. The event was blamed on the Indians or Confederate troops, but many said that it was the members of the garrison, because of their distaste for the post, who set the fire.

 

Fort Phantom Hill, Texas

Fort Phantom, Kathy Weiser, November, 2009.

This image available for photographic prints& downloads HERE!

 

 

 

In 1858 the remaining structures of the fort were repaired and utilized as a way station the Southern Overland (Butterfield) Mail Stagecoach Line. During the Civil War, Colonel James B. (Buck) Barry and some of his units used Fort Phantom Hill as a base of field operations. Beginning in 1871, the fort served as a subpost of Fort Griffin, near the site of present Albany, Texas .

After the Indian Wars subsided, a town grew up around the fort ruins. In 1876-77, it was a buying and shipping point for buffalo hides. By 1880, Fort Phantom had a population of more than 500 and was made the Jones County seat the following year in May, 1991. However, that was a short lived title, as the county seat was moved just six months later in November to nearby Anson, Texas.

The Texas and Pacific Railway routed its tracks through Abilene, fourteen miles to the south. A letter written to the San Antonio Express in 1892 commented that Fort Phantom contained nothing but "one hotel, one saloon, one general store, one blacksmith shop, and 10,000 prairie dogs."

In 1928, John Guitar of Abilene, Texas purchased the property. In 1969, his grandson, Jim Alexander, also of Abilene, deeded the property to the Fort Phantom Foundation to ensure its long-term preservation.

 

Today Fort Phantom Hill is one of the most pristine historic sites in Texas. Besides a dozen or so chimneys sprouting up above the plains, the 22-acre site includes three intact stone buildings including the powder magazine, a guardhouse, and the commissary. The site is open daily during daylight hours and is free of charge to visitors. While no accommodations are provided at the site, informational brochures are available and the major structures are clearly marked. Visiting the site gives modern day visitors a feel for what life must have been like here in the 1850s, as people tried to tame the unforgiving West Texas landscape. The fort is part of the Texas Forts Trail, a 650-mile highway tour of historic Texas.

 

The fort is 11 miles north of Interstate 20 at Abilene, Texas on FM 600. You can also access the fort on the Texas Forts Trail on FM2833. Informational pamphlets are available on site and major structures are marked.

Ironically, the Fort Phantom Hill Reservoir was built in 1937 two miles south of the old post that suffered so badly from a lack of water. The reservoir supplies water for about 100,000 people in Taylor and Jones counties.

As to the hauntings of the Fort, its name alone suggests that it would only make sense that the place would be alive with spirits from the past.

 

Fort Phantom Hill, Texas Guardhouse

Fort Phantom Guardhouse, Kathy Weiser, November, 2009. This image available for This image available for photographic prints& downloads HERE!

 

Several legends exist that the place is haunted by restless Indians of frontier times, who continue to stalk their ancient grounds during the night. Another says the fort is haunted by an innocent man who was wrongly hanged near the fort. After his life ended at the end of a rope, his accusers are all said to have died in mysterious ways.

 

A former Abilene psychic, who visited the fort, said that he suddenly saw the old officers’ quarters change into its former complete structure, where he found himself in the parlor. There, two men in officer’s uniforms stood before him. One man was said to have been tall and thin, while the other was a red haired short man with piercing eyes.

 

As the psychic stood their in fright, the men glared at him, seemingly unhappy at his intrusion. When he turned to flee, the apparitions and the restored building faded.

 

The nearby Lake Fort Phantom Hill is also said to be haunted by a watery spirit who is familiarly called the "Lady of the Lake.”

 

This phantom woman is said to have been seen numerous times, the first of which almost 150 years ago, long be the lake even existed. Dressed in a light-colored long gown or robe the watery ghost is said have been seen wandering aimlessly around the lakeside. Others who have seen her described the apparition as floating over the lake, sometimes carrying a lantern and surrounded by a bluish glow.

 

Who is this restless spirit? The answer to this question provides as many legends and the spirit herself. The first legend says she was the wife of a pioneer who built a small cabin in the woods that are now filled with Lake Phantom. In the midst of the dangerous Comancheria, the cabin was often attacked by Indians

 

 

Continued Next Page

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