Little River Fort was built in November of 1836 by twenty Texas Rangers under the direction of Lt. George B. Erath. The Fort was established to protect the citizens of the Little River settlement. The Fort was then named after Major William H. Smith, however, was known more commonly as Little River Fort. Erath County was named after Lt. George B. Erath one of the original Texas Rangers. They successfully completed seven cabins, a picket stockade that was about nine-feet tall and a blockhouse that measured about sixteen- feet- square, enclosing approximately half an acre of land where the Leon River and the Lampasas Rivers joined, which is now part of Bell County. There was a spring nearby for water, but their food supply was rationed daily. The fort was commanded consecutively by Lt. Erath, Lt. Charles Curtis and Captain Daniel Monroe. There were two recorded battles between the rangers and the Comanche during the winter of 1836 and the spring of 1837 with less than twenty dead by both sides.
In June of 1837, the Rangers abandoned the fort and after time settlers, adventurers and hunters used the Fort. The Army re-occupied the fort from January of 1840 to March of 1841 when they disbanded the Army of Republic of Texas. Moses Griffin maintained the Little River Fort after the Rangers left, which brought on the name change to Fort Griffin in 1841. The fort was used as a stop for the Texan Santa Fe expedition in June of 1841 and for a temporary shelter for Captain Shapley P. Ross's Rangers in 1846. The Little River Fort was finally dismantled by Moses Griffin, and that site has been marked by the Texas Historical Commission.
In the late 1860's Fort, Griffin (a Cavalry fort) was constructed in West Texas, particularly Shackelford County to protect the settlers from Comanche and Kiowa attacks. The fort was the beginning of the Mackenzie train that extended across West Texas to Fort Sumner.
Fort Griffin was named for Civil War Union General Charles Griffin, who was the commander of the Department of Texas through the early days of Reconstruction. In 1867, the fort officially opened and became a significant settlement that catered to wagon trains and military recruits who utilized the local saloons for recreational purposes during their free time. The fort is located northeast of Abilene and the seat for Taylor County. The Flat was established in 1867 a very rough town north of Fort Griffin that became a popular stopping point for the cattle drives passing through the area.
Between 1871 and 1875 there was continuous warfare, skirmishing and raids by both the Kiowa and Comanche against the white settlements. This resulted in the Fourth and Tenth Cavalry (Buffalo Soldiers) attacking the Hostile Indians. It was during this time that the U.S. Army adopted the policy of killing all captured horses and mules as soon as the battle was over, and destroying all Indian Camps they ran into.
After the Red River War of 1874 the threats from the Comanche and Kiowa declined, resulting in the closure of Fort Griffin. Fort Griffin became part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and on January 1, 2008 was transferred over to the Texas Historical Commission. There are still remnants of the Fort and herd of Texas Longhorns are maintained at the site.