Fort Davis National Historic Site

Fort Davis National Historic Site



Post Hospital Restoration Project 

Colonel Joseph K.F. Mansfield, Inspector-General of the Army, visited Fort Davis on October 28, 1860. He was on an official inspection tour of the Department of Texas. His report included the following statement, "the hospital is a worthless building of posts set on end, and chinked in, & rotten, & thatched roof, & rough floors, and braced outside, but will soon fall down or be blown down."

This is a far cry from the post hospital that exists today at Fort Davis National Historic Site. Currently the visitor to Fort Davis can visit several buildings with furnished interiors: a cavalry barracks, an officer's quarters, a kitchen, and the Commanding Officer's home. The Commissary is at present undergoing restoration. The hospital, while standing mostly complete in the canyon behind the Officer's Line, was an important part of the life of the post and demands restoration. The Friends of Fort Davis have committed to a campaign to raise the necessary funds to partially restore the hospital. This project will vastly increase the interpretive opportunities to tell the story of frontier medicine, both military and civilian.

In 1867, in exchange for medical care for themselves and their families, local civilians built a temporary hospital at Fort Davis. This makeshift was adobe with a mud roof, dirt floors, and windows covered with sheets. Despite its crude appearance, Post Surgeon Daniel Weisel in 1869 stated that this small building was, "very comfortable and in all respects fulfills the wants of the post." This structure served the garrison from 1868 to 1876. However, as early as 1870 various post surgeons began to petition for a new hospital. This was not to happen until 1876 when the current building was constructed. Built of adobe on a stone foundation, this hospital had wooden floors and a tin roof that did not leak. Originally containing one ward for twelve beds on the north end, the hospital was expanded in 1884 with the addition of a ward on the south end. The hospital complex included the quarters for the hospital steward, storeroom, laundry, kitchen, mess hall, cistern, and privy.

The post surgeon was responsible for the hospital, the staff, and the overall health and welfare of the garrison and the civilian population. He oversaw sick call and examined the troops for everything from wounds to the common cold. Digestive, intestinal, and respiratory ailments were most common; as were contusions, fractures, rheumatism, venereal diseases, and fevers. The post surgeon also handled the voluminous paperwork and a myriad of other tasks required by the Army Medical Department, such as:    

  • Inspecting the food and water supply
  • Directing the mess hall operations and food preparation
  • Supervising the sanitation of all the fort's activities
  • Implementing and enforcing sanitation regulations
  • Planning and supervising the post gardens
  • Functioning as the official coroner
  • Collecting local flora and fauna samples

The post surgeon and his staff were deeply involved with every aspect of life at Fort Davis. In terms of health and well-being of the soldiers and the civilian community, the hospital was perhaps the most important structure on the post.


Fort Davis National Historic Site Release

Release Date: April 2, 2007

Max Kandler Named Volunteer of the Year

The National Park Service at Fort Davis National Historic Site held its annual Volunteer Awards Ceremony last week. The prestigious Volunteer of the Year award went to Max Kandler, whose photography has enhanced the park's efforts since October 2003.

“We sincerely appreciate the efforts of Max and all our volunteers,” said Chuck Hunt, Superintendent of the Fort, “They make a huge positive difference -- we couldn’t do without them.” At the ceremony, Superintendent Chuck Hunt summarized accomplishments achieved with the help of volunteers in the past year. He also outlined some projects the park expects to accomplish in the coming years.

The following area volunteers were honored at the volunteer awards ceremony, held at Indian Lodge:

From Alpine--Doug & Jean Bailey; Roxann Chavez at Alpine Avalanche; Charles David; Shirley Canfield Dudley; Betty Lou Grimm; Lisa & Abel Guevara; Jerry Johnson; Rick, Kim, Jade & Sage Keith; Jesse & Patrick Schneider; Wayne & Mary Lou Sheehan; Jan & Larry Smith; Jena Vanderburg; Chuck Wilson.

From Fort Davis-- John & Brenda Bell; Addie, Caleb, & Josiah Bencomo; John Blackman; Dick Canino; Jimneta Christian; Ruth Crook; John Davis; Bob Dillard at Jeff Davis Mountain Dispatch; Joe, Malcolm & Lanna Duncan; Pansy Espy; Mary Fenton & Steve O’Dell; Kelly Fenstermaker; Marjorie Ferguson; Larry & Beth Francell; Margaret Goerke; Bob & Marlen Gray; George Grubb Jr.; Bill Hack; Floy Healer; Jake & Zach Heiner; Dana, Peyton & Will Hunt; Howard & Elaine Johnson; Max Kandler; Willie Langham; Gregory & Myra Meads; John Mitchell; Jim Park; Toby & John Skroder; Dick & Joyce Slaughter; Lonn Taylor; Louadah & Bill Waggoner; Jerry Yarbrough.

From Marfa-- Robert Halpern at The Big Bend Sentinel; Ganka & Kostadin Kostadinov; Rod Lee.

Volunteers honored from outside the tri-county area include George O’Kelley of Austin; John, Gail & Joe Ott of Utah; Lori Dillon & Dave Sheedy of Arizona; Chuck & Ann Dixon, Joe E. Jay, and Margaret, Tom, Mary Margaret & Paul Peterson of Midland; Jere Madison of Abilene; Karen Fix of Conservation Artisans of New York and Douglas Porter’s graduate students from the University of Vermont who helped with last summer’s Hospital Restoration Project.

Volunteers are always needed. With volunteers’ help, much progress has been made on the post hospital, which now boasts some windows, flooring, and new exhibits. Work continues on the hospital, and another field school will be held this summer. Anyone interested in volunteering to help with the hospital project, to be a living history docent, or to volunteer in any capacity at the Fort may call the volunteer coordinator at 432-426-3224 ext. 24. For those wishing to support the Fort by joining the Friends of Fort Davis NHS, see