Fort Cienega

By: Julia Cauble Smith

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: January 1, 1995

Fort Cienega, a private fort near the source of Cienega Creek six miles east of Shafter in central Presidio County, was built between 1855 and 1857 by Presidio County's first Anglo-American rancher, Milton Faver. It served as a stronghold during Indian attacks, an outpost for army patrols from Fort Davis, and a self-sufficient home to ranch workers. The adobe structure was built for protection. It had one story, a flat roof, and twenty-foot-high walls three to four feet thick. The living quarters were thirteen-foot rooms along the south and west sides. Animals were stockaded within the enclosure. Two square defensive towers stood at the northeast and southwest corners. The main gate was the only entrance.

As formidable as the fort must have appeared to Indians, it was not spared from attacks. During the Civil War Fort Davis was abandoned, and Indian raids increased in the Fort Cienega area. In 1871 Fort Cienega was attacked by Indians who dug a trench under the wall. Faver and his men discovered the plan in progress and killed the first Indian when he appeared in the opening. Fort Cienega served as a quasimilitary post when troops from Fort Davis were garrisoned there in times of need. Army provisions were stored there to resupply patrols that came through the area.

Fort Cienega, named for the Spanish word ciénaga ("marshland") was self-sufficient. Its abundant water supply, derived from nearby Cienega Spring, allowed the cultivation of many vegetables. Cattle, horses, mules, goats, and sheep were raised on the open range near the fort. Peach trees growing near the spring provided the fruit for Faver's homemade brandy, which he bartered to Indians for hides, leather goods, horses, and mules. After Faver's death in December 1889, ownership of Cienega passed to his son, Juan. John A. Pool bought the ranch from the Faver descendants, and at the end of the 1980s it was home to the fourth generation of Pool's family.

Leavitt Corning, Jr., Baronial Forts of the Big Bend (Austin: Trinity University Press, 1967). John Ernest Gregg, History of Presidio County (M.A. thesis, University of Texas, 1933). Historic American Buildings Survey, Texas Catalog, comp. Paul Goeldner (San Antonio: Trinity University Press, 1974?). Ray Miller, Ray Miller's Texas Forts (Houston: Cordovan, 1985). Carlysle Graham Raht, The Romance of the Davis Mountains and Big Bend Country (Odessa, Texas: Rahtbooks, 1963). Cecilia Thompson, History of Marfa and Presidio County, 1535–1946 (2 vols., Austin: Nortex, 1985).

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas
  • Reconstruction

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Julia Cauble Smith, “Fort Cienega,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed January 26, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

January 1, 1995