Del Rio Springs History. Pt.1 – Territorial Government at Del Rio Springs

Chino Valley’s story begins when on February 24,1863, President Lincoln signed a bill officially creating the United States Territory of Arizona. Brigadier General James Carleton sent John Clark, surveyor of New Mexico, escorted by Captain Nathaniel Pishon in command of a company of California volunteers, to inspect the “gold regions” of central Arizona and to “…have an eye to the best location for a post.” Captain Pishon reported to General Carleton the following: “Captain Walker, as well as other Americans, deem it necessary for the protection of the citizens and the enforcement of the laws that troops be stationed at or near the mines. The site I thought best adapted for the purpose of either a two, four or six company military post, is situated on Cienega Creek, about twenty-five miles northeast of the Mining district.” “At this point there is good water, fire wood within two or three miles, and building timber of the best quality: any amount of hay can be cut. The neighborhood abounds in deer, antelope, turkey and other varieties of game.” Their inspection completed, the Clark-Pishon expedition departed the banks of Cienega Creek at Del Rio Springs on September 1, 1863, and returned to New Mexico. In that same month of Clark and Pishon’s return to Santa Fe, three of Arizona’s first government officials, Governor John Goodwin, Secretary Richard McCormick and Associate Justice Joseph Allyn escorted by two companies of the Missouri cavalry, left Cincinnati, Ohio, en route to Santa Fe and the new Arizona Territory under the assumption that Tucson would be it’s capital. Even as the Governor’s party traveled west, General Carleton was arguing against a location in the southern part of the state where Mexican and Secessionist influences were strong. He favored Chino Valley near the geographical center of the territory and an area of potential mineral resources that could help rebuild the government coffers financially depleted by the Civil War. Carleton successfully convinced Washington to establish a fort and provisional capital at Del Rio Springs.
In November 1863 Carleton dispatched to Chino Valley Captain Pishon and thirty cavalrymen to establish the first post in central Arizona. In addition to the military personnel the expedition consisted of six mule teams loaded with equipment, three ambulances, 500 head of cattle, 1800 head of sheep (allegedly confiscated from the Navajos by Kit Carson) and an extra train of 10 six-mule teams loaded
with grain.
The headquarters of the command were made upon their arrival at Del Rio of the 10th of December and the Post of Ft. Whipple was officially established there on December 23, 1863. The Governor’s party learned of their new destination upon their arrival in New Mexico. In Santa Fe a second wagon train was outfitted to travel with the government dignitaries on the final leg of their trek to Arizona. Two companies of New Mexico volunteers were added to the Governor’s escort and General Carleton ordered Colonel Francisco Chavez to take command of the entire party. The Governor’s Party, along with an accompanying entourage of pioneers, merchants, fortune seekers and additional livestock, departed Santa Fe on November 26, 1863, and set off for the new wilderness capital.
On November 29, 1863, two days after they entered the new Territory of Arizona, the government was formally inaugurated at Navajo Springs. After some remarks by Secretary Richard McCormack, they hoisted the “Stars and Stripes.” The oath of office was administered Governor and his fellow appointees. A proclamation issued by Governor Goodwin was read, it ended with “The seat of government will, for the present, be at or near Fort Whipple.”
The Governor and his party arrived at Ft. Whipple on January 22, 1864. Secretary McCormick brought with him a printing press. The first issue of The Arizona Miner, date lined Ft. Whipple, March 9, 1864, reported the following about the fort: “The location is in the Val De Chino, on the banks of Cienega Creek, a never failing stream of clear, sweet water. The wide valley abounds in the best gamma grass, and affords extensive pasturage. The soil is apparently very rich, and aquequas might readily be constructed, though there is a good impression that irrigation is not necessary.” From a letter written by Major Willis on March 18th we further learn that “the hospital, commissary and quartermaster buildings are finished, also the corral for stock. The men are comfortably sheltered with the few tents in our possession.” However, The Miner also noted that: “The deficiency of this immediate locality is the lack of timber. Fire wood is found on the hills three miles to the west, but logs for buildings have to be brought from Granite Creek, a distance of twenty miles.” Upon Governor Goodwin’s personal exploration of the area and the mining districts, he concluded a more strategic location of the fort was necessary for the protection of the miners and ready access to construction lumber and in a letter
to General Carleton expressed his desires to see Ft. Whipple relocated to Granite Creek. On May 11th, The Arizona Miner announced: “The inhabitants of this portion of the territory will be pleased to know that Ft. Whipple is to be removed to a point where it will afford better protection. The site is upon Granite Creek, twenty miles south of this place, and a mile north of Sheldon’s Granite Ranch.” A follow-up is found in the miner on May 25th: “Major Willis has announced in general orders that the Fort Whipple, having been removed by orders from Dept. Hdqs., the old site will hereafter be known as Camp Clark, in honor of surveyor Gen. Clark, who first visited the place in August last.”