Fort Verde State Park and General Crook

Brigadier General George R. Crook (September 8, 1828 -March 21, 1890) is popularly recognized as the quintessential 'Indian Fighter' of the late nineteenth century, despite the fact that he sometimes expressed anger not at the native peoples but toward the interfering white settlers. In 1871 Crook's forces deployed from Fort Verde in the northern Arizona Territory in pursuit of the Tonto Apache.

General George R. Crook used Fort Verde in northern Arizona Territory as his primary base of operations for the unenviable task of relocating Apache tribes in the Arizona territory onto reservations. Located at the confluence of the East Fork of Beaver Creek and the 'Rio' Verde River, at the base of the Colorado Plateau, Fort Verde housed officers, doctors, enlisted men, families, and scouts. Many of the officers' wives enjoyed their time at the fort because of its many modern amenities including, bath tubs, silver ware, and draperies. Martha Summerhayes (wife of Lt. John Summehayes) recounted that she felt as though they had finally reached “civilization” when arriving at Fort Verde.

Crook's objective at Ft. Verde was to provide protection to the early settlers, the Butterfield Stage, and to facilitate the removal of all Indians from both Verde Valley and the Tonto Basin to the east. Crook appreciated the necessity of recruiting scouts. Captain John G. Bourke remembered, “There were Navajoes(sic), Apaches, Yaquis, Mexicans, and half-breeds of any tribe one could name.” Among the most celebrated scouts were Alchesay, and Chiquito, both of whom received the Medal of Honor for their actions against the Tonto Apache. Crook also admired how “Our Indian allieswould crawl upon their hands and knees for long distances” in pursuit of renegades. Crook especially appreciated this dedication given the challenge of the rugged Tonto terrain north of the fort, “There is hardly a space of ten miles square, that has not some lava bed, precipitous canyons, or caves with which the Indians can hold out.” After three years of driving the Tonto Apache from their rugged homeland, the Army force marched the survivors 180 miles to the reservation at San Carlos. The War Department also required the peaceful Yavapai people to join their Apache neighbors on the journey referred to as the 'Exodus'.

Ironically, one of the greatest challenges for the Army was protecting the Indians from the homesteaders. In a letter to General Philip H. Sheridan, Crook described, “There are large flocks of human vultures wrangling over the patronage to be bestowed, and who in greed do not hesitate at any deed; the complications arising can be imagined.” The most egregious incident resulted in the death of a young cavalry officer in a conflict with local settlers. Lieutenant Jacob Army lost his life, defending the Indians from the settlers. Despite Crook's request for punishment, the courts never prosecuted the locals responsible for the deed.

The State of Arizona established Fort Verde State Park in 1972, in recognition of it being the finest, preserved military facility of the Indian Wars in the state. The Park features the former administrative building, the doctor's quarters, the officer's quarters, the married officer's quarters, and a significant collection of military artifacts.

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