After the Second Battle of Adobe Walls, it was determined that the Texas Panhandle should be cleared of Indians. A military camp was established by late January 1875 under the command of Major James Biddle. Within a month, Biddle was ordered to select a site for a permanent post from which soldiers could patrol the borders of Indian Territory, protect cattle drives headed north to Kansas, and encourage settlement of the region. Biddle chose a low plateau overlooking Sweetwater Creek, near present-day Mobeetie, Texas. The new post was first called Camp Cantonment on the Sweetwater River and construction began in July. Stables, storehouses, and the guardhouse were built with cottonwood posts or adobe, but for more substantial buildings lumber had to be hauled in from Dodge City, Kansas, almost 200 miles to the north. In its early years, the fort was called home to about 200 soldiers.
In February 1876, the post was renamed Fort Elliott, in honor of Major Joel H. Elliott, who was killed in the Battle of the Washita. By 1878, several other buildings had been added to the post, including the post commander’s residence, six sets of officers’ quarters, five barracks, post headquarters, a combined school and chapel, and a 12-bed hospital. In the 1880s, regiments of Buffalo Soldiers, as well as numerous Indian Scouts were stationed at the fort.
Their primary tasks were to patrol the Indian Territory border, stop hunting parties from entering the Texas Panhandle, and pursue Indians who had escaped their reservations. Also, they protected the cattle herds along the trails and by 1880, a number of large ranches were established in the area where nearly 300,000 cattle grazed.
In 1887, the first railroad was established in the Texas Panhandle, bypassing Fort Elliott 18 miles to the north. Three years later, in October 1890, the fort was closed. Over the next several years, the buildings were sold. Today, there are no remains the fort is left, but the site is designated with a historical marker.
© Kathy Weiser-Alexander, updated February 2020.