Fort Verde: Arizona’s best-kept post from the Indian War period
At first glance it may not look like much. But in truth, Fort Verde is the best preserved military fort from the Indian War years in Arizona.
Military presence in the Verde Valley began when settlers along West Clear Creek asked the Army for protection shortly after they arrived in February 1865. In August of that year a troop of New Mexico volunteers established the first post near the confluence of West Clear Creek, then called the Clear Fork, and the Verde River.
In January 1866, the post moved to a malarial infested position just upstream from the confluence of the Verde and Beaver Creek. It was abandoned in 1871 for the site on which the fort remains.
The fort would function until 1891, manned by as many as 300 soldiers during its busiest times. It played an integral role in the famous Indian fighter General George Crook’s campaigns against the Tonto Apaches, waged during the winter of 1872-1873.
The remaining buildings include three homes on officers row, including the surgeon’s house, the bachelor officer’s quarters and the commanding officer’s quarters.
The other building, which now houses the museum was originally the fort’s administration building. The museum has multiple kiosks, showing everything from the fort’s old communication techniques to biographies of the men and women who lived and served there.
The fort museum also contains several displays of memorabilia from other military forts in the vicinity along with informative displays on the Yavapai and Apache.
The fort was abandoned by the military in April 1891. The surrounding 18 square mile Rio Verde Military Reservation was opened to homesteading in 1895. The post including 40 acres and all the remaining buildings sold at auction in August 1899 for $700 to local rancher James Henry Wingfield.
Shortly after Wingfield purchased the building, he sold them off. Most were torn down and the lumber used on dwellings throughout thee area.
Much of the credit for saving the fort, belongs to Harold and Margaret Hallett.
The couple had purchased the administration building in 1940. They used it as a temporary residence while their home was being built.
Eventually, the Halletts sold the building to the Camp Verde Improvement Association for one dollar, for a museum.
The museum and two buildings that were added eventually became too much for the fort Verde Museum Association, the organization formed to preserve the site, to handle.
In July 1970, Margaret Hallett, now president of the Fort Verde Museum Association sold the fort to Arizona State Parks.
On October 10, Fort Verde Day 1970, the park opened. But it would take an additional seven years to reassemble the remaining pieces you see today.What: Self-guided tour of original 1871-1891 U.S. Army post and museum; living-history programs available with advance notice; historic houses; picnic tables, restrooms available; RV and tour-bus parking; ADA-accessible site.
Where: From I-17, go east on Arizona 260, turn left on Main Street in Camp Verde, go to 125 E. Hollamon St., and turn left; park is to the right.
Hours: Open Thurs thru Monday 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. ad all holidays except Christmas
Cost: $3 for adults; $1 ages 7-13, students $1, six and under are free
* Discount group rates 10 or more, $12.60 for adults and will provide a living history presentation on request. Special rates for school groups call in advance
* Buffalo Soldiers in February
* October: Fort Verde Days
* April, History of the Soldier
Other special events, Call or check Web site for schedule
Contact: Fort Verde State Historical Park at (928) 567-3275 or online at www..azstateparks.com.