Shackelford County is located in north central West Texas at the junction of highways 180, 283, and 6 covering 914 square miles of rolling plains and mesquite savannah. Layers of Permian limestone underlay much of the area overspread by loam and clay topsoil. With the Clear Fork of the Brazos River, one of its longest tributaries forming the northern boundary, and creeks like Deep Creek in the SE area and the Salt Fork of Hubbard Creek cutting through the county seat of Albany in the center of the location, The abundance of fine white tail deer, wild turkeys, dove and other wildlife make the county a natural hunting, ranching and agricultural paradise today and when created from Bosque County in 1858 and named for Dr. Jack Shackelford, a Texas Revolutionary War hero from Alabama. In September, 1874, under a pecan tree on the bank of the Clear Fork at Fort Griffin, (Est. 1867) one hundred seventy-four petitioners signed a request to organize Shackelford County and selected Fort Griffin as temporary county seat.
Shortly, a group that led organizational efforts met in C. K. Stribling’s office at Griffin and seemingly chose the following officers for the county: County Judge…C. K. Stribling; County Clerk…P. J. Clark; Sheriff and Tax Collector…H. C. Jacobs; and four other officers. A permanent County Seat chosen in a more central location was site of a log cabin courthouse on land given by Sheriff Jacobs and named Albany after the Deputy Sheriff’s home of Albany, Georgia. The railroad arrived in December, 1881 when Albany raised $50,000 to beat out Ft. Griffin, the same year the fort closed. It was the terminus for 19 years and Moran, first called Hulltown, grew along the line. The train discontinued in 1967.
County citizens built a native limestone courthouse (1883-84) led by Edgar Rye, (restored and still in use), by selling bonds and money borrowed from Irish Rancher, J. C. Lynch. Economic activity of the Twentieth Century switched to the Moran and Albany areas where oil and gas discoveries led to some county development. Gas discovery took place first in 1910, and would become the Moran Field. Similarly, a prolific shallow oil discovery six miles northwest of Albany in 1926, known as the Cook Field produced enough liquid gold to build a world renowned Children’s Hospital in Fort Worth given by Missouri Matilda (Dude Nail) Cook. County community settlements from Albany are BerryHill (NW), Rising Sun (W), Hamby (W) and Sedwick (SE). McCathrine Mt. (SE) is 1,393 ft. high.
Earliest pioneer, Jesse Stem from Ohio, came to the Clear Fork for his asthma in 1852, as Indian Agent to the Comanche Reservation and planted a significant crop of corn and oats on acquired land planning to stay. Lynch (1858) spotted a promising piece of land passing through the area on his way to the California Gold Rush in 1849 and returned to settle on it, living here 54 years with wife Fannie Gunsolus, Albany’s first business minded woman. Adamantly anti-war, he became County Judge, and built the west half of the Lynch Building, oldest stone structure in the Shackelford County Courthouse Historic District. Other early pioneers included W. H. Ledbetter (1859), T. E. Jackson (1860), George W. Greer (1861), and Joe B. Matthews (1861).
Earliest retail efforts at Griffin by Jackson and F. E. Conrad built Albany. Moran, for a short while, was also called Hicks. County population peaked in 1930 at 6,695 as a result of oil exploration yet slid consistently after the boom days, but now tops the state average by 6% in number of High School Graduates living here.
In 1938, a local boy, Robert Nail, Jr. and his childhood friend, Alice Reynolds returned from their respective universities and created The Fort Griffin Fandangle, locally written, directed, produced, and performed every June telling the history of the area. James Ball, Marge Sedwick Bray, and Betsy Black Parsons continued the tourism production as the successful true People’s Theater Nail intended. This led Albany in maintaining its historic structures and developing the nationally prominent Old Jail Art Center––pride in one’s county and one’s self is the end result of Shackelford County living.
The Cowboy Prayer from the Fort Griffin Fandangle
Special thanks go to the Old Jail Art Center for providing the historic photos of Fort Griffin, Shackelford County courthouse, the early town of Albany and the early day cowboys from the OJAC archives.