Fort Stockton is a city in Pecos County, Texas, United States. It is the county seat of Pecos County, located on Interstate Highway 10, U.S. Highways 67, 285, and 385, and the Santa Fe Railroad, northwest of San Antonio and east of El Paso.
Fort Stockton (named Camp Stockton until 1860) grew up around Comanche Springs, at one time the third largest source of spring water in Texas, and near the military fort founded in 1859 and named for Robert Field Stockton. Comanche Springs was a favorite rest stop on the Comanche Trail to Chihuahua, San Antonio-El Paso Road, The Butterfield Overland Mail Route, and the San Antonio-Chihuahua freight-wagon road. The fort was originally garrisoned by Company H of the First United States Infantry.
The Confederates took possession of the fort at the outbreak of the Civil War but abandoned it the next year. In 1867 the army rebuilt the fort on a larger and more permanent basis to protect travelers and settlers from Indians. Until abandoned in 1886, the fort provided employment for freighters and laborers and a market for farmers, stockmen, and merchants.
Other forts in the frontier fort system were Forts Griffin, Concho, Belknap, Chadbourne, Richardson, Fort Davis, Fort Bliss, McKavett, Clark, Fort McIntosh, Fort Inge and Phantom Hill in Texas, and Fort Sill in Oklahoma. There were "sub posts or intermediate stations" including Bothwick's Station on Salt Creek between Fort Richardson and Fort Belknap, Camp Wichita near Buffalo Springs between Fort Richardson and Red River Station, and Mountain Pass between Fort Concho and Fort Griffin.
Fort Stockton was garrisoned by companies of the 9th Cavalry, known as "Buffalo Soldiers." In July 1867, Fort Stockton was re-established by four Companies of the 9th U.S. Cavalry Regiment on leased from civilian landowners, one-half mile northeast of the first post. Companies A, B, E, and K of the 9th Cavalry began construction under the command of Colonel Edward Hatch. The 9th was one of the new regiments organized after the Civil War staffed with Black enlisted men. When the 9th Cavalry was moved to New Mexico in 1875, Colonel Benjamin Grierson's 10th Cavalry took over the duties of protecting the westward migration and trade routes.
About 87 percent of all soldiers garrisoned at Fort Stockton from 1867 until 1886 were Buffalo Soldiers of the 9th and 10th Cavalry Regiments and the 41st, 24th and 25th Infantry Regiments. Surmounting obstacles of harsh living conditions, low pay, and racial prejudice, they gained a reputation for tenacity and bravery. Stationed continuously on the frontier during the years of Indian hostility, Black regiments played a major role in the settlement and development of America's western frontier.
San Antonio entrepreneurs, convinced that the water from Comanche and nearby Leon springs could be used for irrigation, purchased large tracts of land for agricultural development. In 1868, Peter Gallagher bought the land that included the military garrison and Comanche Springs, platted for a townsite named Saint Gaul, and established two stores at Comanche Springs. Later, Gallagher and John James purchased along Comanche Creek. By 1870, the Saint Gaul region had a population of 420 civilians, predominantly Irish, German, and Mexican Catholics who had come by way of San Antonio. The first church in Saint Gaul was Catholic. When Pecos County was organized in 1875, Saint Gaul became the county seat. The name, however, was never popular with the citizens, and on August 13, 1881, it was changed officially to Fort Stockton.
By 1870, some settlers were using the water from the Pecos River for irrigation. Seven years later, irrigated farmland comprised , and by 1945 the total reached . After the military post was abandoned on June 30, 1886, and both the Texas and Pacific and the Southern Pacific railroads had bypassed it, Fort Stockton experienced a decline. By then, however, it was rapidly becoming the center for an extensive sheep and cattle ranching industry, and in 1926, the opening of the nearby Yates oil field brought on an economic boom. Fort Stockton was served by the Kansas City, Mexico and Orient Railway.
Today, the original fort's guardhouse remains, and some of the officers' quarters have become private dwellings. Several other buildings of the fort have been refurnished to the 1880s. The refurbished fort site includes a row of officers' quarters, enlisted men's barracks, and the parade grounds. A museum and visitor's center can be found at the site.
Since the 1920s, Fort Stockton has experienced the economic boom-bust cycle of the petroleum drilling industry. As of 2012, Fort Stockton is in a state of economic expansion as oilfield drilling and production has increased.