Fort Cumming Stage Stop
NMG, Vol VIII, No.1, March 1969, page 8
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Project is based on the cemetery surveys published in the New Mexico Genealogist, The Journal of the New Mexico Genealogical Society. P.O. Box 8283; Albuquerque, NM 87198-8283. The magazine's volume, date, and page number is displayed under the cemetery's name. Our appreciation to the New Mexico Genealogical Society and the survey compliers. This material may not be reproduced or copied from this website nor be used for commercial purposes, resale, re-distribution, or used for profit. The copyright remains with the New Mexico Genealogical Society. Some formatting and editing were made to the original presentation to fit this web site format. Some cemetery surveys were continued on subsequent magazine issues. This website presentation may not be copied in any manner for any reason. This presentation is for the personal use of individual researchers. Re-typed from original by C. W. Barnum 2002 .

Credit Source: Compiler B. Held.

There is an old stagecoach stop near Fort Cummings, in the Cook's Peak area, north of Deming, New Mexico, in which there is a large stone marker with the following inscription:

Thos., Ronan aged 49 | L. S. Hunter aged 33 | Chas. Devin aged 28 | Thos. Daly Aged 26

Additional data and photos submitted by Eric Fuller.

Fort Cummings (1867)
On October16, 1867, William Abraham Bell an English doctor, visited Fort Cummings and recorded the photograph here. He had wrangled a position on the Kansas and Pacific Railroad
survey as a photographer, about which was "quite unaccomplished", two weeks prior to departing. The survey team had picked up additional military escort at Fort Craig because of Indian threats and were examining various passes for the proposed railroad extension. In Bell's report of his adventures he noted:

While the surveyors were running their line through Palmer's Pass (their name for a gap near Mule Spring), I went with some wagons for supplies to Fort Cummings, and visited Cooke's Canyon, which pass the fort protects. Hundreds of miles before we reached it, I listened with anxiety to the stories told me by the frontier men about the dreadful massacres perpetrated by the Indians in that dread gorge. It was said that even the soldiers dared not stir a mile from the post, and that it was "just a toss up" whether any traveler go through alive.

Examination of the photograph indicates that the front face of the fort was white-washed, and disproves the statement that there were neither any windows in the exterior wall nor any opening other than the sally port and the rear gate. In front of the fort can be seen the sutler's (Army provisioner's) building either under construction or being expanded. Portions of the sulter's structures remain as the stark adobe walls seen near the fort's entrance.

At the time this photograph was taken, Company A of the 38th Infantry, a Black regiment, had just relieved Company D and I of the 25th Infantry (also a Black unit)
and a detachment of Company M of the 3rd Cavalry. These 38th Infantry soldiers, or soldiers from Company M of the same Regiment, would man the fort for the next two years.

Fort Cummings 1882
As a result of Victorio's bolting from the Apache Tularosa Agency and initiating depredations on both sides of the border, Fort Cummings was again designated an official military post in January 1880.
Despite the military presence, in addition to many other fatalities at the hands of Victorio or other Mimbreno Apaches, Samuel Lyons and three other men were killed in Cooke's canyon on June 5, 1880.
Initial reoccupation of Fort Cummings was difficult because poor construction materials, weather and scavenging had rendered most of the original adobe walled compound unusable. Six rooms were refurnished and used for commissary supplies storage. The former sulter's (Army provisioner's) complex was repaired and expanded for Headquarters offices and married officers' quarters, and many sibley and walled tents were erected to furnish shelter for the enlisted men.
When this photograph was taken in 1882, 4th Cavalry Lieutenant Colonel George Alexander Cummings. During 1882, military personnel at the fort, consisting of Companies F and H of the companies of Apache Indian scouts. A considerable number of citizens also lived at Fort Cummings. Some were employed by the military while others either supported the post sutler, the hotel, trading post, or the several stage lines operating through Cooke's Canyon.
During 1882, Forsyth and his men had many problems. Some were rather humorous, such as the difficulty with the railroad. In return for use of up to half of the water from Cooke's Spring at Porter Station (later renamed Florida Station), the railroad had improved and covered the spring. In one rework, the railroad configured the distribution system such that it took nearly 2 hours instead of a few minutes to fill the military water wagon. After Forsyth threatened to "entirely cut off the water supply from Porter station," remedial action was taken by the railroad crew. Some incidents were more serious. Forsyth demanded that the Indian Scouts be paid "in American silver dollars, otherwise United States Currency." In doing so he was attempting to protect the temporary Apache soldiers from a practice of paycheck discounting by unscrupulous Indian Agents and post traders. Other problems were far more serious. Several sharp, hard-fought military confrontations with the Apaches under various leaders, multiple attacks on southern New Mexico civilians, and lightning raids on teamsters, stages, farmers, ranchers, and Army patrols resulted in many deaths on both sides of the conflict. It was also during this year that Forsyth initiated significant repairs to and expansion of Fort Cummings. He also directed the planting of a substantial garden with a variety of vegetables including cabbage, cucumbers, lettuce, beets, okra, cantaloupes and tomatoes.

