Shanty Towns

The Army abandoned Fort Griffin in 1881. Initially established in 1867 to protect settlers from Comanche and Kiowa raids, the fort was garrisoned by four companies of the Sixth Cavalry and was situated on the high ground between the West Fork of the Trinity River and the Clear Fork of the Brazos in Shackelford County, Texas.

The state acquired the land in 1935, partially restored the frontier fort through the efforts of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC), and under the oversight of the Texas Historical Association opened the ruins and grounds to the public in 1938 as a State Park.


In addition to the military garrison, a shanty town soon developed in what became known as “the Flat.” Primitive facilities were erected catering to the male dominated population and included saloons, gambling halls, and brothels. The site soon became synonymous with vice and lawlessness.

Of course, military stockade construction was invariably followed by civilian construction of shanty towns to accommodate all  the hunters, cowboys, gamblers, prostitutes, outlaws, merchants and gunslingers that populated these settlements.Not all such towns were “seedy;” some would flourish into cities with law and order, schools and churches. However, Griffin (so named after the fort) was considered one of the wildest places on the Southern Plains.

Most folk didn’t refer to the town as Griffin. It was at various times called “Camp Wilson, the Bottom, or Hidetown,” but the name most commonly associated with the town was “the Flat.” Regardless of what it was called, its reputation for crime became so bad that the military had to place it under martial law to reduce the  number of shootouts and murders, and to suppress the thriving but immoral trade in human flesh. Killings, vice and sin flourished at the “Babylon on the Brazos.” – excerpt from Palo Duro.

Griffin State Park is located just north of Albany, Texas at the juncture of Highway 283 and Park Road 58. It is open everyday except on major holidays (Thanksgiving Day, Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day) from 8:00 AM – 4:30 PM.

Author: maxknight73

Retired Army Officer and Counterintelligence Specialist. Currently living in San Antonio, Texas with his wife Gray. Cancer survivor. Avid history buff and writer.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s