On January 17 the Patagonia Museum held its annual meeting at the Patagonia Library. A good-sized crowd gathered to hear Rebecca Orozco, an instructor in anthropology and history, talk about the Chiricahua Apache. Orozco commented on the large attendance, noting that the Bisbee Corral of the Westerners, a group of history buffs that meets once a month in Bisbee, rarely has such a large turnout.

The history of the Apache in this region is complicated and tragic. Orozco wended her way carefully through the treaties and characters that played a part in the eventual resettlement of this once proud Indian tribe. Using visual aids, she painted a balanced picture of the many conflicts, treaties, and massacres that were part of this history. It was a fascinating talk.

At the meeting, the museum declared a financial balance of more than $6,000. German Quiroga was again elected president, Bob Allerton vice president, Ralph Schmitt treasurer, Bea Quiroga secretary, and Bob Bergier and Tom Bartholomeaux members at large.

German told the audience that they are still negotiating with the hotel to rent the old bank space to house the museum (which is currently located in the small back room of Creative Spirit Artists Gallery). The schoolhouse at Lochiel might be completed with one more workday. There are now historical transcripts by longtime town residents available on the museum’s website, and there will be two bound copies at the library.

The museum currently has 100 active members. An individual membership is $35, and a family can join for $45. You can download an application at thepatagoniamuseum.org

The Fall of Fort Buchanan

Reader Robert Dorney brought it to our attention that this month marks the 150th anniversary of the attack on Fort Buchanan by the Chiricahua Apache, who coincidentally were featured in a recent lecture at the Patagonia Museum’s annual meeting…

February 17 marks the 150th anniversary of the battle of Fort Buchanan, which had been established by the US military to protect immigrants traveling through the newly acquired Gadsden Purchase. The fort was located three miles west of present-day Sonoita, on the east slope of what is now called Hog Canyon. Only nine American cavalrymen manned the fort, a collection of military buildings without a perimeter wall.

On the morning of February 17, 1865, land surveyors William Wrightson and Gilbert W. Hopkins, accompanied by a young Mexican boy, were traveling on horseback toward Fort Buchanan when they were suddenly attacked by Chiricahua Apache warriors armed with both rifles and bows. The three rode as fast as they could toward Fort Buchanan, which was 12 miles away, but they were overtaken and killed.

The Apache, estimated to be about 75 in number, then approached the unsuspecting fort and opened fire, quickly surrounding the small building where the soldiers had gathered. They set it ablaze, and as the roof was caving in, the commander, Corporal Michael Buckley, told the surviving soldiers to retreat. This required them to charge through the enemy, firing wildly, and into the surrounding hills. They were chased until reaching the foothills of the Santa Rita Mountains, where the Apache gave up.

Today, the privately owned site of Fort Buchanan is used for grazing. The only remains are scattered rocks, mounds of earth, and fragmented adobe ruins. Fort Buchanan was the only American military post conquered during the war against the Chiricahua Apache.

Mt. Wrightson and its neighbor, Mt. Hopkins, bear the names of the men who were surveying it on February 17, 1865.

And from The Border Vidette, Nogales, February 2, 1899…

Joe Mulhatton was in Florence this week from the Ripsey country, where he has recently discovered a magnetic cactus, which from his account, must be a wonderful species of vegetation. Its attractive powers are so great that it draws birds and animals to it and impales them on its thorny spikes. Mr. Mulhatton approached no nearer than 100 feet to the cactus, which is of the saguaro variety, yet at that distance it was all he could do to resist its influence to draw him to it. While in town he purchased a long rope, which he will tie around his body, and four of his friends will take hold of it and allow him to approach near enough to minutely examine the wonder without danger. Mr. Mulhatton, who is one of our most truthful citizens, promises an accurate description of his recent find for publication in the Tribune.

—Florence Tribune