Duel to the Death

Pemberton's tombstone in the old Spanish Fort cemetery. (Photo courtesy of Lewis (Peck) Pemberton)

By Judy Wade

Like most Texas frontier towns in the 1800s, Spanish Fort had its share of mischief, mayhem and murder.

When white settlers first came to the area, they discovered remnants of a fort and other relics about a mile south of Red River that led them to believe it was an abandoned Spanish Fort. It was, in fact, a Taovaya Indian stronghold complete with a moat built to protect themselves from the Spaniards and their Comanche enemies.

It is reported that as many as 6,000 of the Taovaya lived there. One historian theorized that the survivors moved westward following a smallpox epidemic, leaving the fort to fall into ruin. Therefore, the settlers named the place “Spanish Fort.” As more settlers arrived and a town emerged, a post office was applied for under the name Burlington. When they were told another town already had that name, they reverted to Spanish Fort.

When the great cattle drives along the Chisholm Trail began, although the cattle crossed the river at Red River Station farther upstream, the town became an important last stopping point before Indian Territory.

The town grew to include hotels, restaurants, churches, physicians, a Masonic Lodge and dry goods stores where the drovers bought supplies for the long trip north. Herman J. Justin opened his boot shop where for $35 a cowboy could order a pair of custom made boots and pick them up on the way back.

To read more pick up a copy of the May 2018 NTFR issue. To subscribe call 940-872-5922.

Theopholis Lee Pemberton. (Photo courtesy of Lewis (Peck) Pemberton)