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Preston Supply depot

Carl L. McFarland General

Preston Supply Depot was an army provision station located in what is now known as Grayson County. On April 12, 1851, Gen. Matthew Arbuckle proposed that the contemplated posts on the Brazos River (soon to be known as forts Belknap and Phantom Hill) be supplied by a more economical route. According to his suggestion the supplies would be transported from New Orleans by the Mississippi and Red rivers to a supply depot at or near the juncture of the Red and Washita rivers (in what is now Oklahoma) and then by land to the Brazos. However, a supply depot had already been opened in Preston, several miles southwest of Arbuckle's suggested location, to serve the initial company of the Fifth Infantry sent to the Brazos. Lt. Thomas C. English was ordered to take charge of the depot on June 2, 1851. But Arbuckle continued to insist that a depot be established at the Washita site and ordered Maj. George F. Wood to establish it. Major Wood and Capt. John A. Whitehall together selected a new location for the depot at the juncture of the Red and Washita rivers. In his orders approving the new location, known as Washita Bend, Gen. William Goldsmith Belknap instructed Wood "to take measures to have a road marked out from the depot to Fort Arbuckle and another to Warrens Trading House where he will endeavor to have a ferry established." With the arrival of a military wagon train from Fort Smith, Preston, Texas, again became the site of the depot by the end of 1851, and the name once more became Preston Supply Depot. Until the arrival of military wagons from Fort Smith, George N. Butt held the contract for transporting supplies to the Brazos by river to the depot. J. D. Black was his partner by July 1852. During April 1852 Major Wood provided the supply and transport for Capt. Randolph B. Marcy's expedition that explored the upper Red River.

On August 15, 1852, Capt. W. B. Blair, in his estimate of supplies for forts Belknap and Phantom Hill, suggested that the Preston depot be closed because of the difficulty of transporting supplies from the depot to the posts. This difficulty may be attributed to poor land routes, the poor conditions of the wagons and their trains, spoilage, and the uncertainty of navigation of the Red River. Furthermore, Blair pointed out that the forts could be supplied semiannually from Indianola. On September 22, 1852, Lt. C. W. Sear relieved Major Wood, who was ordered to the depot at Austin. His transfer marked the decision to supply forts Belknap and Phantom Hill from Indianola through Austin. The military wagons and teams were also ordered from the Preston Depot to Austin, after being repaired and refitted in San Antonio. By the end of April 1853 the transition in the supply routes was complete. The Preston Supply Depot was closed during early May 1853. Its site is now covered by Lake Texhoma.

Grant Foreman, ed., Adventure on the Red River (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1937). Gerald S. Pierce, Texas Under Arms: The Camps, Posts, Forts, and Military Towns of the Republic of Texas (Austin: Encino, 1969).

Time Periods:

  • Antebellum Texas

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

Carl L. McFarland, “Preston Supply depot,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed September 19, 2020,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.