Local

July 5, 2012

Discover Sierra Vista

Explore Old Post Cemetery

City of Sierra Vista

Many people think they have to travel far from home to get away and explore, but there’s a lot to do in the Sierra Vista area. The ‘staycation’ is a trend that became popular when gas prices began their dramatic rise — taking vacations that require no travel except for day trips to destinations close to home. There’s a lot to do right here, in and around Sierra Vista.

Mourning Hearts — A Soldier’s Family, a bronze sculpture by Jessica McCain and presented by the Huachuca Museum Society in 1996, depicts a nameless woman and children mourning the loss of her Soldier. With a backdrop of gravestones at Fort Huachuca’s Old Post Cemetery, she symbolizes the many people who hove mourned the loss of those buried there.

The area’s history dates back 13,000 years to the Clovis people – hunters of the now-extinct mammoth and other large game. In later years, the area was home to Cochise and Geronimo, whose conflicts against the U.S. Army are legendary.

Fort Huachuca, a National Historic Landmark, was initially established as a camp in 1877 because of the ongoing conflict with the Chiricahua Apache; the location was selected due to easy access to running water, the defense advantage of the surrounding mountains and the security of the canyon. Within the historic district lies the Old Post Cemetery, the memorial grounds of the installation.

At the Old Post Cemetery, visitors will find a tableau of tales with glimpses into generations of families of the Southeastern Arizona Territory, the Post’s memorialized Indian War years and even the most recent past. This was the burial ground for many in the frontier days; it was an Army tradition to bring in bodies found in the desert for burial in Army cemeteries. There are some unmarked graves outside the cemetery’s wall – it is unknown what crimes were committed that ultimately prevented those individuals from being buried within the cemetery itself.

There are the graves of Apache Scouts and their families, like Shorten Bread and his son Shorten Bread, Jr. See the headstone for Carrie Clark, postmistress. Official records have it that she and her post office were abruptly moved because she refused to recognize the post commander’s authority. The unofficial story claims she was ordered off the post for illegally selling whiskey.

Ponder over the curious finds at the cemetery. Why is U.S. Navy Seaman, Juan Cortes, buried here, so very far from an ocean? Why is Private Willie Shepherd the only Confederate soldier laid to rest in an otherwise blue sea of Union graves? Why are they buried here in southeastern Arizona? There are no records, and those who knew have long since passed on.

The single headstone, “The Unknowns,” marks the final resting place for the remains of 76 soldiers. In 1928, they were disinterred from old Fort San Carlos, which is now under the waters of Coolidge Dam. These unknowns are believed to have been killed in an Apache raid near the San Carlos reservation in the last quarter of the 19th century.

Those who like the local tales that only tombstones can tell, should enjoy a visit to the Old Post Cemetery, located adjacent to the Bonnie Blink housing area on post.




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