Arizona Pioneer & Cemetery Research Project

Internet Presentation

Version 012209




By: Kathy Block


This was a US Army fort from 1862 to 1894. The site became a National Historic Site in 1964, dedicated in 1972.  It contains 970 acres dedicated to preserving the Butterfield Overland Mail Route, the Apache Pass Stage Station, Apache Spring, and the Fort Bowie complex.


Visitors, except those with special permission to drive in on a road to the Visitor Center, must walk a gentle trail to the Visitor Center and ruins. Trail is 1.5 miles each way from parking lot.




It is believed that the laundress had to haul water from a spring 1/4 mile away and live there in this structure.


The cemetery is located about half way to the Visitor Center from the parking lot. (See map). When we visited the site in Dec.2000, the cemetery was unmaintained, with tall grass and weeds, little paths beaten thru the area, a forlorn headstone (see photo), and many unmarked mounds of stones. 




The next year the Park Service commissioned studies and restoration with a team that used a Geometrics G-856AX magnetometer, and historic photographs, to locate, survey, and restore remaining graves in the cemetery.




From the article, it appears that possibly 102 graves were located in this cemetery, including soldiers, Native Americans, children.


Some observations on the Fort Bowie cemetery as it was in 1886 by Charles Fletcher Lummis (1859-1928).


Lummis was an adventuresome, freethinking  writer and reporter for the Los Angeles Times. He covered 3,507 miles in 143 days reporting on various places, peoples, and events on the Southwestern frontier.  One of his dispatches concerned Fort Bowie, Arizona Territory, April 15, 1886.  Entitled, "Headboards", he described the cemetery there. A few interesting observations:" Graveyards, as a rule, haven't much of a pull on me. Indeed they strike me as unsociable and slow."  He continues on to describe the burial ground below the Fort, which was still actively being used!  He liked a high picket fence with white headboards shining in the sun. He told of various flowers on the ground and a buckhorn cactus spreading its "prickly antlers" on some unforgotten grave here and there.   Most of the graves were marked with pine boards planed and painted white, with cramped block letters in straggling lines.


At the time of his visit there were 33 graves, with 7 being children. On that he wrote: "The presumption is that they passed away in the course of nature." He quotes a number of inscriptions on the graves. Here are a few examples: "O.O. SPENCE, Born in Pennsylvania, Aged 28 years. Killed by Indians April 7,1876." and nearby, "NICHOLAS M. ROGERS, Born in St. Joseph, Mo. Killed by Indians April 7, 1876."


Apparently both men were killed by an unruly Chiricahua named Pionsenay, which ultimately led to the attempted removal of the Chircahuas to San Carlo Reserve, and proved to be a disaster for Indian-white affairs in Arizona. 


A few other headstones were: "JOHN McWILLIAMS, Killed by Apaches, Feb.26, 1872, Aged 26. " and "A.F.BRICE, F.PETTY, F.DONOVAN, Killed by Indians in Apache Pass, Jan.24, 1872." These men were coming up, two on horseback and one on a buckboard close to this very spot, when lurking Apaches shot them down." A similar grave says, "In Memoriam of GEO. KNOWLES, Prvt.Co.H. U.S. Inf./captured and tortured to death by Apache Indians, May 26, 1868". He and the second guard surrendered while acting as guards for a stage down the pass that was "jumped" by Apaches who killed the driver. Knowles was captured without firing a shot and later killed.


Finally, he quotes the inscription on Little Robe's memorial (pictured) and one for "In Memory of Marcia, An Apache child, Died July 3, 1885, Age 3 years."  Lummis says about these: "These little savages, captured with others of the renegades last summer, died here in the guard-house. It was a soldierly and manly heart which took care that these poor little waifs were decently buried, and that their last resting place was marked. It was an act of humaneness of which I fear but few Arizona civilians would be



Most of these wooden markers have long disappeared now, but records like these by Lummis help preserve the stories of these long- ago men killed in the very real wars with Apaches at Fort Bowie.




Over time many remains have been moved to other places. But were the actual remains moved or only the headstones?