BELKNAP, TEXAS. Belknap was a half mile east of Fort Belknap and three miles south of the site of present Newcastle in Young County. The nearby fort was named for Gen. William G. Belknap, who selected the site and established Camp Belknap in 1851. During the early 1850s a small settlement grew up near the fort and was named for it. In 1856 Young County was organized, and Belknap became the first county seat, although the town was little more than a trading post and a post office, the latter established on August 14, 1856. With the army providing frontier security, however, Belknap rapidly grew by 1859 to comprise five general stores, two blacksmith shops, a hotel, a billiard parlor, a school that met at the fort, and 150 people. The community became a stop on the Butterfield Overland Mail route to California. In Belknap on September 14, 1859, Indian agent Robert S. Neighbors was shot and killed by opponents of his policy.
The coming of the Civil War and removal of United States troops from the fort brought Belknap's prosperity to an end. Although Confederate soldiers occasionally camped in the area, the few families that stayed mainly lived in the fort for protection against Indians. Little community activity was evident when federal troops returned to Fort Belknap in 1867, but by 1874 the settlement had recovered enough to reestablish the post office, which had been discontinued in 1865. Belknap lost the county seat to Graham when the county reorganized in 1874. In 1892 the town had a hotel, several stores, and 125 people. But it consolidated with the new settlement of Newcastle in 1908, when the discovery of coal prompted the Wichita Falls and Southern Railway to build into Young County. The Belknap post office was discontinued and moved to Newcastle on March 3 of that year. Only an unmarked cemetery remained near the original site by the 1980s.
T. Lindsay Baker, Ghost Towns of Texas (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1986). Earl Burk Braly, "Fort Belknap of the Texas Frontier," West Texas Historical Association Yearbook 30 (1954). Carrie J. Crouch, Young County: History and Biography (Dallas: Dealey and Love, 1937; rev. ed., A History of Young County, Texas, Austin: Texas State Historical Association, 1956). Kenneth F. Neighbours, Robert Simpson Neighbors and the Texas Frontier, 1836–1859 (Waco: Texian Press, 1975).