Day Trip: Fort Stanton offers historical getaway

Freedom Newspapers

Fort Stanton, near Ruidoso, has had a varied and long history, but according to those working to preserve it, the former cavalry post remains in remarkably good condition.

Located in the shadow of the Sierra Blanca mountains, Fort Stanton was established on May 4, 1855. It was named for Capt. Henry W. Stanton, who was killed by an Apache during a skirmish, according to the Fort Stanton Web site,

A museum documenting the history of Fort Stanton is operated by volunteers, working to preserve and maintain its heritage and the buildings of the fort, said Joe Arcure, museum volunteer. Built from rock instead of adobe, the fort has been in near constant use since Apache warriors roamed the area, said Arcure.

Abandoned to Confederate soldiers in 1861, the fort was burned but the fire was extinguished by rain, leaving it somewhat intact. In 1862 Kit Carson and his troops moved into what was left of the fort to campaign against the Mescalero Apaches. Buffalo soldiers took over the fort after Carson left and resumed the campaign against the Mescalero Apaches, according to the Fort Stanton Web site.

In 1896, the U.S. Army decommissioned Fort Stanton.

The fort saw many other occupants come and go over the next century. Gen. “Black Jack” Pershing served two tours at the fort. Col. Nathan A. Dudley was stationed at the fort and was involved in the Lincoln County War during his stint. Gov. Lew Wallace also spent time at the fort writing his novel “Ben Hur.”

“The National Park Service has called the fort the ‘Crown Jewel’ of all the cavalry forts,” Arcure said.

According to the Web site, Fort Stanton had the first hospital dedicated to the treatment of tuberculosis patients from the Marine Services and housed Capt. Wilhelm Daehne and 410 of his fellow German sailors. In 1953, the state of New Mexico took over the fort and continued to operate it as a sanitarium for 14 more years. In 1966, it was converted to Fort Stanton Hospital and Training Center for the Developmentally Disabled, and in 1996, it became a state corrections facility, the Web site reads.

A national maritime cemetery for Merchant Marines and their families is also located just down the road from the museum. The National Veterans Association has plans to expand the cemetery and open it up to all veterans, said Arcure.

“There is so much history that’s happened here over the years. I think it is very important that it becomes a national sanctioned museum,” Arcure said. “It’s our history, and it would be a shame to lose it.”

Travel from Clovis on U.S. Highway 70 to Roswell.
From Roswell, take U.S. Highway 380 to N.M. 48, turn left and travel to Fort Stanton.
Approximate driving time is 3 hours, 40 minutes.

10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Thursday-Monday

More Information
Telephone 354-0341or Web site