About Sierra Vista, Ft. Huachuca, and Cochise County
Surrounded by mountains, Sierra Vista (Spanish for “Mountain View’) is located on State Route 90 just 30 miles south of Interstate 10. The city’s name describes its location, and at an elevation of 4623 feet boasts a spectacular view of the Mule, Dragoon, Whetstone and Huachuca Mountains. The town is known for its ideal weather with an average maximum of 75 and minimum of 50 degrees. With a population of over 40,000, Sierra Vista is one of the fastest growing communities in Arizona and is the business and cultural center of Cochise County.
But it wasn’t always so. About 1915, a small collect\on of rock-walled, tin roofed buildings with a general store, saloon and gas station comprised the community known as Buena. Sometime later the name was changed to Overton and still later to Garden Canyon. In 1927 a post office was established under the name of Fry, in honor of a local pioneer family, whose descendants still live in this area.
There is little doubt that Sierra Vista would not exist were it not for the Army Post of Fort Huachuca, (Waa-Choo-Ca). Established in 1877 as an Army camp from which to operate against the Apache Indians, Fort Huachuca was an active military installation through the end of World War II. The post was deactivated at the end of that war and the community of Fry lapsed into a small town site serving local ranchers and an occasional tourist who strayed from the beaten path. The Federal Census of 1950 records a population of 50 persons living in Fry.
Fort Huachuca was reactivated during the Korean War and in 1954 became the home of the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground. From that point on the historic post has continued to grow in importance to the mission of the U.S. Army and the defense of the nation. Fort Huachuca became part of Sierra Vista in 1972, and the military and civilian communites enjoy one of the most cordial relationships of this kind in the United States.
Fort Huachuca is the largest employer in southern Arizona and is presently the home of the U.S. Army Intelligence Center, U.S. Army Signal Command, U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground, JTC3A Joint Test Element, 11th Signal Brigade, Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center and numerous smaller activities. Fort Huachuca is an active U.S. Army post operating under wartime restrictions. It may or may not be open to the public depending on the level of security. All visitors must enter at the main gate and obtain a visitors pass. Vehicle registration, proof of insurance and driver’s license are required.
Sierra Vista was incorporated in 1956. Although being fairly new, it is one of the most modern and vibrant cities in the southwest. The city is governed by a Mayor and six Councilmen, with everyday operations in the hands of a City Manager. Our Police and Fire Departments have earned many awards for outstanding service. A modern Regional Health Center and a U.S. Army Health Center provide medical serves to the community along with two care centers and an assisted living facility. Medical personnel of all major specialties are available. The city Parks and Leisure Services Department operate numerous facilities. Parks, athletic fields,” an open year round aquatic center (The Cove) featuring indoor and outdoor pools, a diving venue and can be tailored for competition events. The Ethel H. Berger Center coordinates an active seniors program and operates the Henry Hauser Museum depicting the history of the city. The Public Library is state of the art. The school district enjoys an excellent reputation in the education community. Higher education is available through Cochise Community College, the University of Arizona South, the University of Phoenix and Western International University.
Sierra Vista is the shopping center for Cochise County and parts of northern Mexico. A 400,000 square foot enclosed mall anchored by Dillard’s and Sears features up to 50 additional shops, a food court and a 10 theater Cineplex. Other shopping plazas feature such retailers as Target, K-mart, Wal-mart, Home Depot, Ace Hardware, and Sutherlands Lumber. Large, well stocked super markets and pharmacies along with dozens of smaller specialty shops and stores abound. The food service industry is well represented and fine dining is available throughout the area. Cable and digital dish antenna television is available with up to 100 channels plus AM / FM radio. Local AM and FM radio stations broadcast a variety of formats. An informative and community oriented daily newspaper is published in the town.
A wide variety of cultural and family oriented activities are offered during the year, including the Sierra Vista Symphony winter program and an ongoing series of plays, concerts, musicals, dances and recitals. In addition, our annual events include the “Gathering” of Cowboy Poets and Musicians, Huachuca Stampede Women’s Professional Rodeo, 4th of July Celebration, Miss Sierra Vista Pageant, Art in The Park arts and crafts sale, Festival of Balloon rally, Family Festival, Festival of Trees exhibition the largest holiday parade in Arizona.
Sierra Vista is also the “Hummingbird Capital of the United States”. Bird watchers from all over the world flock to Sierra Vista and nearby Ramsey Canyon Preserve to observe and photograph the fourteen species of hummingbirds and hundreds of other birds, mammal, reptiles and plants that migrate to the area. Kartchner Caverns State Park is a major visitor attraction and the newly discovered caverns are considered one-of the worlds most breathtaking “living” or “wet” caves. The caverns are located just north of Sierra Vista has been become a “must see” for Arizona tourist. The San Pedro National Conservation Riparian Area is only minutes away. Breathtaking scenery and hiking can be found within easy driving distance at the Coronado Memorial in the Huachuca Mountains, Cochise Stronghold in the Dragoon Mountains and Chiricahua National Monument.
In addition there are two golf courses, tennis courts (public and private), first class bowling lanes, firearms range, sports clubs with pool and spa, workout room and more. All major service clubs, veterans groups and fraternal organizations are represented. There are more than thirty churches and places of worship in the area. Public bus and taxi service is available within the city, with transportation to and from the city is provided by scheduled bus service to Tucson and scheduled airline service to phoenix. Sierra Vista is the center of a veritable paradise for nature lovers and active persons of all ages.
If history and the old west are your forte, we are only 16 miles from fabled Tombstone “The Town To Tough To Die”, with its infamous OK Corral, Birdcage Theater and Crystal Palace Saloon. Bisbee, “Queen of the Mining Camps” is the picturesque County Seat of Cochise County and is only 26 miles away. In this quaint and historic mountain town may be found the Copper Queen Hotel, reckless “Brewery Gulch”, the Queen Mine Tours and the awesome “Lavender Pit” home of “Bisbee Blue” turquoise.
So come on down to Sierra Vista, where a visit may last a lifetime!
|Notice! Fort Huachuca is an active U.S. Army Post operating under wartime restrictions. It may or may not be open to the public depending on the level of security. All visitors must either at the mail gate aid obtain a visitors pass. Vehicle registration, proofs of insurance and drivers license are required.|
In March 1877 Captain Samuel M. Whiteside and two companies of the 6th United States cavalry established a camp at the mouth of Huachuca canyon. This isolated camp had two missions, protect the settlers in the area and prevent apache raiding parties from escaping into Mexico. With clean running water, wood for fuel and construction and, above all, excellent observation into the san Pedro and San Rafael valleys, the site was ideal for the mission.
In 1882, noticing the low incidence of sickness among the soldiers, the army made the camp permanent and designated it "Fort Huachuca". The soldiers began construction of buildings using wood, stone and adobe. By early 1886 Fort Huachuca became the advanced headquarters of General Nelson A. Miles campaign against Geronimo. Following Geronimo’s surrender in August 1886 the threat of Apache depredations in the area subsided and many of the frontier Posts, camps and stations were closed. Because of its' strategic location near the Mexican border, Fort Huachuca remained open and active. In the decades that followed, troops from the Post were used in operations against other renegade Indians, Mexican bandits and American outlaws.
In 1913 the black troopers of the 10th United States Cavalry, the "Buffalo Soldiers", arrived at Fort Huachuca and remained for almost twenty years. During this time they participated in the 1916 punitive expedition into Mexico led by Brigadier General John J. Pershing. As a young cavalry officer, General Perishing had served with black troopers and his admiration for these well disciplined and dedicated soldiers earned him his lifelong nickname "Black Jack". During World War I the troops of the 10th Cavalry were used to guard the United States - Mexico border.
During World War II the Post population soared to more than 30,000 as two black infantry divisions, the 92nd and the 93rd trained here. With the departure of these units to the war zone, little activity remained and at the end of the war the Post declared surplus.
Following a period under the authority of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, during which time a bison (buffalo) herd was established, the Post returned to military control. Shortly after the onset of the Korean War, Fort Huachuca was designated the training site for engineer troops specializing in the construction of military airfields. Libby Army Airfield resulted. At the end of the conflict the Post once again fell into limbo.
In 1954 the Chief Signal officer, United States army, discovered that southeastern Arizona was ideal in area and climate for the testing of electronic and communications equipment. As a result the U.S. Army reopened Fort Huachuca as an active Army Post and Electronic Proving Ground (EPG). From that time on it has steadily increased as a vital contributor to the national defense.
U.S. Army strategic Communications Command became the host activity until changed to U.S. Army Communications Command and subsequently Information Systems Command in 1984. In the parallel time frame, during the Viet Nam War, a training brigade was activated that trained thousands of troops in basic combat training and advanced individual training. The Combat Surveillance and Electronic Warfare School was established to instruct soldiers in the use of tools and equipment for the electronic battlefield. This equipment included the military satellite, airborne side-looking radar and infrared sensors, unattended ground sensors and ground surveillance radar. In 1972 the school was deactivated and its mission was absorbed by the U.S. Army Intelligence School which moved from Fort Halberd, Maryland. In the next few years other Army Intelligence activities were concentrated at Fort Huachuca and by 1990 U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) had become the Post's major command and would subsequently be known as the United States Army Intelligence Center and Fort Huachuca.
The 11th Signal Brigade is the largest troop unit on Post. During Operation Desert Shield and Desert Storm, the 11th was deployed to the Middle East where they set up, maintained and operated the largest military communication network ever established. The 11th Signal supports Army operations around the world with quality military communication. Also during Desert Shield and Desert Storm, ten Army National Guard and Army Reserve units were mobilized and deployed from Fort Huachuca. Other units and activities on Post include the 111th Military Intelligence Brigade (Training), U.S Army Intelligence Center and School, U.S. Army Signal Command, U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground, the Joint Interoperability Test Center and the Western Civilian Personnel Operations Center. The U.S. Army Garrison contains numerous smaller units and activities
Libby Army Airfield and Sierra Vista Municipal Airport share the same facility. The airfield can accommodate the very largest military and civilian aircraft.
The U.S. Army Medical Department Activity operates the Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center, the Runion Dental Clinic and Veterinary, Preventive Medicine, and Mental Health Activities.
The Raymond W. Bliss Army Health Center is a modern, well equipped military facility providing a wide variety of health care services to authorized personnel. A complete pharmacy is maintained as is a nationally certified laboratory and a diagnostic radiology service. For information call 533-2313.
Fort Huachuca was annexed by the city of Sierra Vista in 1972 and these two entities currently enjoy one of the most cordial relationships, of this kind, in the United States. Joint community activities such as Armed Forces Day, Festival of Color Balloon Activity, 4th of July celebration and Holiday Parade are but a few. Appearing at many of these events are the 36th Army Band and B Troop, 4th U.S. Cavalry Regiment (Memorial). B Troop is a horse mounted group of volunteers keeping alive the heritage and flavor of the Post's beginning. The troop is nationally famous and has appeared in Presidential Inaugural Parades, the Rose Bowl Parade and in television and movies.
Fort Huachuca offers outstanding recreational opportunities for all authorized personnel. These include two clubs, an 18 hole golf course, Barnes Field House, two outdoor and one indoor swimming pools, 24 lane bowling facility, recreation center, youth center, sportsman's center and riding stables. Opportunities for camping, hiking, hunting, fishing, picnicking and bird watching abound. An outdoor recreation rental center has everything the sports person could want for a modest fee. Call 538-2270 for prices and availability.
The Fort Huachuca Historical Museum depicts the history of the U.S. Army in the southwest and gives a glimpse of what military life was like for soldier and family. The museum houses one of the most complete and unique military collections in the southwest.
Army Community Service (ACS) provides information, assistance, and guidance to members of the military community to assist in solving personal and family problems beyond the scope of their own resources. Active duty and retired military persons may call ACS for help and assistance. Call 533-2330.
Fort Huachuca has all the amenities of any large Army Post. Available to authorized personnel are Commissary, Post Exchange, Health Center, Outdoor Recreation Center, Bowling Lanes, Field House, Swimming Pools, Golf Course, Riding Stables, Education Center, Movie Theater, Religious Center, Library, Post Office and Service Station. For further information on Fort Huachuca call Post Public Affairs at 533-2752 or telephone information at 538-7111.
"Give the order to halt and make camp here for the night", commanded Don Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, the Spanish conquistador and first white man to enter what is now Cochise county Arizona. The year is 1540, only 48 years since Columbus "discovered" the new world and decades before English speaking explorers land on the east coast of North America. Don Francisco and his men were driven by greed because the only reason they were here was to search for the legendary "seven cities of Cibola" whose streets were said to be paved with gold. As Coronado passed through on his quest for riches he did not discover gold or silver but he did find many native peoples who were not pleased with his presence or his attitude. The expedition was not a financial success and the area was left to the natives.
Archaeological finds indicate there was civilization along the San Pedro River in Cochise County as far back as 13,000 years ago. Clovis Man inhabited the area until the end of the last ice age about 12,000 years ago. The Anabasis people, forerunners of the Pueblo Indians, lived here before the birth of Christ. The Hookah people, agrarians, reached their peak about 1400 ad. The last Sol Ado Indians were driven from the Douglas area by the fierce Apaches about 1100. Next into the region were missionaries of the Catholic Church, such as Father Exurbia Kino and Frey Marcos de Nasal, whose primary purpose was to convert the natives to Christianity and thus make the area safe for colonization and settlement. Even though large land grant ranches were established it was discovered that the natives did not appreciate the colonization of their lands or conversion to an alien religion. By 1115 the Apaches had driven the Spaniards out and reined supreme for more than 50 years
In the early 19th century the pace of local history began to pick up. Mexico revolted and secured it's independence from Spain, Texas broke from Mexico and the United States and Mexico fought a war. The treaty of Guadalupe-Hidalgo ended the Mexican war and brought California into the United States. What is now Cochise County was part of the Gadsden Purchase of 1853 in which $10,000,000 was paid to Mexico for 45,535 square miles of land to be used for a railroad right-of-way. American settlers immediately moved into the territory and almost as quickly bloody clashes with the apaches began. Battles with the settlers and the military were give and take until the soldiers were withdrawn due to the civil war in the east. The Indians thought they had won the struggle but when the war ended the cavalry returned in much greater strength. Meantime the great apache Chief Cochise, for which the county is named, had died and by the late 1880's the last apache warriors under Geronimo surrendered to the army in Skeleton Canyon.
Once the railroad was completed through the territory, commerce began to respond to the many mines and mineral claims in the area. tough mining camps like Charleston, Gleeson, Contention City, Courtland, Dos Cabañas, Hilltop, Pearce, Paradise and the infamous Tombstone wrote a violent and bloody chapter to the last decades of the century. The famous gun fight at the "OK Corral" could be the most chronicled 30 second incident in history.
By the end of the century many of the mining claims had played out. The fabulous silver mines of tombstone had been flooded out by underground water and only Bisbee, "Queen of the Mining Camps" flourished on one of the worlds largest deposits of copper ore. At the dawn of the 20th century, Bisbee was the largest town between El Paso and San Francisco and remained a major copper producer until the mid 1970's. Law and order first provided by the soldiers of Fort Huachuca and then by civilian lawmen such as "Texas" John Slaughter and the Arizona Rangers had a calming effect on the county. Farming and ranching lured new settlers to this sparsely populated area of the state.
Today, Cochise County has a diverse and well rounded economy. Wilcox is primarily agricultural, as is the whole sulphur springs valley. Douglas is the port of entry into Mexico and supports a twin plant operation with our neighbor to the south. Bisbee is the county seat and, along with Tombstone, rely on their historic past as an important destination for the tourist trade. Benson, on the San Pedro River, is a transportation center and is the terminal for a scenic railroad and the gateway to Kartchner Caverns State Park. Sierra Vista, which includes Fort Huachuca, is the population and geographic center of the county and is one of the fastest growing cities in Arizona. Some of the most beautiful natural attractions in the southwest lure thousands of visitors each year to Ramsey Canyon / Mile-Hi Preserve, Coronado Memorial, Cochise's Stronghold and Chiricahua National Memorial.
But echoes of the past remain in the land and in our cultural heritage. The ruins of Fort Bowie, Skeleton Canyon, the rugged mountain home of the Chiricahua Apaches, the dramatic re-enactment of the bloody violence in Tombstone with it's somber graveyard and mute execution scaffold, Fort Huachuca and the Buffalo Soldiers, the gun fights and battle sites, all these and more make up the colorful and exciting history of Cochise county.