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CAMP MAYERS SPRING

Photograph of Meyer's Springs, Terrell County, Texas.
Meyer's Springs in Terrell County was the site of a United States Army sub-post commonly called Camp Mayers Spring. The camp existed from 1880 to 1884. Courtesy THC Historic Resources Survey Collection as provided by the Texas Historical Commission to The Portal to Texas History, University of North Texas Libraries and included in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.

CAMP MAYERS SPRING. Camp Mayers Spring, located in southeastern Terrell County, about ten miles northeast of Dryden, Texas, served as a United States Army sub-post of Fort Clark from 1880 to 1884. The post was perched on a hilltop about a quarter mile from a reliable water source known today as Meyers Spring in Meyers Canyon. Meyers Spring had numerous spelling and name variations, including Meyer’s Spring and Myers Spring. Nearly all U.S. Army records call it Mayers Spring, Mayers Springs, Mayer’s Spring, or Painted Rock Springs for the numerous pictographs (see INDIAN ROCK ART) on the cliff near the spring.  

Lt. John Lapham Bullis, who commanded the Black Seminole scouts from 1873 to 1882, bought the property in August 1877 from the Texas Western Narrow Gauge Railroad Company and allowed the army to occupy it as an outpost. He eventually leased the land to the Pecos Land and Cattle Company

The U.S. Army developed an interest in Meyers Spring during Col. Benjamin H. Grierson’s 1879–80 campaign against the Mimbreño Chiricahua Apache leader Victorio, who was raiding in Mexico, New Mexico, and Texas. As a part of his field campaign, Grierson’s operational art was to guard and deny the West Texas waterholes necessary for Apache survival. Additionally, in 1880 the army wanted to protect a new road and mail route from the mouth of the Devil’s River to the Chinati Mountains through Camp Pena Colorado. The new route shortened the distance on the trip from San Antonio to Fort Davis. In the early 1880s the army remained at Camp Mayers Spring to guard the construction of the Galveston, Harrisburg, and San Antonio Railway line.

On September 3, 1880, Capt. Robert G. Heiner and twenty-nine soldiers of Company A, First Infantry, established Camp Mayers Spring as a sub-post of Fort Clark. During its four-year lifespan, one company of First Infantry, eight different troops of Eighth Cavalry, and the Black Seminole scouts all rotated duty at Camp Mayers Spring, usually for four to six months. According to the Fort Clark Post Returns, the Seminole scouts were stationed at Camp Mayers Spring four times: August–November 1881, under the command of Lt. Frank B. Jones; November 1882–May 1883, under Lt. John Guest and then Lt. Francis H. French; November 1883–February 1884, under Lt. Francis H. French; and finally April 1884 to its closing in July 1884, under Lt. John M. Cunningham.

Army records indicate Camp Mayers Spring had no permanent structures; the soldiers lived in tents. Apparently around 1882 in the center of the camp, they constructed a company kitchen in the form of a twenty-seven-by-eighteen-foot roofless, waist-high, mortared, double-course, cut limestone structure with a tall fireplace on one end. The structure may have had a canvas roof as was common among the field army. With waist-high stone walls and excellent fields of fire on all four sides, it would also have served very well as a fortified position to defend the camp. Cesario Torres of Langtry had a forage contract to supply Camp Mayers Spring with hay, corn, grain, and oats, which he, or his brother, delivered to the camp by wagon. 

The troops had no combat engagements during the four-year lifespan of the post, but one Eighth Cavalry first sergeant committed suicide, and one trooper died of congestive fever. The outpost closed on July 16, 1884, when Texas Department Commander Brig. Gen. David S. Stanley ordered the abandonment of the sub-post and moved the troops to Langtry, Texas.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: 

Jim Fenton, “John L. Bullis: ‘Farsighted and Keen’ Trans-Pecos Land Speculator,” Journal of Big Bend Studies 2 (1990). Lieutenant Francis H. French Diary, 1883–1884, courtesy William F. Haenn, Fort Clark Springs, Texas. David W. Keller, “Camp Meyers Project: History, Archeology, Stabilization, Final Report” (Center For Big Bend Studies, Sul Ross University, October 2014). Records of the United States Army Adjutant General’s Office, 1780–1917, Record Group 94; Returns From United States Military Posts 1800–1916, Microfilm No. M617, roll 214; Post Returns, Fort Clark, Texas, December 1866–1880–December 1881 and roll 215, Fort Clark, Texas, January 1882–December 1892, National Archives Records Service (NARS). Records of the United States Regular Army Mobile Units, 1821–1942, Record Group 391; Returns From Regular Army Cavalry Regiments, 1833–1916, Microfilm No. 744, roll 80, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, 1875–1882 and roll 81, Eighth Cavalry Regiment, 1883–1889. Thomas Ty Smith, “Camp Mayers Spring, Texas 1880–1884,” Journal of Big Bend Studies 27 (2015). 

Thomas Ty Smith

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Handbook of Texas Online, Thomas Ty Smith, "Camp Mayers Spring," accessed October 17, 2017, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/qcc61.

Uploaded on March 30, 2017. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.