Fort Cummings Cemetery
Cemetery Ridge was the site initially selected by a board of officers for the location of Fort Cummings. The hill next to the stage station, however, did not offer sufficient level space for the proposed fort which would also have been vulnerable to enemy fire from an adjacent hill. The Fort Cummings cemetery is enclosed by the remnants of a thick stone wall, constructed in a square approximately 150 feet on each side. The cemetery was established soon after the military occupied Fort Cummings when stage passengers complained of numerous human skeletons being visible from the road. Soldiers were detailed to collect the remains which were probably then buried in a common grave. The surrounding wall was erected in 1867 by the Black soldiers of the 38th Infantry. The wall building project may have been a punishment detail as a result of an alleged mutiny by several of the enlisted men. David and Maria Schrode stopped at Cooke's Spring on September 26, 1870 on their way from Texas to California with their eight children and nearly 1,500cattle.
Maria, who had turned 44 on June 20, recorded in her diary:
"Arrived at Fort Cummings, visited the grave yard. It is walled in with rough stones about 5 feet high, white washed, with a folding gate. Some of the graves are walled in with rock. I noticed 6 of them had been killed by Apache Indians. There were only about 20 graves in all."
In 1882 or perhaps a little later, the remains were allegedly transferred to the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas for burial. Indications were that 74 bodies, including 25 unknown were exhumed. Other official records indicate that there should have been a total of 80 burials with 36 whose identity had not been determined. Fort Leavenworth records, however, show no reinterments from Fort Cummings.
The only headstone in the cemetery placed at a later date records the deaths of four privates from Company G of the 1st Veteran (reenlisted) Infantry of the California Volunteers. Thomas Ronan, L.S. Hunter, Charles Devin, and Thomas Daley were killed by Apaches on January 17, 1866 while on a wood cutting detail a few miles form the fort.
The Fort Cummings military cemetery lies adjacent to the old Butterfield Stage Station. It is perhaps fitting that Taps, the haunting music played over all military burials and memorial observances, was composed by John Butterfield's son David in 1882 at Harrison's Landing, Virginia, while recuperating from Civil War battle wounds.

Fort Cummings 1869 - Oct 1886


On January 17th, the garrison experienced its first day of tragedy and sorrow. Securing sufficient fuel for the post had always been one of its major problems. Because of this, a wood-cutting detail had been set up at Oak Grove; a spot about five miles northwest of the post and manned by men out of Company G, 1st Veteran Infantry, California Volunteers. The detail was made up of one corporal and six privates. On the 16th, Corporal Webber—— in charge of the detail-- went in to the post for provisions. The next morning, as Webber was returning and accompanying a wagon loaded with the provisions they had approached within a mile of the wood—cutting camp when he met two members of the detail—- privates Matthews and Goldsberry-- stumbling along the road. Goldsberry was suffering from an arrow wound in the hip. The two men related that the six of them had just started to eat breakfast when they discovered a party of forty or fifty Indians creeping upon them from ambush. The wood-cutters caught up their arms and began firing on the Indians. Privates L. S. Hunter and Charles Devin fell wounded; Matthews and Goldsberry ran, closely pursued by the Indians to a clump of nearby trees where they succeeded in reloading their weapons and from there to a low hill where they made a desperate last stand. The two escapees were attempting to make their way back to the post when they met up with Webber and the supply wagon. Webber lost no time in taking a mule from the team and sent a messenger galloping back to the fort. Captain Burkett and Lieutenant Edgar were both absent and apparently with a sizeable detail. At this time Lieutenant Houston was sick which left Lieutenant John D. Slocum as the only officer present for duty. Slocum immediately ordered the dreaded “Long Roll” beaten, then taking every available man except the guard, he hurried to the scene of ambush. There he found the bodies of Daly, Devin, Hunter and Ronan lying dead and all within a hundred yards of the camp. All had been shot with both guns and arrows and their bodies horribly slashed with lances. The camp had been completely rifled and everything that could possibly be of any use to the Indians had been carried off. Tent poles had been burned, and the trooper’s best saw and grinding stone had been broken. The trail of the Indians soon disappeared into the rocky sides of the mountain and only one dead Indian’s body was found.
Lieutenant Slocum reported to General Carleton that he had-- other than the necessary guards-- only twelve Infantrymen and three Cavalrymen available for duty. There were five Cavalrymen on the post, but only three of them had mounts. Realizing the futility of trying to trail Indians and fearing to lose even more of his pitifully small force, he had considered it unwise to proceed further with the search.
General Order No. 3-- issued by Lieutenant Slocum stated-- “The troops of this post will be paraded tomorrow at 8:00 P.M., to attend the last sad rites of Privates Daly, Devin, Hunter and Ronan." They were placed in one single grave in the post cemetery and a single large semi-finished headstone was erected bearing the names of all. When Fort Cummings was abandoned, the bodies were removed and placed in the National Cemetery at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas; only the headstone remains.