By Weldon Whipple
|Fort Whipple Museum sign in the VA Hospital grounds, Prescott, Arizona|
|Fort Whipple Museum, Prescott, Arizona|
|Volunteer Vicki Scott inside the Fort Whipple Museum|
|The Whipple Website webmaster changing light bulbs in the Fort Whipple Museum|
|Original gates to Fort Whipple|
|The VA Hospital complex that has grown around the original Fort Whipple|
|The main VA Hospital building in Prescott, Arizona|
Some Fort Whipple History
Fort Whipple was named after Amiel Weeks Whipple. According to a paper distributed at the Fort Whipple Museum, Amiel
…first came to Arizona in 1849 to survey the border between the United States and Mexico. From 1853 to 1856, Whipple conducted a survey along the 35th parallel from Ft. Smith, Arkansas to Los Angeles, California to locate a route for the railroad to the Pacific. This is roughly the Interstate 40 today. He traveled 1800 miles and made contact with at least 21 different Indian tribes.
Amiel died during the American Civil War from wounds received at the Battle of Chancellorsville (also known as the Second Battle of Fredericksburg). He was made a Brigadier General just before his death. (He died May 7, 1863, in Washington, D.C.)
An Army camp was first established in Arizona on December 23, 1863. In 1864 the camp was moved to the present location of Fort Whipple. It spread over approximately 1,700 acres at that time; today it is about 165 acres.
From 1872 to 1886, Fort Whipple was the headquarters for the Military Department of Arizona, “numbering over 20 army posts. At one time, it was the tactical headquarters for 1/5th of the U.S. Army.”
In 1879, the post was designated as “Whipple Barracks.” Cavalry from Fort Whipple fought the last battle of the Indian Wars in Arizona on July 17, 1882.
In 1898, while preparing to close Fort Whipple in April, the U.S. declared war on Spain. “The Fort was retained as a mobilization point for a company of cavalry.” When the cavalry moved to San Antonio, Texas, the Fort became inactive.
In 1902 Fort Whipple was reactivated.
The old fort was demolished and new buildings were constructed. A two-story concrete block barracks, two-story officers’ quarters, one of brick and ten of concrete blocks (Fort Whipple Museum is housed in building #11) were built through 1908. All the houses were to be constructed of brick, but the labor and the cost of the brick would not permit the use of brick. Building 1 was built in 1903. They are all similar in facade with simple Victorian Revival details. They have gabled roofs with cross gables over the wing. They differ mostly in the execution of the veranda and the finishing materials. Each house has two fireplaces with mantles made in different styles with a variety of woods.
Arizona became a state in 1912, and Fort Whipple was declared obsolete. A caretaking force of one officer, a sergeant and 20 men remained.
In 1918 (during World War I), Fort Whipple was reactivated to care for soldiers with tuberculosis and respiratory ailments. By September the sanatorium had 215 patients.
Since that time, the area has been transferred administratively among federal agencies. The size of the Fort has decreased:
- In 1955, 1,320 acres were transferred by the VA to the Yavapai tribe.
- Two years later 46.6 acres were sold to the City of Prescott for recreation and park purposes
- In 1967, 103 acres were given to the Department of Interior.
Today it is a busy VA hospital.