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Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Restacking the Military Cemetery Rock Wall at Fort Griffin

by Eric Abercrombie, assistant site manager at Fort Griffin State Historic Site

Recently, we had 159 Boy Scouts and 40 Scout Leaders, representing multiple troops from within the Double Mountain Region, come out to Fort Griffin for their annual gathering. Their purpose was to camp, work on merit badges and volunteer time to a worthy project. The project assigned to them was to restack our military cemetery rock perimeter wall. Until this past year, the rock wall had not been visible to the public because of years of vegetative growth. Fort Griffin maintenance staff devoted about a week last winter to clearing out brush growing in and around the wall to make it more visible. This was the first attempt at restoring the wall, but it still remained a simple pile of rubble forming the outline of the historic cemetery.

The wall and cemetery were built by the military in the 1870s for the purpose of burying fallen soldiers, their families, and a few Tonkawa Scouts. It served as the post cemetery until the military abandoned Fort Griffin in 1881. When the military abandoned the post, they retrieved approximately 70 bodies and reburied them in the national cemetery in San Antonio. Today there are no formal grave markers to indicate a cemetery, just a rock perimeter wall with a gate opening. A large rock remains with a piece of iron driven into it, which appears to be a hinge for the gate.

The Boy Scouts and their leaders contributed around 600 volunteer hours to the project in about a three hour period. They successfully restacked the rock wall to a condition worthy of interpretation. The wall is uneven in areas simply because of a lack of materials. It is likely that, before the state acquired the property in the 1930s, there were numerous rocks taken from the cemetery wall to be put to use for other purposes on some of the local ranches in the area. Thanks to the Boys Scouts of the Double Mountain Region, we now have a very nice looking rock wall for all visitors to see as they enter and leave the site!

Recently, the Shackelford County Historical Commission applied for designation of the Fort Griffin Cemetery as a Historic Texas Cemetery. Click here to find out more about Historic Texas Cemeteries and the RIP Guardian program.

**The Fort Griffin State Historic Site is located 15 miles north of Albany on U.S. Hwy 283 in the Texas Forts Trail Region.

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