Fort Huachuca is the traditional home of the Buffalo Soldier and was, more than any other U.S. military establishment, at the heart of half a century of black military history. These troops of fearsome fighters earned the nickname from Native Americans, who called them “Buffalo Soldiers.” In World War I, the Germans referred to them as “Hell Fighters.”
It was on Huachuca’s parade field that they marched with a growing sense of equality that their brother civilians would not be allowed to feel until decades later. Problems of discrimination were as widespread in the Army as they were in other parts of American society, but minority barriers fell faster in the Army where the most important measure of a man is his dependability in a fight.
In 1866 six black regular Army regiments were formed. They were the 38th, 39th, 40th and 41st Infantry and the 9th and 10th Cavalry. Three years later, as part of a reduction in the size of the Army, the 38th and 41st were consolidated to form the 24th Infantry and the 39th and 40th made up the new 25th Infantry. Officered by whites, these regiments went on to justify the belief by black leaders that men of their race could contribute mightily to the nation’s defense.
Step back to the turn of the 20th Century with a visit to Brown Canyon Ranch. First permanently occupied around 1800, the ranch was acquired by the U.S. Forest Service as part of a 1998 land swap to become part of the Coronado National Forest.
Tour the adobe ranch house, storeroom, and corrals, where the old windmill still pumps water, and the tree-surrounded pond provides a cool view and home to wildlife. Trails lead from the ranch to Brown Canyon and connect with other trails throughout the National Forest. Allow 2 hours. 800-288-3861 or (520) 378-0311 (Sierra Vista Ranger District).
These once-thriving communities boomed during Tombstone’s mining heyday then went bust when the silver petered out. You’ll find milling infrastructure jutting out of the ground and in some cases, entire buildings still standing. Take lots of photos but leave any artifacts you find so others can enjoy them. It’s a federal offense to remove artifacts from public lands, including arrowheads, potsherds, or other interesting objects you might come across.
Fairbank was once one of the largest cities in the West, was the railroad stop closest to Tombstone. Take a self-guided tour of the past: a post office, a general store, small homes, a schoolhouse, and of course, the ever-present saloon. The one-room schoolhouse has been restored and serves as a museum and gift shop, open weekends. The Fairbank Cemetery is a short hike from the town site. Click here for a map.
Located along the banks of the San Pedro River, Millville is rumored to have been a tougher town than even the wicked Tombstone, little remains of Millville today. You can still find remnants of buildings and millworks at the site. Click here for a map.
Established in 1894, Pearce was the last of the Arizona gold rush camps—and one of the richest gold strikes in the state, with $15 million to $30 million worth of gold mined within two years. See a museum, adobe ruins, a graveyard, and historic buildings, two of which are on the National Register of Historic Places, including the Old Pearce General Store and the Our Lady of Victory Catholic Church. Click here for a map.
First settled as Turquoise in the 1870s, Gleeson prospered from 1909 until 1939 when copper prices plummeted, leaving only skeletons of a hospital and other buildings. You may run into a living soul or two, as several families live nearby, but there are plenty of Old West ruins at the old townsite, marking what was once a booming copper town. Click here for a map.
Native American sites
Native American history and the State of Arizona are deeply intertwined. Learn more about the cultural influence of the Native Peoples when you visit these Native American sites near Sierra Vista.
The Dragoon Mountains northeast of Sierra Vista are collectively known as Cochise Stronghold. Rugged granite hills, sky-piercing rhyolite pillars, and stacks of eerily balanced boulders provided both hiding and vantage places for the Apache. Wander the hiking trails, camp, and picnic in the shadows of Old West history. Click here to learn more.
Nestled in Texas Canyon in the Little Dragoon Mountains, this unique museum and art gallery is a private, nonprofit anthropological and archaeological research center for Native American cultures. Click here to learn more about visiting the Amerind.
Petroglyph Discovery Trail
See 600-year-old rock art stories from ancient inhabitants along the San Pedro River near the ghost town of Millville, an easy walk along the San Pedro River. Bring at least one quart of water per person, and wear a hat and sturdy shoes. Click here for a map to the Millville site.
Garden Canyon is accessible only through Fort Huachuca, but well worth the few minutes it takes to access the Post. Once there, hike through diverse flora and fauna to find some of the 53 pictographs dating from 600 C.E. to Apache art of the 1700s. Note: Garden Canyon is occasionally closed for maneuvers. Click here for a map.
Fort Huachuca is an active military installation, and visitors must stop at the Visitor Center prior to entering the gates. Click here for information about accessing Fort Huachuca. International visitors should contact the City of Sierra Vista Public Information Office at least 3 weeks prior to visiting.