Adobe Walls

It is now a ghost town in Hutchinson County, far north in the Panhandle, but in the 1800s it was a community that briefly came together during what would be the latter days of buffalo hunting in north Texas. It is also the site of two battles between the mostly Anglo inhabitants and the native tribes that came together to try and eliminate them.

Around 1843, Anglos began residing in the area to trade with both the hunters and the tribes. One of the former residents was Charles Bent who along with Ceran St. Vrain ran the trading company of Bent, St. Vrain and Company to trade in furs and other articles with local inhabitants there. Their operation existed in the 1840s until they moved further north and west, reportedly due to tribal hostilities. Bent is said to have built two series of structures, the first with logs and the second with adobe block. In response to depredations from the nearby tribes, they reestablished their business in New Mexico and later in several locations, ending with a structure known as Bent’s Fort in what is now southern Colorado. Bent would also briefly serve as territorial governor of New Mexico until he was sought out and killed by rebels who revolted against the United States occupation of the area in what is called the Taos Rebellion. St. Vrain took part in United States efforts to quell the rebellion, after which he continued to trade in the eastern New Mexico territory until his death of natural causes when he was in his upper 60s in 1870. Bent Creek in Hutchinson County is named for Charles Bent and/or his brother William Bent. The creek flows into the nearby Canadian River near the former community.

Anglos began coming to the Adobe Walls area largely due to the buffalo trade in the 1860s, meeting resistance again from local tribes. In late 1864, there was a battle mostly between an estimated 375 United States Army troops out of New Mexico and a much larger force of Kiowa, Plains Apache and Comanche who had consolidated against them. The troops were able to hold out in the small fortress.

As the buffalo trade continued to decline, hunters drifted down into Texas from nearby northern states such as Kansas and by the mid 1870s, the Adobe Walls settlement had revived. The ruins were expanded and rebuilt to an extent and various trades to service the hunters resumed. The businesses included at least two stores, blacksmith shops and the inevitable saloon or saloons. Hunters exchanged their hides for goods and supplies. Hides were transported north.

In the summer of 1874, a second battle took place, this time led by Comanche Chief Quanah Parker and others. A consolidation of Comanche, Cheyenne, Kiowa and Arapaho warriors again attacked the fortress. Numbers are estimated at several dozen Anglos against a larger force from the tribes. The battle lasted a few days and the death toll was actually numbered at about three Anglos and less than two dozen from the tribes before the warriors withdrew, but not before killing or capturing virtually all the horses, mules and oxen at Adobe Walls. It was during this battle that Billy Dixon, scout and buffalo hunter, is said to have made a legendary and extremely long rifle shot with a Sharps .50-90 rifle that killed a warrior, the event that that led to the tribes’ withdrawal, ending the battle. The battle was considered a standoff, but it amounted to the last major battle between the tribes and Anglos in the area before more settlement occurred.

Some of the Anglos remained at the location for a short time, but it was mostly abandoned by the fall of 1874. About one hundred years later, interest in the area led to it being added to the National Register of Historic Places in Texas and archaeological excavations were carried out. It was acquired about one hundred years ago by the Panhandle Plains Historical Society.

There are a number of museums in the area and historical markers that memorialize the location and events.

Sources include Ghost Towns of Texas by T. Lindsay Baker, University of Oklahoma Press.

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