Fort Apache was the main terminus for General George Crook's recruiting efforts with the White Mountain Apache and in the forced relocation of most indigenous people in the area in 1874. In 1871, Camp Apache was a semi permanent bivouac with only a single log cabin for General Crook. The majority of the permanent construction began in 1874 during the Apache and Yavapai 'Exodus' from the Verde Valley to the San Carlos Reservation. Captain John Bourke of the Third Cavalry recorded, “The post, still in the rawest state, is situated on a gently sloping mesa, surrounded by higher hills.” Ten months later, the United States negotiated a treaty establishing the White Mountain Agency in November, 1871. In exchange, the White Mountain people supported the Army against the other tribes and were promised to retain their ancestral land and receive farming equipment.
The tactical support of the White Mountain Apache was indispensable for the success of the Army's mission, and Crook responded with friendship. According to Captain James Shannon, “The Indian cannot be beaten at his own game. He is like a wild animal stalking his prey.” General Crook befriended Alchesay, a local chief and scout. During the campaign against the Tonto Apache, Alchesay was virtually inseparable from 'Gray Wolf', or General Crook. Many enlisted men were perplexed by the apparent friendship between the two men. Captain John G. Bourke remembered about Crook, “He wanted to treat the Apache just the same as he would treat any other man--as a man. He did not believe in one kind of treatment for the white and another for the Indian.”
Prior to the 'Exodus' relocation of the Tonto and Yavapai, Crook complained to General Philip H. Sheridan about the corruption with Indian agents in delivering promised material to the White Mountain Allies, “It was a grievance among the Indians at Fort Apache that they could get nothing from the Government, not even farming implements.” Crook was desirous to enforce the U.S. obligations in the treaty with the White Mountain Apache in order to maintain peace in northern Arizona. In 1875, with much unfinished business, the army ordered General Crook to leave Arizona and report to the Department of the Platte.
The Fort Apache Historic District is the original site of the Fort Apache military post. Fort Apache was a major outpost during the Apache wars (1871-1886) and remained a military post until 1922. In 1923 the fort became the site of the Theodore Roosevelt Indian Boarding School. The district contains over thirty structures, ranging from a reconstruction of an early log building to original two-story dormitories. Included in the Historic Site are the headquarters building, barracks, corrals, warehouses, a guardhouse, an armory, stables, and an old cemetery. The museum and surrounding property is operated by the White Mountain Apache Reservation.