By Cody Mobley, Fort McKavett site staff
For the past four summers, Fort McKavett State Historic Site has worked in conjunction with the Texas State Historical Association to bring history to life for younger Texans. This year, 4th grade junior historians from the Dallas-Fort Worth area joined 4th graders from Menard to attend the week-long summer camp.
The focus of the “Old Stories, New Voices” summer camp is to expose Texas youth to the history of Central-West Texas. The week was divided into theme days: Native American Day, Hispanic Day, Buffalo Soldier Day, Nature Day, and Fort McKavett Day.
On Native American Day, Lipan Apache interpreters visited the campers and taught them about the Apache Scouts (U.S. Cavalry scouts) and the Lipan Apache who were indigenous to the area around Fort McKavett.
The campers also learned how to use a bow and arrow, and later that evening listened to the stories of a Lipan Apache storyteller.
On Hispanic Day, the campers visited the Presidio San Saba in Menard and learned about Spanish Presidiales and soldados de cuera. The Presidiales were Spanish soldiers stationed on the frontier at the presidios. The soldados de cueras (literal translation is “soldiers of the leather") were mounted soldiers who wore a quilted leather vest that served somewhat the same function as a bullet proof vest does today, although only effective against arrows.
During Buffalo Soldier Day, the campers learned about the role played by the Buffalo Soldiers at Fort McKavett, as well as the weapons and drills used by the soldiers.
Later that day, the companies played a game of baseball on the parade grounds. We used the 1845 rules in honor of Abner Doubleday (argued to be one of the inventors of baseball), who was stationed at Fort McKavett after the Civil War.
On Nature Day, the campers scouted and explored down the South Llano River in canoes. Later that day, they set up their tents and spent the night on location at the South Llano State Park in Junction, Texas.
During Fort McKavett Day, the campers learned about the Army in Texas prior to the Civil War as well as the buildings on site. They were especially interested in the 1874 cistern under the porch of the hospital building.
By the end of the camp, the participants were full of knowledge, but ready to go home!
Fort McKavett is located west of Menard on FM 864 in the Texas Forts Trail Region.