Approximately 90 minutes south of Tucson sits the picturesque, somewhat quirky town of Bisbee. This day trip was made specifically to attend the annual 2014 Bisbee home tour.
After a cup of freshly roasted dark coffee at Bisbee Coffee Company, and after hiking from there to the location of the Queen Mine, a ticket was purchased for $15 which benefits various local charitable organizations.
The local ladies recommended starting the tour at the farthest location and working back towards town. Since GPS was not locking in on the location, an old fashioned paper map was used.
The drive to Naco, Arizona took an additional 20 minutes south of Bisbee which brought us to approximately one mile from the Mexican border.
The first house visited was known as the Wilson House. The records about the build date vary from 1914 to 1937 depending on the source. The house was alternately a laundry, a bakery or both for Camp Naco which is located right across the street. The main portion of the house is old-fashioned adobe. There are marks on the floor where there were once trenches that allowed for the management of water used in whatever business was going on at the time. The basement features two industrial size boilers at the foot of a double brick chimney which was probably used for the bakery/laundry.
The family history was interesting as well. Though the home is no longer owned by a Wilson, one former owner of the home, Jim Wilson, was the person upon whom the 1956-1958 television show Sheriff of Cochise was based. The current owner has a substantial collection of artifacts from the Wilson family that were on display during the tour. He also had three pet donkeys set up in a small lean-to barn at the side of the home, adding to the quirkiness of this pleasant little home.
Camp Naco was the next stop. According to the brochure provided by the tour, the camp was built in 1919 and was part of a human fence that stretched over 1,000 miles along the International Border. The Army sent African American soldiers – Buffalo Soldiers – to the camp. They were there during the Mexican Revolution. The camp was decommissioned in early 1924.
According to the docent, Francine, who walked us through the compound, there was never a battle fought on that site. The actual fighting took place in Sonora, Mexico, immediately across the border. From her perspective, the Buffalo Soldiers fulfilled their duty on this side.
The camp was also know as Camp Mule because the Mule family owned the land and would lease it to the government. VisionQuest had operations there for a while after the camp was no longer a military establishment. There is still writing on the wall from the research done on the people who served there by the young residents who lived there.
An arson fire in 2006 severely damaged much of the compound, and even now, the place is in shambles. What’s interesting is being able to see the construction of the old adobe and the layout of the spot. One can imagine the life and times of the Buffalo Soldiers. No one has been able to tour the area in decades due to asbestos removal that has been ongoing. It’s now at the point where it’s safe to bring in people and help keep the history of the spot alive.
The Bisbee Womens’ Club sponsors this function in addition to having a silent art auction. More information about them can be found on their web site.