For all of you who grew up in the 1950s, if you are like me you couldn’t wait for your favorite Western show to come on TV. Being a century removed from the stories of the Wild West just made them more captivating. I was particularly a fan of Broken Arrow and loved the Tom Jeffords and Cochise story.
On a trip to Ft. Bowie, Arizona, I was walking the trail from the parking lot to the Fort and imagine my surprise to see the excavated remains of the Jeffords Agency. It is one of those little “gifts” you sometimes get when you are wandering around historic sites. All I kept thinking was that Jeffords and Cochise had stood on this very ground and I imagine it is pretty much the same as it was 140 years ago.
Fort Bowie was constructed to serve as the military center for the wars against Cochise, the Chiricahua Apaches and Geronimo. At one point the Fort had approximately 30 structures in the area of Apache Pass. It served as a military post until the surrender of Geronimo in 1886. With Geronimo’s surrender at Ft. Bowie the Apaches were taken by wagon to the railroad to be exiled in Florida.
The Butterfield Overland Mail Company operated through this area until March of 1861 when the southern route was discontinued. There are remains of the stage station here and you can see the remains of the Old Butterfield Overland Trail.
I love the sites that are still isolated and untouched by the 21st Century. When you walk that ground you feel a connection to the past. The Ft. Bowie site has maintained that isolation by putting a parking lot 1.5 miles from the actual fort and when you walk in you totally have a sense of what people experienced there. You can almost hear the sounds of the military post, the Apache camp, and the horses hooves of the Butterfield Overland Mail stage. And, I imagine, on a quiet night you might hear the spirits calling on the wind.
Directions to Ft. Bowie, Arizona
From Willcox, AZ drive southeast for 20 miles on State Road #186 to the Fort Bowie turn off, then drive another eight miles on the unpaved road to the Fort Bowie Trailhead. Be prepared to walk the three miles round trip to the ruins and back to your car.
From the town of Bowie, the trailhead is located on Apache Pass Road, 13 miles south.
The park is 116 miles east of Tucson, AZ via I-10, and 227 miles from Phoenix, AZ.