Each of the nearby communities has their own distinct history , culture and personality . Whether you ’ re interested in historic western frontier forts ; are seeking a a taste of minimalist art or Old Mexico ; are a railroad buff or want to see real cowboys at work , you can experience more of what makes West Texas unique .
Davis Mountain State Park
Fort Davis www . fortdavis . com 26 miles north of Alpine on TX 118
Fort Davis was founded in 1854 by General Persifor F . Smith , who personally selected the site . He named it for Jefferson Davis , who at the time was the Secretary of War for the United States government . The site was established to provide protection from Indian raids along the San Antonio-El Paso Road , a major link on the route to California . The gold rush of the late 1840s had caused a major increase in traffic along the route , and a concurrent increase in raids by Apache , Kiowa and Comanche native bands as they travelled between the Davis Mountains and Mexico .
Though the fort was one of the largest in the west with 400 enlisted men and officers , the rugged terrain and high traffic on the road made it almost impossible for the soldiers to succeed at their task . The bands of Natives were elusive and familiar with the rough Davis Mountains , and in spite of constant patrols the soldiers seldom intercepted them . As the 1850s progressed , the fort replaced its tents and wooden shelters with stone and adobe structures . Life became more comfortable with the addition of gardens and expeditions to the trout filled Balmorhea Lake to the northeast .
The Confederate Army briefly held the fort during the civil war but soon abandoned it to be reclaimed by the Union Army . Residents of the area were among only 18 Texas counties who voted to remain in the Union rather than secede . Fort Davis had a complement of Buffalo Soldiers after the Civil War , including famed engineer and former slave Henry O . Flipper , who was the first African American to graduate from the U . S . Military Academy at West Point .
The town was born when a stagecoach stop was established near the fort . After the Civil War , when the fort was decommissioned , the town of Fort Davis became an increasingly important part of the state of Texas , located as it was on a major road heading west . Ambitious cattlemen
Fort Davis National Historic Site
poured into the area , and its high desert climate attracted wealthy Gulf Coast families who began building summer homes there around the turn of the 20th century .
In 1961 the long-abandoned fort became a National Historic Site , and restoration began on the remains of the old buildings . By then the town was well-established as a center for the cattle industry . Its high elevations and abundance of water when compared to other parts of the Trans- Pecos provide an ideal climate for horses and cattle , and its mountain vistas and dark skies attract visitors and scientists alike to its slopes .
The MacDonald Observatory , part of the University of Texas at Austin , was originally endowed in the will of William Johnson Macdonald , who left a million dollars to the University of Texas for an astronomical observatory . It was dedicated in 1939 at Mount Locke and was the second largest telescope in the world at the time . Research there includes theoretical astronomy , extragalactic astronomy and the interstellar medium , among many other topics . The Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute is located just south of the town , where it is dedicated to researching native ecosystems , preserving flora and fauna and providing educational and recreational access to the public on its 500 acres .
From Buffalo Soldiers and Indian wars to discovering the stuff of the universe , Fort Davis has seen a rich and varied history , still continually written by new adventurers on the last frontier .