Fort Phantom Hill was an United States Army and Confederate Army installation located at the Clear Fork of the Brazos River in Taylor County, Texas. The fort was active from 1852 to 1853 and again from 1856 until the 1890s.
The post was established on November 14, 1851 and just a year later was transformed into a well-organized and thoroughly developed post. However, conditions continued to be difficult for people at the fort, and in November 1853, approval was given for the military to abandon the fort. Shortly after the troops left, fire destroyed most of the log walls and thatch roofs of the buildings that made up this large and complex five-company post on the Texas Frontier. However, several stone buildings, stone chimneys, and the stone building foundations remain intact today. A watercolor portrait of the original fort shows Fort Phantom Hill as it was before the fire.
In 1858, the property was reoccupied as a way station on the Southern Overland Mail route and the Butterfield Stagecoach set up a stop at the abandoned fort. Fort Phantom Hill was used again during the Civil War by the Confederacy's Frontier Battalion, and in 1871 became a subpost of Fort Griffin (near Albany, Texas) and was used by troops engaged in Indian campaigns.
After 1875, a town grew up around the ruins of Fort Phantom Hill. The location functioned first as a buying and shipping point for buffalo hides and eventually as a town of more than 500 residents. Census records in 1880 show more than 545 people living at the fort, which had a hotel and the staples of most West Texas towns.
Fort Phantom Hill also served briefly as the Jones County seat, although residents later moved it to the community of Anson. By the 1890s, Fort Phantom Hill was largely abandoned.
Modern day visitors to Fort Phantom Hill can still get a feel for what life must have been like here in the 1850s as people tried to tame the unforgiving West Texas landscape. It seems the wisdom of General Persifor F. Smith's choice of this site for what was originally known as "The Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River" was disputed from the very beginning, especially by Major John Joseph Abercrombie. The major was a West Point graduate who commanded the Post on the Clear Fork from the time of its establishment on, until April 27, 1852, according to A History of Fort Phantom Hill, The Post on the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, Jones County, Texas (prepared by Martha Doty Freeman in May 1999 for The Fort Phantom Foundation).
Lieutenant Clinton Lear, the post's quartermaster, even went so far as to assert that he could not imagine "that God ever intended white man to occupy such a barren waste" as was found at Phantom Hill. The Fort Phantom Hill property has been owned by the family of Abilenian John Guitar since he purchased it in 1928. Mr. Guitar's grandson, Jim Alexander of Abilene, purchased the property in 1969. In 1997, Mr. Alexander deeded the property to the Fort Phantom Foundation to help assure its long-term preservation and to make it more accessible to the public.
Today Fort Phantom Hill is one of the most pristine historic sites in Texas. Besides the stone chimneys, other remnants of the developed fort remain for visitors to explore at the 22-acre (89,000 m2) site. These include an intact stone powder magazine, a stone guardhouse, and an almost-intact commissary or warehouse.
Fort Phantom Hill Lake
Fort Phantom Hill Lake () is located on Elm Creek in Jones County, 15 miles (24 km) in north Abilene.
- Surface area: 4,213 acres (17.05 km2)
- Maximum depth: 66 feet (20 m)
- Impounded: 1938
- Fluctuation: Moderate to severe, sometimes prone to long periods with dropping water levels<
- Normal Clarity: Stained to muddy and red-colored in upper end
Predominant Fish Species
- Largemouth bass
- White & hybrid striped bass
- Blue & flathead catfish
- White crappie
- Freshwater drum
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