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H. Allen Anderson

ADOBE WALLS, TEXAS. Adobe Walls was the name given several trading posts and later a ranching community located seventeen miles northeast of Stinnett and just north of the Canadian River in what is now northeastern Hutchinson County. The first trading post in the area seems to have been established in early 1843 by representatives of the trading firm of Bent, St. Vrain and Company, which hoped to trade with the Comanches and Kiowas. These Indians avoided Bent's Fort, the company's main headquarters on the upper Arkansas River near La Junta, Colorado, because enemies, the Cheyennes and Arapahoes, lived in the area. The new satellite post was situated on a stream that became known as Bent's (now Bent) Creek. Company traders worked originally from tepees and later from log structures. Probably no real fort was built on the site before 1846. Sometime after September 1845 William Bent and Ceran St. Vrain, chief partners in the firm, arrived with Mexican adobe makers to replace the log establishment with Fort Adobe, a structure eighty feet square, with nine-foot walls and only one entrance.

Occupation of Fort Adobe was sporadic, and by 1848 Indian hostility had resulted in its closure. That fall a momentary peace was effected, and Bent sought to reopen the post by sending Christopher (Kit) Carson, Lucien Maxwell, and five other employees to the Canadian. Resistance from the Jicarilla Apaches, however, forced Carson's group to cache the trade goods and buffalo robes they had acquired and return to Bent's Fort. Soon after, several Comanches persuaded Bent to make another try at resuming trade at Fort Adobe. A thirteen-man party, led by R. W. (Dick) Wootton, encountered restive Comanches at the fort and finally conducted trade through a window cut in the wall. In the spring of 1849, in a last concerted effort to revive the post, Bent accompanied several ox-drawn wagons to the Canadian. After part of his stock was killed by Indians, he blew up the fort's interior with gunpowder and abandoned the Panhandle trade to the Comancheros.

The adobe ruins thus became a familiar landmark to both Indians and Comancheros and to any white man who dared to venture into the heart of Comanchería. In November 1864 Carson, now a colonel of volunteers, used the walls of Fort Adobe to rest his 300 men and their horses after sacking a Kiowa village during a campaign against the tribes of the southern Plains. The group withstood several Indian attacks at the fort before withdrawing (see ADOBE WALLS, FIRST BATTLE OF).

In March 1874 merchants from Dodge City, Kansas, following the buffalo hunters south into the Texas Panhandle, established a large complex, called the Myers and Leonard Store, about a mile north of the Fort Adobe ruins. This business, which included a corral and restaurant, was joined in April 1874 by a second store operated by Charles Rath and Company. Shortly afterward James N. Hanrahan and Rath opened a saloon, and Tom O'Keefe started a blacksmith shop. By the end of spring, 200 to 300 buffalo hunters roamed the area, and trade at Adobe Walls boomed. After an Indian uprising called the second battle of Adobe Walls (June 1874) both merchants and hunters abandoned the site.

In the early 1880s James M. Coburn established his Turkey Track Ranch headquarters near the old battle site and persuaded William (Billy) Dixon, a scout and survivor of the 1874 battle, to homestead several sections nearby. Dixon built his house at the ruins of Fort Adobe. In August 1887 a post office was established at the Dixon homestead, where Dixon and S. G. Carter also operated a ranch-supply store. Dixon served as postmaster until 1901, when he was elected the county's first sheriff. He resigned shortly afterward and about 1902 moved to Plemons. A school was also established; after the first building burned in 1920, school was conducted on the second floor of Dixon's old home until a new structure could be built. Although the Dodge City Times advertised Adobe Walls as "a fine settlement with some twenty families," there never was a real community in the area except for the ranchers and their employees and families. The post office remained in operation until October 1921. From 1940 until 1970 Adobe Walls was listed in the Texas Almanac as having a population of fifteen. In 1987 a few scattered ranch dwellings marked the area.

During the 1920s several local and state projects were launched to mark the battle site at Adobe Walls and make it more accessible. In 1923 the Panhandle-Plains Historical Society acquired a six-acre tract that contained the remains of the 1874 trading post. The society conducted major archeological excavations at this site in the 1970s. In 1978 the complex was added to the National Register of Historic Places and recognized as a Texas state archeological landmark.

T. Lindsay Baker and Billy R. Harrison, Adobe Walls: The History and Archaeology of the 1874 Trading Post (College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1986). T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). George Bird Grinnell, "Bent's Old Fort and Its Builders," Collections of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1919–1922 15 (1923). Arthur Hecht, comp., Postal History in the Texas Panhandle (Canyon, Texas: Panhandle-Plains Historical Society, 1960). Hutchinson County Historical Commission, History of Hutchinson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor, 1980). David Lavender, Bent's Fort (Garden City, New York: Doubleday, 1954). Mildred P. Mayhall, The Kiowas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1962; 2d ed. 1971). John L. McCarty, Adobe Walls Bride (San Antonio: Naylor, 1955). Frederick W. Rathjen, The Texas Panhandle Frontier (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1973).

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The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, H. Allen Anderson, "ADOBE WALLS, TX," accessed July 07, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/hra10.

Uploaded on June 9, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
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