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July 26, 2004
Texas’ Wild West Days To Be Recreated at Fall Event
ALBANY, Texas — What promises to be the largest Wild West re-enactment Fort Griffin has ever staged, featuring more than 500 re-enactors, will unfold just north of Albany Sept. 17-19.
For three days this fall, buffalo hunters, gunfighters, saloon girls, drovers, gamblers, Indians, U.S. cavalry, sutlers and other frontier characters will trod the "dusty streets" of the late 19th century boomtown of Fort Griffin, which at its height boasted a population of 4,000. Hundreds of re-enactors will relive the late 1800s at Fort Griffin State Park & Historic Site and the adjacent Collins Creek Ranch during the "Fort Griffin Frontier Times" event. The private ranch occupies the site of the old frontier town.
The wild and wooly town of Fort Griffin, also known as "The Flat," enjoyed a reputation in the 1870s as having "a man for breakfast every morning." The frontier community sprang up at the crossroads of two major cattle trails that converged below a bluff, atop which the U.S. military established a frontier fort in 1867 during the Indian Wars. Frontier legends Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, Billy the Kid, Sheriff Pat Garrett and Bat Masterson once walked its streets.
"This very special event will give visitors an opportunity to live a unique piece of our heritage on the very ground where our forefathers struggled and died to build a future for us to inherit," said Lester Galbreath, manager of Fort Griffin State Park & Historic Site. "We’re going to try to replicate the feel of 1874. There’ll be soldiers patrolling Main Street, drovers with longhorn herds, stagecoaches and ’soiled doves’ hanging around the saloon."
Galbreath, who looks the part of an Old West character with cowboy attire and a handlebar mustache, said the public would be able to experience a variety of heritage activities during the event. Gunfights, buffalo gun and cannon demonstrations, frontier cavalry patrols and military drills, chuck wagons and a Native American village will add to the authenticity.
Visitors will "step back into" the days of the Western frontier among military and civilian re-enactments; living history presentations; displays of authentic cloths, uniforms, weapons, tents and flags; and Native American tepees, and buffalo hunter and cowboy camps. A variety of sutlers, or merchants, will be selling all kinds of authentic frontier wares in period stores located along a road running from the town to the old fort. Those attending the event will be able to walk between the two sites or ride a shuttle trailer.
Actual historical events that took place in old Fort Griffin, Galbreath noted, will be re-enacted during "Frontier Times." They will include a card game in which Doc Holliday cut a fellow poker player with a knife and fled town, under the cover of a fire set by Doc’s girlfriend, Big Nose Kate. Another will feature the 1874 Bee Hive Saloon shootout, one of the biggest gunfights in the Wild West.
Fort Griffin was once home to 400 troops, but was abandoned in 1881, some six years after the Battle of Palo Duro Canyon effectively ended the Indian Wars. The state park — home to the Official Texas Longhorn Herd — preserves the partial rock remnants of several original 1860s-era fort buildings, as well as reconstructions of wood-framed structures such as the soldiers’ barracks, bakery, officers’ quarters, mess hall and hospital. Money raised from the event will help continued restoration efforts at the fort.
Fort Griffin State Park & Historic Site occupies just a little more than 500 acres split into almost equal parcels by U.S. Highway 283. The Visitors Center and remains of the historic fort occupy one part of the park, while the campground, longhorn pens and pasture and hiking trails comprise the recreational unit of the state park on the banks of the Clear Fork, a Brazos River tributary. Camping facilities range from primitive tent sites to RV sites with water, electricity and sewer hookups.
Fort Griffin is located on U.S. Highway 283, 15 miles north of Albany, about an hour’s drive from Abilene and three hours’ drive from Fort Worth. For more information, call (325) 762-3592.
For local accommodations, please call the Albany Convention and Visitors Bureau (325) 762-2525, or access the CVB Web site (http://www.albanytexas.com/).
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