The Flat – A.K.A Babylon on the Brazos

Billy Wilson's Frontier House. (Photo by Judy Wade)

By Judy Wade

The Bottom, Hidetown, Fort Griffin Flat and finally just the Flat, this settlement in the level area between the plateau on which Fort Griffin was situated and the Clear Fork of the Brazos in what is now north central Shackleford County, was one of the wildest, most wide-open towns in north central Texas in the late 1800s.

When settlers began pouring into Texas to take advantage of the land available after the Civil War, a line of forts was built in the late 1860s to protect these settlers from marauding Indians seeking to return to their homelands. Fort Griffin was one of these forts, located along what is now Highway 283 between Throckmorton and Albany.

The level area beside the fort was the perfect place for a settlement. There, pioneers moving farther west could replenish their supplies, soldiers from the fort could get items not available at the post or have a good time at one of the saloons when off duty, drovers on the nearby Great Western Trail headed north to market made it a stopping-off point, the Butterfield Stage passed through on its east-west route and buffalo hunters used it as a storage place for hides to be shipped east. With piles of buffalo hides dotting the area, the stench was at times almost unbearable.

In addition to the honest, hard-working pioneers who settled the area for the legitimate purposes of farming, ranching and commerce, a number of ruffians and outlaws flooded in. The population was about 1,000 most of the time, but on occasion rose to as many as 3,000.

According to the nearby Historical Marker, some of the businesses included a newspaper, an academy, Masonic Lodge, Beehive Saloon, Conrad and Rath Store, Glesk Boot Shop, Occidental Hotel, Shaunissey’s Saloon, Thorpe’s Blacksmith, a livery stable and, of course, a jail along with many other businesses.

 

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