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California Forts of the Old West - Page 5

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Fort San Bernardino by William R. Hutton,1852Fort San Bernardino - (1851-1865) - Also called the Mormon Stockade and Mormon Camp, this fortress was built when the fledgling settlement of San Bernardino was threatened by an Indian attack. In the center of their new one mile square town, the Mormon leaders set aside eight acres to build the parallelogram shaped stockade. It was 300 by 720 feet wide, with a 12 foot high stockade. Life in San Bernardino was soon centered at this enclosure and weapons and ammunition were lent to the occupants by the Army garrison at Rancho del Chino. In 1857, more than 50% of the Mormons settled and San Bernardino were called back to Salt Lake City, Utah to face the threat of an invasion by the United States Army.


U.S. soldiers arrived in San Bernardino in December, 1858, taking over the stockade and building more posts nearby, including Camp Prentiss and Camp Carleton,  to fight the Mojave Indians. Troops stayed at San Bernardino until March, 1862. They returned for five months in 1863, in response to reports that a leading secessionist recently released from prison was threatening to kill everyone responsible for his jailing. In October, the troops were recalled again. Soldiers again occupied the post in the summer of 1865 to check rumors of a secession plot, but, this was short lived. During the years of U.S. Army occupation, the fort was extended far beyond its original limits.


Today, there is nothing left of the old stockade, which was situated on the site now occupied by the courthouse located on Arrowhead Avenue between 3rd and 4th Streets in the center of downtown San Bernardino.


Fort Tejon, CaliforniaFort Tejon - Situated in Grapevine Canyon, Fort Tejon was located on the main route between California's great central valley and Southern California. The fort was built in 1854 to protect area area citizens and the Sebastian Indian Reservation from the warlike Paiute, Chemeheui, Mojave tribes to the southeast, as well as suppressing the cattle rustling that was rampant in the area. It soon became an important military, social, and political center and in 1858 was the western terminus of the experimental US Army Camel Corps, which utilized the imported animals in an effort to carry supplies across arid regions in the Southwest. When the Civil War erupted, the troops from Fort Tejon were sent to guard Los Angeles and later transferred east to fight in the war. In the summer of 1862, violence erupted between the encroaching white settlers and the Owens Valley Paiute, who wanted to protect their lands. Three cavalry companies of California Volunteers forcibly moved the Paiute to the Sebastian Indian Reservation, but the authorities there refused to accept responsibility for them. In 1863 several hundred of these Indians were brought to Fort Tejon, which was then being used by the California Volunteers. The next year the Indians were were transferred to the Tule River Indian Reservation and the U.S. Army closed Fort Tejon in September, 1864, formally ending its career as an active military post. The land was then operated as the Tejon Ranch, which utilized fortís old adobe buildings as stables, storehouses and residences for ranch workers.

In 1940, the Tejon Ranch Company deeded five acres, including the old parade ground, the foundations, and remnants of the original adobe buildings to the State of California to be utilized as a state park. Restoration began on the adobe buildings in 1947 and today, the site, listed on the National Register of Historic Places maintains several restored and recreated buildings of the original fort, including, the barracks, officer's quarters, and quartermaster building. The park is located 70 miles northwest of Los Angeles, near the top of Grapevine Canyon, via the Fort Tejon exit off I-5.


Contact Information:


Fort Tejon State Historic Park






Fort Yuma - With the end of the Mexican War in 1848, the Territories of California and Arizona became part of the United States and two years later, Fort Yuma was established near the Gila River in Arizona to defend the newly settled community of Yuma, Arizona and immigrants taking the southern route to California. However, shortly after it was established, it was moved across the Colorado River to protect the ferry crossing in March, 1851. However, the fort was virtually abandoned just a few months later due to the high costs incurred in maintaining it and by the end of the year, the troops were entirely gone. However, it was reoccupied by Captain Heintzelman on February 29, 1852.From 1858 until 1861, the fort was situated along the Butterfield Overland Mail route. In 1864 the quartermaster Corps erected a depot on the left bank of the Colorado River, below the mouth of the Gila River, which continued to provide supplies until the railroad made the supply depot obsolete.

The fort was abandoned for the last time in May, 1883 and the land transferred to the Department of Interior the following year.


Today, the site of the military reservation is occupied by the Fort Yuma Indian School and a mission, which features the Quechan Indian Museum housed in the old officers' mess quarters. The fort is seven blocks east of US 80 on the California side of the Colorado River.



Continued Next Page

Fort Yuma, California

Historic Fort Yuma.


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