A Walk Through Whipple Barracks, Part 2

Welcome to the second of the two-part series on Whipple Barracks. Our walking tour this issue will be with the aid of photographs from the mid-1880s through the turn of the century. These were the twilight years for the original post. None of these buildings remain today. They were all victims of progress and modernization, beginning in 1904. Refer to the map page as you go along, match the numbers with the photographs, and follow the arrows.

Hand-drawn map of walking tour at historic Whipple Barracks

Many a year has passed since you visited Whipple Barracks. Your first tour was on a sunny summer day. The post was alive then with the excitement generated by an army poised for conflict with the wily Apache. Today, the sun is shining, but it is late winter, almost symbolic of the decline of the old fort. Nearly fifteen years have come and gone, and with them have disappeared the fear of Indian depredation in the Territory and the need for soldiers.

As you climb into your buggy, thoughts of the changes pass through your mind. The road you drive on has been slightly displaced by the railroad tracks of the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad. Near the quartermaster corrals (photo 1), you take the road crossing the tracks and pass under the military telegraph wire, which was strung over two decades ago.

Tracks of the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad
Photo 1 – Tracks of the Santa Fe, Prescott and Phoenix Railroad (call number 1650.0190.0000)
Men detailed for guard at Whipple Barracks
Photo 2 – Men detailed for guard at Whipple Barracks (call number 1650.0170.0000)

You pass a latrine with its two white fences and enter the parade ground near the guardhouse. Standing in front of the stone building are the men detailed for today’s guard (photo 2). From the left are: the Officer of the Guard, the duty trumpeter, the Sergeant of the Guard, members of the guard, and at the far right the Corporal of the Guard. These men are taken from the two infantry companies stationed here.

As you turn onto the parade ground, you observe that the non-commissioned officers’ homes and one of the barracks are missing. They were never rebuilt after the fire a few years ago. In front of the remaining barracks you see the men of Company B, 11th U.S. Infantry Regiment, standing on the porch (photo 3). No doubt some of their comrades are with the guard detail you just passed. The men are armed with the Krag magazine rifle, adopted by the Army in 1892.

Company B, 11th U.S. Infantry Regiment
Photo 3 – Company B, 11th U.S. Infantry Regiment (call number 1650.0194.0000)

As you proceed, you notice an area of extensive cultivation down in the creek bed behind the barracks (photo 4). The ground has been fenced and plowed and cultivation of the earliest spring vegetables is under way. Perhaps Black-Seeded Simpson lettuce, Early Flat Head Dutch cabbage and Alaska peas are among what you see. Small tents at either end may be for soldiers detailed there at night to scare away marauding deer.

Garden plots behind Whipple Barracks
Photo 4 – Garden plots behind Whipple Barracks (call number 1650.0223.0004)

As you turn along the south side of the parade ground, the officers’ homes appear much as they did on your first visit. The three destroyed by fire in the early 1880s have been rebuilt and it is difficult to distinguish them from the older ones. You look at the houses on the west side (photo 5). Not much ahs changed there, either. The adobe to the left seems considerably worse for wear with large pieces of plaster missing from its walls. The other homes seem to have fared better as they have fenced yards, a board sidewalk, and a gas streetlight.

Officers' quarters at Whipple Barracks
Photo 5 – Officers’ quarters at Whipple Barracks (call number 1650.0169.0002)

Rather than go to the end of the row you take the path leading between the adobe and frame buildings. In short order you pass the quartermaster storehouse on the left and commissary storehouse on the right (photo 6). The two boys standing in the doorway may be the sons of the post quartermaster. The one in knickers and knee socks seems curious about you while the other is almost hiding in the shadows. The large pile of wood suggests that, although spring may be just around the corner, the nights are still cold.

Commissary storehouse at Whipple Barracks
Photo 6 – Commissary storehouse at Whipple Barracks (call number 1650.0185.0001)

You pass on, going between the two buildings to the front of the old headquarters building for the Department of Arizona. Stopping, you look back and remember bygone days, before General Nelson A. Miles transferred Departmental Headquarters to Los Angeles, leaving Arizona a mere military district. It was shortly after he had obtained Geronimo’s surrender and had shipped the Chiricahua Apaches off to Florida. In fact, it was right after the Prescott and Arizona Central Railroad had arrived in town on New Year’s Day, 1887. Things have not been the same since. Although there are now gaslights and wooden sidewalks, the commissary storehouse needs to be replastered, as do many of the other adobe buildings (photo 7).

Commissary storehouse and other buildings at Whipple Barracks
Photo 7 – Commissary storehouse and other buildings at Whipple Barracks (call number 1650.0175.0003)

You turn and look at the decaying splendor of the house built in 1878 for the Commanding General, Department of Arizona (photo 8). Auggie Kautz (General August V. Kautz) would probably have given his eyeteeth to live in that, but he was transferred just before it was finished and Orlando B. Willcox was the first occupant. The gingerbread trim and fading paint somehow do not fit together. You wonder just how much longer the Army will continue to occupy Whipple Barracks.

Commanding General's quarters at Whipple Barracks
Photo 8 – Commanding General’s quarters (call number 1650.0205.0002)

Going south along the hill, you pass homes once used by the staff officers of the Department of Arizona. They are now dwellings for officers on the staff of the military district. You stop for a moment to watch a lawn tennis game being played by two women (photo 9). You are not the only observer, as there is a couple on the porch of the closest house, the man standing and the woman sitting, holding a parasol. It is evident that staff officers are accorded some luxury as the homes have gutters and downspouts and does the commanding general’s house, but not the regimental officers’ quarters.

Staff officers' homes at Whipple Barracks
Photo 9 – Staff officers’ homes (call number 1650.0192.0000)
Adjutant general's house at Whipple Barracks
Photo 10 – Adjutant general’s house (call number 1650.0204.0000)

You are almost off the post by now and stop to look at the adjutant general’s house. This is the farthest removed of all the staff houses (photo 10). In the near background is the Indian Agency. In the distance is the metropolis of Prescott, in much the same state of affairs as the fort, since the capital was moved to Phoenix in 1889. On the near corner of the porch hangs an olla, filled with cool drinking water. At the back of the house, a window is open in the kitchen. Could that be freshly baked bread sitting on the sill? Perhaps spring is in the air after all. Maybe Whipple Barracks will continue to be used and Prescott will become an important city of the Territory once again. There is even talk of statehood for Arizona. Hope, as the poet said, “springs eternal” as you drive back to town.

We thank A.P. Trott, J.E. Burge, D.P. Flanders, D.F. Mitchell, Erwin Baer, and the unknown photographers whose images have made this historic tour possible.

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