Home Photo Album Recipes Reviews Date Book Links E-mail Us
In Search Of ...The Old West

Where Ghosts Still Haunt the Region

Chris, a friend from the old neighborhood, and I went to find the the remnants of the Old West at Fort Bowie in the Apache Pass between the Chiracha and Dos Cabezas mountains.

On our drive there along back roads we came across a wagon train that was eerily reminescent of transportation in the 1800's. It was a fitting start to our journey to find the Butterfield Stage trail and an 1880's Army post situated near Apache Spring.

Fort Bowie was established in 1862 to protect Apache Pass, through which emigrants and prospectors streamed into Chiricahua Apache territory. The fort grew to about 38 buildings between 1862 and its closure in 1894, by which time the Apaches were subdued and Geronimo captured.

In the distance, beyond the outer wall of the fort, stood the cavalry barracks. Beyond them are the Chiricahua mountains, touched with snow on the February day we visited.

Fort Bowie lies on a sloping field nestled along the southern flank of the Chiricahuas. It protects the nearby Apache Spring, which, as a constant source of water in the desert, drew the Butterfield Stage line through this area as early as 1858. This view from an overlooking ridge minimizes the scale of the fort and buildings, which sprawl over several acres. The post parade ground and flagpost is just to the left of the middle of the photo. The cavalry barrack are to the left; the infantry barracks and sutler's store (post trader) are to the right.
The Butterfield Stage trail through the pass can be traversed to this day by following the trail markers lining the old route through the mountains. The remnants of a stage staion also remain in the area.

Life — and death — on the frontier

The post cemetery reminds present day visitors of the harshness of life in a western outpost.

Their final resting place is picturesquely situated in the shadow of Helen's Dome, a barren granite peak which served as a landmark for travelers approaching Apache Pass.

Chris checks out the remains of the massive cavalry barracks. He trekked over meadows, along stream beds, and even through the snow to reach the sites of both the original and later Fort Bowie.
The original Fort Bowie was located on a hill overlooking Apache Spring. The stone breastworks remain, but the camp was relocated to a larger area a few hundred yards away.
Geronimo, on the right, and a band of Apaches inhabited the area before the settlers moved in. They lived in hide tents and grass wickiups, as a reconstructed Apache camp demonstrates. Beyond the wickiup is a ramada made of local vegetation, and at the front right is a grinding stone to make meal from nuts and grain.
Now, however, the fort neither protects settlers, who sprawl in valley towns and cities, nor battles Apaches, who were moved to a reservation in mid-Arizona. It battles the forces of nature, which seek to reclaim the land from the vanished white and red men.

Return to the Family Photo Album