Monday, March 22, 2010

Rex Allen Museum and Ft. Bowie

For such a small, sleepy town, Willcox actually had quite a bit to see and do. There were several museums, 2 thrift stores and a used book store, several restaurants and a bar and grill where you burn your own meat. And on Saturday night the bar and grill had a great band, Heart and Soul from the Safford area, where we danced the night away.

In addition to the Chiricahua History Museum, which mainly focused on the Apache history of Cochise and Geronimo, along with some history of local ranchers and townspeople, there was the Rex Allen Museum. Personally I don't really remember Rex Allen, but he was one of the singing cowboys right along with Roy Rogers. He made lots of 1950s cowboy movies and continued recording cowboy songs through the 1960s.

Rex's horse, Koko, was probably just as famous as he was.

In fact, Koko is buried across the street from the museum in a city park. After his movie career wound down, Rex and Koko continued to perform at rodeos across the country until Kokos death.

The museum had posters and pictures of Rex Allen and his movies. Here are some of his costumes from his performing days. There was another room of posters and pictures of many other cowboy stars from the same era, too.

The Butterfield Overland Mail route wound through Apache Pass from 1858 until the telegraph replaced it just a few years later. Above is the remains of the original stage station near Apache Springs. Apache Springs was the only source of water in the area. In its three year history, it was attacked only once by the Apaches and was late in delivering the mail only 3 times.

When the Apaches and the U.S. Army started having problems they established Ft. Bowie in 1862. In the cemetary are the remains of Geronimo's 2 year old son, who died of illness during one of Geronimo's stays when he was captured.

But most of the graves indicate the men there were killed by the Apaches during their skirmishes.

This is the spring with the only fresh water in the pass.

Two forts were actually built here. This is the location of the first fort which was built overlooking the spring in 1862. The Apaches were tolerant of the invading settlers, army and stage coach traffic until Cochise was accused of kidnapping a young boy. Of course the Apaches denied the kidnapping and there was never any evidence they actually did kidnap anyone. But Lt. Col. Bascom tricked Cochise and arrested him. Cochise escaped and took hostages. The U.S. Army took hostages and ultimately all the hostages were killed and the Apache Wars began. The Bascom Affair, as this incident was called, happened in 1861, and it was less than a year later that Ft. Bowie was established to control the Apache problem.

In 1868, a less primitive fort was built nearby. This fort was active until 1894. Soldiers could bring their families, there was a hospital and even tennis courts.

Cochise finally made peace in 1872 and his people were given 3000 acres which included their homeland. After Cochise's death from natural causes in 1874, problems broke out again and when the government closed the reservation and moved the Apaches to a new reservation in New Mexico, Geronimo fled with many followers to Northern Mexico. From this location he terrorized the border region and the Chiricahua area, including Ft. Bowie. During the next ten years they would be captured and placed back onto the reservation, where they would stay for awhile, then escape again, several times. In 1886 Geronimo surrendered for the last time.

This is the view today of what is left of the second Ft. Bowie.

These stone walls are all that remain of a once modern hospital. The o utline of where buildings once stood and a few remaining walls are all that is left of a fort which was the heart of the military actions in this area of Southeastern Arizona.

A view of Apache Pass and the route of the Butterfield Overland Mail.

Geronimo and his followers were removed to Ft. Pickens in Florida for several years, then moved to Alabama before finally being ending up at Ft. Sill, OK. He never did get to return to his beloved Chiricahua Mountains. Geronimo was probably one of the most famous of Indians. He was not a chief, just an Apache Leader. After his final surrender and during his captivity, he exploited his fame. He would sell buttons off his coat to tourists, then at night sew on new buttons to be sold the next day. He went several times to Washington, D.C., even attending a presidential inauguration. He even met the Queen of England. He died in 1909 in Ft. Sill where he is buried. It was said he died with $10,000 in the bank.

1 comment:

Barbara and Ron said...

You do tell a good story!