First Rural School West Of Pecos RiverHighway 118 North, between Alpine and Fort Davis – 1967

“Built 1881 of adobe brick, by settlers P.H. Pruett, Cal Nations, James Dawson, Joe Dorsey. At the same time Pruett built home a half-mile west. A Texas Rangers’ camp in area gave protection from Indians. Mrs. Pruett once made a midnight ride to alert rangers to approach of Apaches.”

Pruett sold home, 1883, to Fort Davis Commandant B.H. Grierson, and founded “Lone Cottonwood” Ranch 4 miles north. School was closed after he moved. In 1912 Pruett sold “Cottonwood” to H.L. Kokernot; now several Kokernot ranches use it as headquarters.”

 Very few details can be found about the first school built in Far West Texas. It was made to accommodate the children of ranching families; it was situated roughly 12 miles south of what would become the town of Fort Davis. The Pruetts only lived at this homestead for a few years before moving to the north and establishing the Lone Cottonwood Ranch. The remains of the adobe schoolhouse, or what’s visible of them, are on private land and are not accessible.

Black Gap Wildlife Management AreaBlack Gap Headquarters, Brewster County, FM 2627 – 1963

 “Black Gap, a natural cleft in the basalt ridge northeast of the Sierra del Carmen, frames the headquarters site of the Black Gap Wildlife Management Area.

“Established in 1948, the “Gap” contains approximately 100,000 acres representative of the rugged Big Bend country—the typical mountainous southwest.

“Owned by the people of Texas and operated by the game and fish commission, the area is the scene of research and developmental work dedicated to the conservation and restoration of wildlife species indigenous to the region.

 “Mule deer, javelina, prong-horned antelope and scaled quail are among the principal game species managed. Work is in process to restore the bighorn sheep which, by the 1960s, were all but eliminated from Texas.

“Scientific land use practices designed to increase the yield of natural foods for wildlife, have been instituted by the commission. Water retention and utilization is accomplished by the construction of water impoundments, diversion dams and ‘push ups’ seeded with native vegetation.

“Research findings through demonstrations and educational extension programs conducted on this federal-state cooperative project, are available to surrounding landowners and others who are interested. Game surpluses produced on the black gap are harvested periodically by hunters under a controlled public hunt program.”

 Harboring more than 300 species of birds and 50 species of mammals, Black Gap is the largest wildlife management area in Texas. It’s also the second oldest. In 1948 the initial parcels were purchased from the Combs Cattle Company for the purpose of wildlife research and education by the Texas Game, Fish and Oyster Commission.

In spite of its proximity to Big Bend National Park, Black Gap enjoys much lower visitation. Most visitors for ‘non-consumptive’ use (hiking, canoeing and exploring) will have the roads and trails to themselves. Permits for these activities cost a mere $12 for several months.

The Stillwell store and Hallie Stillwell Hall of Fame Museum on FM 2627 draw visitors to interpret the rich history of ranching and settler life, and hunters and fishers enjoy a variety of game and fish in this rich island of biodiversity.

Pioneer Cemetery,

Highway 118, Fort Davis Outskirts – 1967

“Used from 1870’s to 1914. Settlers buried here include Mr. and Mrs. Diedrick Dutchover, immigrants from Belgium and Spain; their surname, coined by a recruiter in the Mexican War, is borne by many descendants.

 “Dolores who on her wedding eve lighted a signal fire for her fiancé later found scalped by Indians; she became mentally ill and (until her death 30 years later) burned fires on mountain near town for her lost lover.

 “Two young Frier brothers, who were shot by a ranger posse as horse thieves and were buried in only boothill grave in county.”

There’s a lot of information crammed onto this tiny plaque. Anton Dietrich (noted elsewhere in Fort Davis histories as being German rather than Belgian) and his wife, an Hispanic woman, accepted the nickname of ‘Dutchover’ bestowed upon them. Anton first came to the area as a mail coach guard on its first run to the fort in They remained in the area when Fort Davis was initially abandoned just prior to the Civil War, when all 48 voting inhabitants of the area elected to remain in the Union and the U.S. soldiers stationed there retreated to San Antonio. They became substantial landowners, ranching their holdings with great success.

 Dolores Gavino Doporto was engaged to a young goatherd named Jose. He was killed by Mescalero Apaches in Musquiz Canyon while tending his goats shortly before the wedding. Every Thursday night for the following thirty or forty years she climbed the mountain to light a fire in his memory, and upon her death in 1893 she was buried near the path she had worn up the slope. The mountain is now called Dolores Mountain.

A boothill cemetery or grave is one in in which the buried “died with their boots on,” in other words in gunfights, by hanging or in the course of criminal activity. In 1896 Jude and Arthur Frier and an unknown third person stole a dozen horses near Big Lake, as well as guns and supplies from a farmhouse. Horse thieving was a capital offense in those days, and a warrant was issued for the boys, ages 15 and 19. When Texas Rangers caught up with them they refused to surrender and a shootout ensued, with both Frier brothers killed in the gunfire and the third party making an escape. They were buried in the Pioneer Cemetery with their boots on, at a cost to the county of $13 for two pine coffins and an extra dollar each for the grave digging. Their site is the first a visitor sees upon entering the cemetery.