A Landing a Day

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Fort Griffin, Texas

Posted by graywacke on May 29, 2013

First timer?  In this formerly once-a-day blog (and now pretty much an every-third-day blog), I have my computer select a random latitude and longitude that puts me somewhere in the continental United States (the lower 48).  I call this “landing.”  I keep track of the watersheds I land in, as well as the town I land near.  I do some internet research to hopefully find something of interest about my landing location.  To find out more about A Landing A Day (like who “Dan” is and what the various numbers and abbreviations mean in the first paragraph), please see “About Landing,” (and “Abbreviations” and “Cryptic Numbers”) above.

 Landing number 2016; A Landing A Day blog post number 434.

 Dan –  The USers keep on rollin’ (5/6) as I landed, for the fourth time in the last 21 landings, in . . . TX; 147/177; 6/10; 2; 151.1.  Here’s my regional landing map:

 alb landing 1

My closer-in landing map shows that I landed very close to Fort Griffin (which gets the post title, even though it isn’t really a town), and not too far from Albany:

 alb landing 2

My Google Earth (GE) shot shows a scrubby arid scene (and no StreetView shots anywhere close):

 alb ge 1

I landed in the watershed of Jackson Branch; on to the Clear Fork of the Brazos River (4th hit); on (of course) to the Brazos (27th hit).

 About Fort Griffin (from Wiki):

Fort Griffin was a Cavalry fort established in the late 1860s to provide protection from early Comanche and Kiowa raids. It was named for Charles Griffin, a former Civil War Union general.

OK.  Nothing exciting here.  My interest is more about the town that sprung up outside of the fort.  Moving over to LegendsOfAmerica.com, here are some excerpts from an article about the Fort:

Though there is little left of old Fort Griffin and even less of the settlement that formed below the bluff, Fort Griffin was one of the wildest places in all of the Old West.

Almost immediately after the fort was completed, a new settlement began at the bottom of the hill, first called “The Bottom,” “The Flat” or “Hidetown,” before it took on the name of the fort. In addition to the honest pioneers who settled the area, in flooded a number of ruffians and outlaws.

Some of these many people would later become well-known in the annals of history, including Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp, who first met in Fort Griffin. Also there was the infamous gunfighter, John Wesley Hardin. “Marshaling” the lawless town was outlaw/lawman John M. Larn as sheriff, and his deputy, John Selman who, in the mid 1870’s, were working both sides of the law by controlling the vigilantes and rustling cattle.

John Larn; however, would be killed by those same vigilantes inside his own jail in Fort Griffin.  Selman, on the other hand, quickly disappeared and almost two decades later would kill John Wesley Hardin. During these lawless times, the settlement was so decadent that it was labeled “Babylon on the Brazos.”

Oh my!  Fertile material for some research and elaboration.  What caught my eye was John Wesley Hardin.  Being a child of the 60s, I am, of course familiar with the song “John Wesley Harding” by Bob Dylan (and the album of the same name).  The first hurdle:  “Hardin” vs. “Harding.”  From Wiki:

. . .  Dylan has had a well-documented interest in outlaw cowboys, including Jesse James and Billy the Kid.   John Wesley Hardin was another late-19th century outlaw, and Dylan has stated that he chose John Wesley Hardin for his protagonist over other badmen because his name “[fit] in the tempo” of the song.  Dylan added the “g” to the end of Hardin’s name by mistake.

 Bob, Bob.  You added a “g”  by mistake??  Come on.  Here’s a slightly revised album cover:

boot_alternate_JWH_front

And here’s Dylan’s take on Mr. Harding:

John Wesley Harding
Was a friend to the poor
He trav’led with a gun in ev’ry hand
All along this countryside
He opened a many a door
But he was never known
To hurt a honest man.

It was down in Chaynee County
A time they talk about
With his lady by his side
He took a stand
And soon the situation there
Was all but straightened out
For he was always known
To lend a helping hand.

All across the telegraph
His name it did resound
But no charge held against him
Could they prove
And there was no man around
Who could track or chain him down
He was never known
To make a foolish move.

I could find no You Tube videos with Bob singing his own song.  But you can click HERE for a cover (and the words scroll by).

 Obvoiusly, Bob has a very sympathetic take on Mr. Hardin.  Is history as kind?  Evidently not.  From History.com (This Day in History, August 19th):

John Wesley Hardin, one of the bloodiest killers of the Old West, is murdered by an off-duty policeman in a saloon in El Paso, Texas.

Born in central Texas on May 26, 1853, Hardin killed his first man when he was only 15 during the violent period of post-Civil War reconstruction. During the next 10 years, he killed at least 20 more men, and some have suggested the total might have been as high as 40.

In 1878, Hardin was convicted of killing a Texas sheriff and sent to the Texas state prison in Huntsville. Prison life seems to have calmed Hardin–during his 14 years behind bars, he studied law. Released in 1892, he settled down in Gonzales where he worked as an attorney and tried, unsuccessfully, to win political office. Eventually, Hardin relocated to the violent town of El Paso, where, since the demands for his legal services were limited, he spent more time arguing in saloons than in court.

In 1895, the sheriff of El Paso tried to make the town a bit less deadly by outlawing the carrying of guns within city limits. In August of that year, Hardin’s girlfriend ran was caught with a gun in the city and arrested by El Paso office, John Selman. Hardin, who had never learned completely to control his vicious temper, became angry. Bystanders overhead him threaten Selman for bothering his girl. Not long after, on this day in 1895, Selman went looking for Hardin. He found the famous gunman throwing dice at the bar of the Acme saloon. Without a word, Selman walked up behind Hardin and killed him with a shot in the head.

Whether Selman was acting out of anger, self-protection, or perhaps to burnish his own reputation as a gunslinger remains unclear. Regardless, an El Paso jury apparently felt that Selman had done the town a favor. The jurors acquitted him of any wrongdoing.

So:  Selman and Harding had at least one thing in common:  Fort Griffin!

 There isn’t much to see at the Fort, but here’s a cool shot of some ruins (Wiki):

Fort_Griffin_State_Historic_Site_in_2009

Here’s Shaunissy’s Saloon (where Doc Holliday met Wyatt Earp), from LegendsOfAmerica.com:

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Nearby Albany stages an annual musical extravaganza called the Fort Griffin Fandangle, which is quite the production.  It’s all about the colorful history of the Fort & town.  It changes every year, but is put on by 300 or so townspeople.  They put on the show two weekends in a row (a total of six shows), with a total attendance of 10,000 for the two weekends. 

 From Wiki:

The Dallas Morning News describes Fandangle, accordingly: “as professional as a multi-million dollar Broadway musical, with sets and costumes to match.” The Abilene Reporter-News calls the program “Frontier history served up with genuine earthiness, spiced by rare humor.”

 From the Fort Griffin Fandangle website, this shot of the action:

2010Carriage_Street_of_Ftg

 Getting back to Fort Griffin proper (and I’ll close with this) – it turns out that the Fort is the home to the official State of Texas Longhorn Herd, with this as a prime example.

  1

That’ll do it.

 KS

 Greg

© 2013 A Landing A Day

One Response to “Fort Griffin, Texas”

  1. Jordan said

    Back in the day when you could do 14 years for killing 20 – 40 people…

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