A Burro Puncher, Scribner's Magazine May 1901
"We were encamped there over Sunday on January 1st in the former reservation of the now deserted Fort McDowell."
"On New-year's-day  we were camped at Fort McDowell; and, when we set out early on the next morning, there
remained but about thirty miles to Phoenix, . . ."
The fort was established in 1865,
the same year Walter was born,
and served as a base for
expeditions against the Tonto
Apache until 1890. In April of that
year the fort became the Yavapai
indian reservation and today
boasts modern homes and a casino
catering to the tourist trade.
|The Berryhill Co. of Phoenix, AZ
|Overview of the fort, ca 1905
|All that remains. Compare with the old photo.
We had to stop and ask directions as there were no signs of any kind or any mention of the fort.
Bill Reed's excellent history of this fort, "The Last Bugle Call" (1977), pictured two of these buildings still extant in
1965, so we had high hopes of photographing these historic structures. To our surprise, and great disappointment,
little of the buildings remain. Sadly, this historical site appears to be the victim of what can only charitably be
called "benign neglect". Compare that to the cries of "Preservation of the heritage" that arises whenever an Indian
site is uncovered. Near the Presbyterian church is one building, now reduced to the pitiful remains of a fireplace
and a six foot spike of adobe along the northwest wall, surrounded by a chicken-wire fence. There is no plaque or
other indication informing the visitor that he is standing on historic ground and no signs of any kind directing you
to the site. About one hundred yards behind this ruin were what looked to be two large cisterns or wells a few feet
apart with their tops three feet above ground. Expecting to find water I was greeted with dirt and trash just a few
feet below the rim. These might be the remains of the two small structures in the center right of the old photo.
I was unable to tell what building this was (left photo) as the spidery Spencerian script on a period map of the fort
was too small and intricate to decipher. One wall had caved in and another spattered with graffiti. To the right
were three massive slow-growing mesquite trees with trunks two to three feet thick, indicating they were
probably saplings when the fort was active. These few remnants are located five miles past the casino on Ft.
As I did my mile walk along Ft. McDowell road back towards this area, I turned left on Ba Hon Nah road and
within 100 yards spied the roofless shell of another adobe building on my left across the road from a ball field.
The field was the old target range and my hands itched for a metal detector, for the ground was sure to have
some spent cartridge cases and the target butts more than a few bullets.
As we headed back towards AZ 87 and Phoenix, we couldn't help but ponder on the disparity between the neat
modern homes and fancy casino on the reservation and the all but obliterated remains of the neglected fort. At the
present rate of deterioration, nothing will remain in a few more years. It is a pity on many levels. Not the least is
the lost historical value but also as an overlooked tourist attraction, for nostalgia for the Old West continues to grow.