|Special Collections Division
the University of Texas
at Arlington Libraries
Vol. XV II* No. 1 * Spring 2003
One of the pleasures of working at UTA as both a library administrator and an adjunct professor of history is that I have the opportunity to meet students who are passionate about the subjects they are studying. Jack Graves is one such student. Jack is not your traditional college student. He is middle aged, runs a couple of successful businesses, has a family, and is a very capable photographer and pilot. Over the past few years, I have worked with Jack on a few documentary photographic projects that blend his passion of history with his love of flying.
To date, Jack has enrolled in three independent studies’ classes under my direction. In the first two classes, he used his photographic experience, research skills, and pilot’s license to document from the air battle-sites in southern Texas and northern Mexico of the U. S.-Mexican War of 1846-48. His Mexican War projects include photographs taken of the various sites from several angles, narratives about the sites and their historical significance, maps and aerial charts marking the location of the sites, and a complete series of negatives and photographic contact prints of each aerial photograph taken. Graves’ projects have been donated to Special Collections and are available for study and research.
This past summer, Jack enrolled in his final class for his BA degree—another independent studies class, this one focusing on the U. S. military forts that were built on the north and central Texas frontier during 1849-1889. I have asked Jack to write the following article for the Compass Rose documenting and explaining his latest project. By the time you read this, the photos, maps, negatives, narratives, and other products of the project will be deposited in Special Collections and open for use. My hat is off to Jack for not only conducting the project, but for also donating the work to Special Collections so that others will have the benefit of his hard and exemplary work.
Gerald D. Saxon
This project was conducted as an independent study project for the history department at The University of Texas at Arlington, under the direction of Dr. Gerald D. Saxon. The purpose of the project was to document from the air the current physical status of federal military forts on the borderlands of central and north central Texas. The eight forts covered were Fort Richardson, Fort Belknap, Fort Griffin, Fort Phantom Hill, Fort Chadbourne, Fort Concho, Fort McKavett and Fort Mason. These forts make up the "Texas Forts Trail," one of ten Texas travel trails designated by the Texas State Highway Department. As with most historic sites, the physical characteristics of the land change with time. The long-term effects of man and nature change the sites forever. As you will see, few have been preserved and some have been engulfed by "new surroundings" created by man.
This project was completed during the summer of 2002 over a five-week semester. The first two weeks were devoted to researching the various forts and camps in Texas and selecting an interesting group that could be adequately covered in a short time frame. There were over 50 active forts and camps in Texas between 1849-1889. The choices were narrowed down to prominent sites that could be precisely located and photographed on a one-day flight trip. U. S. Geological Survey topographic maps and
U. S. Department of Transportation aeronautical charts were obtained to formulate a flight plan and pinpoint the necessary navigational information. A preliminary outline and text draft were submitted to Dr. Saxon for his review and recommendations at this time.
The third week was utilized to visit the selected sites by land. Trips were made to the northern forts on one day and the southern forts on another. These trips were used to obtain actual latitude and longitude coordinates utilizing a handheld global positioning system (GPS), get a general orientation of the physical nature of each site, and determine ground reference landmarks that could be easily seen from the air. The coordinates would be entered into a GPS on board the aircraft to aid in navigation between the sites.
Week four was used for flight planning and the actual trip. The flight originated from Parker County Airport (WEA) in southwest Parker County. Direction of flight was counter clockwise to Fort Richardson, Belknap, Griffin, Phantom Hill, Chadbourne, Concho, McKavett, Mason and back to the Parker County Airport. The trip took approximately six hours of flight time and covered 438 miles point to point. Typically two or three circling passes were required to adequately photograph each site, and a brief stop in San Angelo for fuel and lunch was necessary. Utilizing the coordinates gathered during the road trip made all the sites easy to locate. All the photographs were taken on June 19, 2002, from an altitude of between 300 and 500 feet above ground level. A Cessna 172SP aircraft was flown and the weather was clear to partly cloudy, hot with winds out of the south gusting to 20 knots. The camera used was a 35mm Canon EOS1-N with a 70x200mm 2.8L zoom lens, using ILFORD Pan F Plus 50 and Kodak Tri-X Pan 400 black and white film.
The final week was used to complete the project for submission to Dr. Saxon. Approximately 160 individual negatives were processed onto contact sheets and forty 8″x10″ photographs were selected for inclusion in the final project. Researchers will find a key map and descriptions of the (8) fort sites followed by individual photographs taken from various directions. On the back of each photograph is a sheet giving the photograph number, contact, and negative sheet number, the direction of view and the corresponding map number. The maps are located in sleeves towards the back of the volume. The first map, map number one (1), is the topographic index map. Maps number two (2) through nine (9) denote the individual sites with the photograph number shown in blue at the general location at which the photograph was taken. There are also two aeronautical charts, maps ten (10) and eleven (11), that show the entire areas covered and the actual flight route. The negatives and contact sheets are also included and are denoted by letter designation to each site. There is a photograph index and map index included for added convenience.
The photographs and fort description used in this article are of Fort McKavett. Of the forts covered it is the best preserved and maintained. Also shown are examples of a key map, photographic index and navigation log.
The project was a unique opportunity to combine my interests for history, aviation and photography into what I hope will be a beneficial historical research document.
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