Fort Davis (population 1,050) truly feels like the Old West. Nestled among the Davis Mountains—therefore dubbed “the highest town in Texas”—Fort Davis exhibits the charm of an authentic Western community, with wide wind-swept streets containing flat-faced and sun-faded buildings under an enormous sky.
Fort Davis was established in 1854 by Secretary of War Jefferson Davis as one of the key army posts in West Texas’s development and defense. The fort was briefly abandoned during the Civil War, allowing Native Americans to strip much of the buildings’ wood for fuel, but it was reoccupied in 1867 and by the mid-1880s was a major operation housing more than 600 men and 60-plus adobe and stone structures.
During this time, Fort Davis was home to several regiments of Buffalo Soldiers, African Americans who earned distinction as brave fighters who served alongside Anglo soldiers, a rare case of desegregation in the late 1800s. As settlement increased in the area and native populations dispersed, the fort’s original purpose became obsolete and it was abandoned in 1891.
The town’s remote and rugged location made it a difficult destination to reach, resulting in slow growth throughout the 1900s. These days, its mild climate and natural beauty draw thousands of visitors annually from Austin and other urban areas in search of a high-altitude respite from the grueling summer heat. Fort Davis’s intrigue lies in its proximity to attractions like the fascinating McDonald Observatory and breathtaking Davis Mountains State Park, as well as its refreshingly unspoiled allure, particularly compared to the “discovered” towns of Marfa and Alpine.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition