Fort Churchill Park, Nevada

My parents and I went up early for a new adventure. Deelow with the three dogs and I drove the van up to I-5 to I-80 heading east to the Sierra Nevada. We stopped at a rest area before Donner Pass and they used the toilets. Deelow and I walked the dogs around. The dogs were beaming with excitement and kept smelling and wagging their tails around. Dad took over driving so he and Mom sat in the front while me and Deelow were at the back with the dogs. We ate and slept as we cross to the state border and Dad made a turn in Highway 439 and the area became mountainous desert as the summer heat catches up with us.

There were signs pointing to the fort and before reaching a main street we turn right by the “Fort Churchill Historic State Park” and made our way to the main gate where there was a mailbox and instructions. We put $5 entrance fee inside an envelope and put it in the mailbox and Dad moved on and parked by the green grass surrounded by trees. The parking lot in front of the main building was like an oasis to this desert frontier. We parked and walked to the buildings and saw a Pony Express Marker, and the Historical Landmark for the Fort. As in introduction here is background of the fort.

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Historical marker

“Nevada’s first, largest and most elaborate military outpost was active from its establishment in July 1860, through an era rife with local and national conflict, and up to its abandonment in the fall of 1869. During this tumultuous yet significant decade in the history of Nevada and the American West, Fort Churchill helped to bring about a semblance of Federal control over a quickly developing and resource-rich area that lacked effective government control. 

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National Monument Marker

The troops stationed at Fort Churchill protected California-bound emigrants, safeguarded the Pony Express and telegraph lines, fought battles and skirmishes with local Native Americans, protected area settlements, intervened in miner’s disputes and quelled any uprisings brought about by the Civil War.”

Now we knew more information about the fort, we walked around and looked at the two cannons incase in a iron fence and here is a description of it.”

3-INCH ORDNANCE RIFLE

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3″ Ordinance Rifle Canon

“The 3 Inch Ordinance Rifles arrived at Fort Churchill in October 1864. These were the first type of rifled cannons produced in large numbers for the U.S. Army. Although these cannons were still loaded through the muzzle, improvements of rifling and using a projectile instead of a cannonball provided greater accuracy and longer range than other field guns of that time. “

Then me and Mom looked at the bigger building and peak at the windows and saw some mannequins dress in soldier’s uniform and infront of the window were information about the particular scenario we were seeing.

UNDER GUARD

A cell was generally very small with only one cot, table and chair. A prisoner had the bare minimum of accommodations. This room was in full view of the officer. It served as a cell only until the “stockade” was finished when it was modified to fit the necessities of the Post Headquarters.”

OFFICE

The Post headquarters had all the necessities for a Post Commanders office. The desk and chair were small but adequate. The writing table folded up and locked at the top to secure important documents. It was light and portable so it could be used in office tents in the field.

OFFICERS LIFE

The officer of the day could spend the duty hours at his own quarters instead of the office, unless there was important business requiring his attention. The fort was a more than adequate station for an officer.

Loyalty of the troops was generated by the self contained nature of the company and reinforced by the permanence of the officers. The transfer of officers was rare.”

We walked to the back and meet up with Dad, Deelow and the dogs. They had some tables and chairs there and I tried flying my drone to get a full view of the desert and the ruins of the fort but while it was high above it lost the GPS signal and I was forced to manual land in resulting in broken propellers. I picked it up disappointed with this item. We saw a map and history of the fort. As we gaze at the vast land we couldn’t keep wondering of what this area was before men came to the west. Fortunately the museum offers a theory about the area.

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Map of Fort Churchill

“The Great Basin Desert, like most regions of its kind, supports sparse life. Prior to the migrations of emigrants and miners the Indian people lived here in quiet harmony with their environment At times the region was bounteous and productive, when the huge trout ran up the rivers, when the pine nut trees bent under the weight of their cones, and when the spring and summer seeds ripened. Sometimes there was little, but the people knew how to live with what could be gleaned from the land. 

With the discovery of the Comstock mines unprecedented new settlement began pushing the Indian people from their choicest hunting grounds. Smelting of ore required fuel which gobbled up pine nut trees, which provided an important source of food, and livestock destroyed other native plants. Friction with the emigrants was not far off.”

White men did destroy this once lush paradise. Then with Dad we took Chloe and Yusuf to walk in the ruins and here is the list of the buildings we visited.

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Officers Quarters

OFFICERS QUARTERS

Many officers had their wives and families living with them on post. A considerable amount of time could be spent with their family. Event the officer of the day was allowed to spend duty hours at his quarters, unless he was needed elsewhere.

OFFICERS QUARTERS

Originally there were six individual quarters. Each had a parlor, a dining room, two bedrooms and an attached woodshed with an indoor privy. The upper story was a low ceiling attic.

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Officers Quarters

OFFICERS QUARTERS

Fort Churchill was a desirable post to be stationed at for an officer. Quarters were excellent, active duties minimal, mail and newspapers arrived with regularity, the post was served by telegraph and cities of western Nevada were only a few hours ride away.

OFFICERS QUARTERS

Officers had the distinct privilege of visiting on the post at all hours, and they were also afforded the opportunity of traveling to Virginia City at least once a month.

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Barracks

BARRACKS

The dirt-floored barracks were crudely furnished with bunks and chairs. Unlike most early frontier posts, the men at Fort Churchill were afforded the luxury of their own bunk. Other posts of this kind usually required two men per bunk with a blanket and a bed sack filled with straw.

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Barracks

BARRACKS

The officers lived well, but for the enlisted man, the Fort was an isolated, dreary frontier outpost, despite conveniences not found at other posts. The hardships and low pay, $13 per month, caused many men to desert. Trials of deserters fill the court-martial records. For most, the sentence was reduction in rank and pay, but for some it meant at least a month in the guardhouse.

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Tent Area

TENT AREA

Occasionally, it became necessary to quarter men in the tent area when three companies of 100 men each had already occupied the six barracks. However, this was rare, since during most years the Fort was not occupied by more than three companies.

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Parade Ground

PARADE GROUND

The parade ground was an active place where necessary duty functions were performed. Mass formations were required after breakfast and before sunset for fatigue call, inspection, assigning tasks and posting the orders of the day. Frequently these grounds were used for marching and military tactic drills.

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Guard House

GUARD HOUSE

Discipline was important for maintaining order among the ranks. Offenders were confined to the guardhouse for a specified period of time anywhere from a few days to six months. The most common offense, drunkenness, was usually worth ten days in the “mill”. Prisoners were shackled in at night and assigned laborious duties during the day.

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Powder Magazine

POWDER MAGAZINE

The garrison stored its powder and munitions in this storehouse. It was built of adobe like most of the other permanent structures, but without windows. It was believed an explosion would vent through the roof, doing less damage to people and property.

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Hospital

HOSPITAL

The fort was fortunate in having a hospital and surgeon, since most comparable posts had neither. the L-shaped hospital had limited space and only one matron, so it is assumed there were only 20 beds (an 1862 Army regulation allowed one matron per 20 patients). The hospital stayed full, usually with cases of colds and pneumonia. Sometimes there were outbreaks of measles and smallpox.

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Laundresses’ Quarters

LAUNDRESSES’ QUARTERS

The officers were not willing to do without the services of the laundresses, thought to be a luxury by Capt. Stewart.

The building was constructed without interference or restrictions imposed to cut costs, as with other Fort buildings. It had four rooms, each with a fireplace for heating.

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Susbsistence Storehouse

SUBSISTANCE STOREHOUSE

Both the subsistence and quartermaster storehouses had a separate office and storage room containing supplies for sale to officers and enlisted men. The subsistence storehouse or commissary primarily stored food. Almost all the food was canned.

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Quartermaster Storehouse

QUARTERMASTER STOREHOUSE

The supplies in the storehouses were under lock and key with the buildings being in full view of the sentry in front of the guardhouse. The sergeant of the guard was instructed to visit the buildings during the night. The valuable supplies in this building consisted mainly of bottled medicine. liquor, and clothing.

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Post Headquarters

POST HEADQUARTERS

The commander’s office and the courtroom were located in this building which served as the administrative headquarters of the fort. Between the post headquarters and the officers quarters, ran by the Pony Express. The rider would stop here momentarily to pick up the mail.

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Overland Telegraph Company

OVERLAND TELEGRAPH COMAPANY

In the spring of 1861, the Overland Telegraph Expedition traveled to Fort Churchill, the eastern terminus of telegraphic communication from California. By late fall, the line had been extended eastward from Fort Churchill to Salt Lake City and on to Missouri, thus linking the nation for the first time by telegraph.

From this vantage point once can still see at the base of the hill remnants of the buildings occupied by the Overland Telegraph Company.”

The heat of summer was taking its toll to the dogs. They were both panting and Yusuf doesn’t have the strength to walk anymore so I carried him and Dad took them back to the buildings.  We gave them some water and the three dogs lay down the green grasses and were freshened up by the cool air from the trees. Here is the start of the fort:

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Outside the museum
  • Building the fort

By July of 1860, orders were given to establish a fort on the Carson River, and a site near Buckland’s Station was selected. A large number of men were to work on the construction. The buildings were to have stone foundations with adobe brick above. The adobe was obtained from the river bottom nearby.

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The Fort

Construction expenses mounted up quickly and the $75,000 allowance proved grossly inadequate. Many of the necessary materials had to be freighted from the Sierras or even the west coast. The freight bill alone was $26,500. One hundred mules, in teams of six, were employed to assist with the construction.

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Orders to the fort

By autumn, Fort Churchill compromised 58 buildings, arranged in a hollow square one quarter mile across. Structures included barracks, six officers’ quarters, offices, storerooms, barns, a hospital, the arsenal, and even a strong windowless jail. The population of the Fort of completion was 337 men and 12 women. The total cost of building was estimated at $179,000.

Immediately following the Pyramid Lake War, Captain Joseph Stewart and his Carson River Expedition were ordered to establish a post near the Carson River. Construction began in July 1860, and over the next several months thousands of dollars would be spent constructing a permanent desert outpost. For nine years Fort Churchill, named in honor of Sylvester Churchill, Inspector General of the U.S. Army at the time, would protect area settlements, guard the area’s communication and transportation corridors and serve as a supply depot for the Nevada Military District.”

  • Turbulent Years…

For its brief decade of history, Fort Churchill was the focal point for all military activity in Nevada. Efforts were made to insure Nevada’s loyalty to the Union cause in the Civil War. Troops went on punitive expeditions against the Indian inhabitants who opposed while intrusion in the region.

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Diorama of the fort
  • Spit and polish in the desert

The hot, dry wind was always blowing. Little relief from the dust could be expected since it seldom rained. Everything always needed cleaning. A swim in the nearby Carson River was the only relief a soldier could get from the heat of a summer day.

Army food hardly made up from home cooking, only added to the loneliness of a soldier stationed at this desert outpost. Routine military duties occupied most of the time, but diversions such as card playing, some drinking and an occasional dance or party helped to break the monotony somewhat.

Duties outside the Fort were numerous. Fort Churchill was the main base for troops and a supply depot for the Nevada Military District. The garrison was responsible for protection of the Pony Express, stage routes, Fredrick Bee’s telegraph, and the control of Indian disturbances along emigrant trails and the nearby settlements. Patrols and expeditions were a necessary part of military life and fulfilled the purpose for which this post was established.

 

Then we went out and joined the others at the grass and we ate some of the food we brought and enjoy our final moments in this place before we move on. While they sat I went to the cemetery on top of a little hill at the northern edge of the fort and there was a description in.

CEMETERY

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Cemetery

“Congress appropriated $100 for the removal of the soldiers’ graves from the post in February 1885. Crowds watched as a procession of local militia companies, Civil War Veterans legislators’ state officials and a brass band marched through the streets of Carson City to the Lone Mountain Cemetery.

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Empty tombstones

This cemetery was also utilized by the Samual Buckland Family. When the post was officially abandoned in 1869, Samual Buckland bought all the salvageable materials from post for $750.”

So as we packed our things and took the dogs back to the van here is the rest of the history of the fort.

“The Fort was abandoned in 1869 and the adobe buildings were auctioned for $750. In 1884 the remains of soldiers buried in the post cemetery were moved to the Lone Mountain Cemetery in Carson City. The remaining graves are those of Samuel and Eliza Buckland, and five of their eight children.

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Fort Churchill 1960

In the early 1930s, the Nevada Sagebrush Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution took an interest in preserving the Fort and had 200 acres transferred to the State of Nevada. Then, in 1935, under the guidance of the National Park Service, the Civilian Conservation Corps spent two years stabilizing the ruins and creating a viable state park. Facilities for camping and picnicking were constructed, as well as the building which currently serves as the park museum and Visitor’s Center.

World War II stretched America’s resources and the Fort was again abandoned, falling victim to vandals and weather. The 1950s brought with it a renewed interest in historic Fort Churchill and, in 1957, the Fort became a part of the Nevada State Park System. Fort Churchill remains an integral and significant chapter in the history of Nevada and the American West”

Buckland Station

After leaving the fort we did a little stop at the Buckland Station. It was another historical building not far from the fort. Deelow and I went down and look around. Since the house was close we just walked around the gardens and found this marker.”

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The Longest Ride

The Longest Ride

“In the spring of 1860, in the midst of the Pyramid Lake War, Robert “Pony Bob” Haslam left Friday’s Station (Lake Tahoe) with the eastbound mail and made his way toward Buckland Station. When Pony Bob reached the Carson River, 60 miles into his trip, he found that all the horses in the area had been seized for use in the war. He rode 15 miles further to Buckland Station on the nearly exhausted horse.

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Sis with the marker

Johnson Richardson, Pony Bob’s relief rider at Buckland Station, refused to ride, fearful of possible attack from Paiutes. This was the only time a Pony Express rider refused to rive and Richardson was rightfully branded as a coward. Within ten minutes Pony Bob was again back in the saddle. After passing through Carson Sink, Sand Springs, and Cold Springs, he covered 190 miles and turned the mochila over to J.G. Kelly at Smith’s Creek.

After a nine hour rest, Pony Bob received the westbound mail and began the return trip. The Cold Springs station had been raided, leaving a dead shopkeeper and no horses. He rode an additional 37 miles in the dark before he received a fresh horse at Sand Springs. It has been said that Pony Bob even rode right through the middle of a group of Paiutes heading in the same three and one half hours of the scheduled time. Pony bob then continued to ride his route back to Friday’s Station. The 330 mile round trip accomplished in just 36 hours would become the longest on record for the Pony Express.”

Buckland Station

Then we walk to the front of the house and looked into the window. Since it was close we could only see a glimpse of the inside.  Furniture during that time was on display and in and in front of the building is the Nevada State Marker, and it stated:

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Nevada Historical Marker

“Samuel S. Buckland was a true pioneer. He settled here in 1859, began a ranching operation. Established a station for the Overland Stage Company and operated a tent hotel. he also constructed the first bridge across the Carson river downstream from Genoa. During 1860, Sam built a large log cabin and married Miss Eliza Prentice. In that same year Buckland’s Station served as the Assembly Point for the volunteer units that took part in the Pyramid Lake Indian War. It was during this period that Buckland’s served as remount station on the famous Pony Express route.

In 1864 he opened a store and dispersed goods to travelers. He later constructed the large two-story house presently located on the site from materials obtained at the dismantling of the fort. Sam and his family are buried at Fort Churchill.”

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Buckland Station

 

After reading the inscription Deelow and I went back to the van where the others were waiting. From there, Dad drove to the famous site where Fort Churchill began, Pyramid Lake, the infamous battle of the Native American and Union Soldiers.

Here is the link for information

http://parks.nv.gov/learn/park-histories/fort-churchill-history

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Say Cheez!

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