Trying to imagine what Fort Mason was really like when it was a Calvary post on the edge of the western frontier is a fundamental challenge to our modern minds, but reading the observations of the earliest travelers through the area brings to mind some of the beauty of the area that we still enjoy. In my last article I talked about some of the background from the time that Robert E. Lee was commander of the Fort in 1861 and mentioned some of the particular artifacts from that time period. Today I want to quote from a description and journal that was published of travelers who passed through this region even before Fort Mason was established ten years before the Civil War.
After the conclusion of the Mexican American War it became necessary to survey and inspect the new boundary between the two countries, and John Bartlett was appointed Commissioner of the Boundary Survey. He arrived in Texas in 1850 and began the journey from the Gulf coast all the way to the village of San Diego in the new American territory of California. He also kept a careful journal that was published in 1854 as his “Personal Narrative” of the travels, and began his trip in the Texas settlement of San Antonio and went from there to Fredericksburg on what was then the edge of settlement. Leaving Fredericksburg and travelling north and west along the “Emigrant’s Road” on October 17, 1850 he noted that the land “was, on the whole, the most interesting country we had seen since leaving San Antonio. A reddish sandstone appeared in some places...” and “the Llano is the finest stream we have yet met in Texas... Where we forded it, it was two feet deep and one hundred and fifty in width.” The Emigrant’s Road at this point roughly parcelled highway 87N from the south, and so at that time he was in what was to become Mason County.
After visiting and describing some German settlers along the Llano river and purchasing corn for the stock, John Bartlett recounts the travels of October 19 describing “the country was thinly wooded with live-oak. Passed a range of high hills.... (and) Left my mule and walked to the summit, whence there was presented a fine view of the surrounding country, consisting of an alternation of hills and prairie, with scattering trees, chiefly mezquit.” Since he noted that the previous evening they had camped on Comanche Creek where the trail crossed, and catching fish in a large pool of the creek, it might be reasonable to supposed that he was describing the view from a location that would later be known as Post Hill.
Without highway mile markers or Google maps to compare, it is hard to pin-point the places of the past, but John Bartlett spends six pages describing people and places that most likely were in Mason County over 150 years ago. He went on to follow the trail, turning to the west before he came to the San Saba river, and followed the Emigrant’s Road all the way to El Paso through the wilderness. If you are interested in learning more, stop by Red Door Antiques and enjoy the fascination of holding a book that is from 1854 and reading the journals and experiences of these early travelers and try to imagine ... the way is was.