The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994 Page: 160
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Southwestern Historical Quarterly
lance committees, and lynch law. The primary focus is on the violent, immoral,
and often criminal exploits of a unique breed of pioneer men and women living
in the little town spawned by Fort Griffin, a military post established in 1867 to
protect outlying settlements from Indians. Residents referred to the fort as "Post
Hill" or "Government Hill," since it was situated on a hill overlooking the valley
of the Clear Fork of the Brazos, and to the town as "the Flat," since it occupied a
marshy plateau between the hill and the river. Both communities together, how-
ever, came to be known simply as "Fort Griffin." Today there is no such place, al-
though the site of the town is still marked on most local maps and the ruins of
the fort have been preserved in Fort Griffin State Historical Park, north of Al-
bany in Shackelford County.
The author, Charles Robinson III, is a distinguished journalist who has served
as an editor for the Harlingen Valley Morning Star and the San Benito News. He
also is the author of numerous articles on the Old West and a book entitled Fron-
tier Forts of Texas.
Making good use of newspapers, a few primary sources, and scholarly works by
master historians such as Carl Coke Rister, Robinson builds a good case for Fort
Griffin's place in the history of the Old West. Its turbulent life span was only
about fourteen years, but during that time it became the "largest concern be-
tween Fort Worth and El Paso ... on the east-west stage run," the only major set-
tlement between San Antonio and Dodge City on the Western Trail, and
"together with Dodge City, Deadwood, and Tombstone, .... one of the four
toughest towns the West ever saw" (p. 16). Explaining that Fort Griffin existed
only for frontier purposes, Robinson analyzes the "tripod" that sustained it: the
military, buffalo hunters, and cattlemen. In its heyday it attracted all kinds of
people, including many of the giants of Western history and pulp fiction, such as
Charles Goodnight, Ranald Mackenzie, William T. Sherman, Doc Holliday, Wy-
att Earp, John Henry Selman, Pat Garrett, and Billy the Kid. Then, in the late
187os and early 188os, as each leg of the tripod in turn fell victim to the pres-
sures of encroaching civilization, Fort Griffin, having no other reason to exist,
quietly passed into oblivion.
Although there is little new in Robinson's study, the author does paint a read-
able, believable picture of life in Old Fort Griffin. But perhaps his greatest con-
tribution derives from his assault on the legends and tall tales about the people
and events of Fort Griffin that have been embellished and popularized by West-
ern movies, folklore, and historical novels. It is in these sections of his work, al-
though understandably stymied somewhat by the lack of hard evidence and his
own intellectual honesty, that Robinson displays his greatest skill as a historical
detective and leaves his most indelible mark on the historiography of the Old
West. For example, some readers no doubt will be surprised to learn that "the
only documented evidence that Doc Holliday ever set foot in Fort Griffin" con-
sists of a few meager entries in local court records (p. 93).
Abilene Christian University
B. P. GALLAWAY
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 97, July 1993 - April, 1994, periodical, 1994; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117154/m1/188/: accessed June 28, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.