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David Fisk (Lens of
of Fort Phantom - Page 2
Although the isolated fort was vulnerable to attacks, its
garrison had only peaceful encounters with the
Comanche, Lipan, Wichita,
Kickapoo. Because its occupation was relatively uneventful,
the fort was abandoned on April 6, 1854. At the time of its
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
headed toward El Paso, the looked back to discover the fort was in flames.
The event was blamed on the
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.
Kathy Weiser, November, 2009. This image available for
photographic prints and downloads
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,
subsided, a town grew up around the fort ruins. In 1876-77, it was a
buying and shipping point for buffalo hides. By 1880,
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
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
contained nothing but "one hotel, one saloon, one general store, one
blacksmith shop, and 10,000 prairie dogs."
In 1928, John
Guitar of Abilene,
purchased the property. In 1969, his grandson, Jim Alexander, also
of Abilene, deeded the property to the
Foundation to ensure its long-term preservation.
Fort Phantom Hill
is one of the most pristine historic sites in
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
landscape. The fort is part of the
Forts Trail, a 650-mile highway tour of historic
fort is 11 miles north of Interstate 20 at Abilene,
on FM 600. You can also access the fort on the
on FM2833. Informational pamphlets are available on
site and major structures are marked.
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 Guardhouse, Kathy Weiser,
November, 2009. This image available for photographic prints and downloads
legends exist that the place is haunted by restless
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.”
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
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