Jeff Davis County Courthouse, Fort Davis, Texas



“Jeff Davis County comprises 2,258 square miles, varying from mountainous to nearly level, with elevations ranging from 3,800 to 8,378 feet above sea level; the latter, at the top of Mount Livermore, is the fifth highest elevation in the state. Jeff Davis County is in the Rio Grande basin.”imgres

“Among the animals found (and hunted) in the county are mule deer, white-tailed deer, pronghorn antelope, mountain lion, javelina, elk, coyote, bobcat, ringtailed cat, badger, fox, weasel, civet cat, raccoon, skunk, sandhill crane, jacksnipe, mourning dove, white-winged dove, and teal. Several animals considered rare or endangered in Texas are found in Jeff Davis County, including the silver-haired bat, shorthorn lizard, Steller’s jay, Clark’s nutcracker, and band-tailed pigeon.”

“Jeff Davis County is best known for the Davis Mountains, the highest mountain range located entirely within the state of Texas. Evidence of prehistoric peoples in these mountains includes a cache of some 1,200 Livermore arrow points, dating from around A.D. 1000. Prehistoric peoples camped at Phantom Lake Spring, in northeastern Jeff Davis County, and may have used the springs for irrigation. The earliest white man to set foot in what is now Jeff Davis County was Antonio de Espejo, who in 1583 trekked up Limpia Canyon and across the southwestern part of the county.”

“After European contact, however, the future county was left to the Mescalero Apaches for another 2½ centuries. In the middle of the nineteenth century, when American exploration and settlement began in earnest, the federal government sponsored efforts to make roads westward. In March 1849 lieutenants William H. C. Whiting and William F. Smith were sent out from San Antonio to look for a route. Upon reaching the Davis Mountains, the Whiting and Smith expedition was greeted by some 200 Apaches, who escorted them to a nearby village that the explorers called Painted Comanche Camp, perhaps mistaking their hosts for members of that tribe.”

“On October 23 [, 1854] the order establishing Fort Davis, named for Secretary of War Jefferson Davis, was issued. Thus began the first phase in the development of the town of Fort Davis, a phase that ended with the outbreak of the Civil War. The fort quickly became the focal point for an influx of civilians, whose rough settlement to the south, first known as Chihuahua, attracted the usual variety of merchants, gamblers, saloonkeepers, prostitutes, and adventurers.”

“After the Confederate defeat at the battle of Glorieta Passqv in New Mexico, Confederate troops quit far West Texas in the summer of 1862, stopping at the abandoned fort on their way east. Four troops of the Ninth United States Cavalry reoccupied the fort on July 1, 1867, and subsequently Fort Davis became “the most important town in the Trans-Pecos country,” attracting a new generation of settlers in the late 1860s and 1870s.”

“The prosperity that accompanied the return of the troops led to the organization of Presidio County, which had been formed out of El Paso County in 1850. Two previous attempts to organize it had failed. Finally, on May 12, 1871, the county was organized, with Fort Davis as the county seat.”

“In 1882, however, when the Southern Pacific built through the area, it bypassed Fort Davis. The residents of Marfa thought that their town, which was on the railroad, should be the county seat. A new election was held on July 14, 1885, and although the results were disputed, Marfa won. The residents of Fort Davis immediately called for a new county, and on March 15, 1887, an act of the state legislature established Jeff Davis County. “Thank God,” said one legislator, “that at last we have a Texas county named in honor of the president of the Confederacy.” Fort Davis was again a county seat, but the rivalry with Marfa continued as a dispute about the county line. The boundary quarrel, eventually decided in the courts, was not settled until January 1905, when Jesse W. Merrill and S. A. Thompson surveyed a new county line.”

“The 1880s brought a number of cattle ranchers to Jeff Davis County, many fleeing a Texas fever epidemic in other parts of the state. The towns of Valentine and Chispa, in western Jeff Davis County, were founded along the Southern Pacific, and became supply centers for the ranchers who began to fill in the wide-open spaces in that part of the county.”

“In the early 1990s tourism was more important than ever before to the Jeff Davis County economy. Points of interest in the Fort Davis area include the Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis National Historic Site, and the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute arboretum. A seventy-four-mile scenic highway loop takes motorists through the Davis Mountains, in which are Mount Livermore and the University of Texas McDonald Observatory on Mount Locke.”

Martin Donell Kohout, “JEFF DAVIS COUNTY,” Handbook of Texas Online

Fort Davis is the only county seat in the state to have been the county seat of two separate counties.

I came to Fort Davis on August 14, 2013 

Jeff Davis CCH ca 1910

“The Beaux Arts clock tower features a four-sides Seth Thomas clock and a seven-hundred pound bell, which was used as a fire alarm. Following the Mexican Revolution, it served as a warning signal of attacks by Mexican bandits. It is still in use today. This Classical Revival courthouse is made of concrete and rusticated pink stone. It features six imposing Doric columns guarding the front and rear recessed entrances.”

From: Historic Texas Courthouses by Michael A. Andrews

(Photo courtesy: THC)


Architect: L.L. Thurmon & Co.

Year: 1910

Number for the County: First

Style: Classical Revival with a Beaux-Arts tower


Views seen from the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop between Valentine and Fort Davis on Highway 166


Outskirts of Fort Davis


A fence surrounds the courthouse grounds.


The unique turnstile gate to access the courthouse lawn


Above the town


Historic Hotel Limpia across the street from the courthouse

Previous Courthouse: El Paso County

Next Courthouse: Presidio County

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