Most Indian bands just passed through these mountains, although the Mescalero Apaches made seasonal camps.
Few Americans had seen the mountains prior to 1846. After the war with Mexico, a wave of gold seekers, settlers and traders came through the area. As West Texas settlements increased, raiding in Mexico and along the San Antonio-El Paso Trail became a way of life for Apaches, Kiowas and Comanches. The settlers needed protection.
U.S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis (who later served as president of the Confederacy) ordered the construction of the Fort Davis army post. The mountains were named for him, also.
Fort Davis was active from 1854 until 1891, except for certain periods during the Civil War. The federal government declared the fort ruins a National Historic Site in 1961. The National Park Service has since restored and preserved the fort.
Davis Mountains State Park is in Jeff Davis County, four miles northwest of Fort Davis. The 2,709-acre park sits about halfway between Guadalupe Mountains and Big Bend national parks. A local family deeded the original portion of the park to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
The Civilian Conservation Corps began work on the park in 1933. The park has been open to the public since the late 1930s, with campgrounds added in 1967.
For more information:
- The Look of Nature: Davis Mountains
- A New Deal for Texas Parks (interactive exhibit)
- Texas Beyond History: Fort Davis and the Trans-Pecos Trails
- Texas Beyond History: Nineteenth-Century Forts and the Clash of Cultures on the Texas Frontier
- Handbook of Texas Online: Fort Davis
- Fort Davis National Historic Site