Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

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A group of APCRP Boosters made a trip to historic Camp Date Creek on January 18, 2008. Two or three building walls remain after 141 years. The main building remains and the largest by far is building “l” (that’s “L) on the camps layout map. I’m amazed that these structures still remain in the condition they are in.



If you walk the area you will find what I believe is building “K” on this map, the Laundress Quarters directly to the west of the quartermaster Commissary Store. (l). We didn’t have the luxury of this map with us and didn’t realize the major portion of the camp was to the south.


The Quartermaster and Subsistence store house was outside the quadrangle and was the only building made of stone. It also had a shingled roof. The parade ground was described by one observes as being solid rock, with not a blade of grass on it.


Camp Date Creek was established in 1867 with the main purpose to help reduce Indian attacks on wagon trains traveling roads in the area, by providing military escorts.


After a brief five year life, Camp Date Creek was abandoned in August of 1873. One year prior to abandonment Philip Dwyer, captain of the 5th Calvary, who swept across Arizona history and into legend. At age 36 Dwyer was Camp Date Creek commandeer he was only commissioned officer residing on the post died of unknown illness on August 29, 1872.


Dwyer arrived at Camp Date Creek on February 11, 1872 and was in command of Company E, 5th Cavalry at the time.


Philip Dwyer enlisted in the service on August 23, 1858 at the age of 21. Rising in rank from quartermaster sergeant in 1862, then he was commissioned 2nd and 1st lieutenant, then promoted to the rank of captain in 1866.


“On the Border With Crook,” by John G. Bourke, describes the death and funeral of Capt. Dwyer.


“The surroundings were most dismal and squalid; all the furniture in the room in which the corpse lay was two and three plain wooden chairs, the bed occupied as described, and a pile table upon which stood a candlestick, with the candle melted and burned in the socked.


“Dwyer had been ‘ailing’ for several days, but no one could tell exactly what was the matter with him/ and, of course, no one suspected that one so strong and athletic could be in danger of death.


“One of the enlisted men of his company, a bright young trumpeter, was sitting up with him, and about the hour of midnight, Dwyer became a trifle uneasy and asked: “Can you sing that new song ‘Put Me Under the Daisies?”


“Oh, yes Captain,’ replied the trumpeter, ‘I have often sung it and well gladly sing it now.’


“So he began to sing, very sweetly, the ditty, which seemed to calm the nervousness of this superior officer.  But the candle had burned down in the socket, and when the young soldier went to replace it, he could find neither candle nor match, and he saw in the flickering light and shadows that the face of the Captain was strangely set, and of a ghastly purplish hue.


“The trumpeter rand swiftly to the nearest house to get another light, and to call for help, but upon returning found the Captain dead.


“Many strange sights have I seen, but none that produced a stranger or more pathetic appeal to my emotions than the funeral of Phil Dwyer; we got together just as good an apology for a coffin as that timeless country would furnish and then wrapped our dead friend in his regimentals, and all hands were then ready to start for the cemetery.


“At the head marched Mr. Hugus, Doctor Williams (the Indian agent) myself, and Lieutenant Hay, of the Twenty-third Infantry, who arrived a the post early in the morning; then came to troops of cavalry, dismounted and all the civilians living in and around the camp; and lastly every Indian – man, woman, or child – able to walk or toddle, for all of them you or old, good or bad, lived Phil Dwyer.


“The soldiers and civilians formed in one line at the head of the grave, and the Apache-Yuma’s in two long lines at right angles to them, and on each side. The few short, expressive, and tender sentences of the burial service were read, then the bugles sang taps, and three volleys were fired across the hills, the clods rattled down on the breast of the dead, and the ceremony was over.”


Captain Philip Dwyer was re-interred in grave No. 10, row D, section 2, in Prescott National Cemetery. In 1892 the government removed the remains of all the military personnel at Camp Date Creek, and re-interred most of them at the Presidio in San Francisco.


The remains of Capt. Philip Dwyer, however, the only commissioned officer buried at Camp Date Creek, was transported 60 miles on the old wagon road to their final resting place in the Prescott National Cemetery.


In all there was reported to be remains of 28 soldiers and 14 civilians that were neglected and forgotten in Camp Date Creek Cemetery for 19 years.



On our expedition to revisit this historic Arizona site, we discovered up to 60 to 100 graves, many not in a formal formation but about 20 were in a straight line. All were adult male Caucasians. Is it possible the report of the exhumation and re-interment listed above was a fallacy? After 19 years in an abandoned cemetery how could they identify who to exhume or even where to look to exhume.


Hay from civilian suppliers cost the camp $11 per ton, and for fiscal year 1868, the camp was paying 9 cents a pound for beef, Beef and sheep were supplied to the campy by Henry C. Hooker under contract beginning in the spring of 1868. Hooker would later become one of Arizona’s most successful ranchers. The teamster assigned to the camp was drawing $35 per month for services, little enough even in 1868 considering he took his life in his hands every time he left the post with a wagon.


Eggs cost $2.50 a dozen, and kerosene five dollars a galloon. Just prior to Mrs. Boyd’s arrival kerosene had been $11.00 a gallon. Flour, which was priced at $5.00 a barrel in San Francisco, could be secured from Prescott at $25.00 a barrel. Oranges, available from peddlers, were $.25 apiece.


Remains of walls at structure (l = L) Qm & Commissary Store January 18, 2008

Photo Courtesy: Cindy Enos


Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

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