Surrounding Sierra Vista are communities with unique style, attractions and history. Fort Huachuca, Benson, Bisbee, and Tombstone are legendary communities within a short drive of one another. Also short distances away are Douglas and Nogales, international border towns that offer great shopping and dining experiences. These communities are great locations to visit or relocate to.
Fort Huachuca Fort Huachuca, a National Historic Landmark, is a product of the Indian Wars of the 1870s and 1880s. In March 1877 a camp at the mouth of Huachuca Canyon was established with two missions: protect settlers in the area and stop Apache raiding parties from escaping into Mexico. Geronimo’s surrender in 1886 all but ended the Apache danger in Southern Arizona and the Army closed more than 50 camps and forts in the territory. Fort Huachuca was retained due to continuing border troubles. The all African-American 24th Infantry was the first entire regiment stationed at the Fort. The 10th Cavalry “Buffalo Soldiers” arrived in 1913, served in Pershing’s punitive expedition against Pancho Villa in 1916, and helped guard the U.S.-Mexican border until 1931. Following World War II, the fort was declared surplus and transferred to the State of Arizona. In 1954, the Chief Signal Officer, United States Army, discovered southeastern Arizona ideal in area and climate for the testing of electronic and communications equipment. As a result, the U.S. Army Electronic Proving Ground (EPG) reopened Fort Huachuca as an active Army Post. From that time on, the Post has steadily increased in importance as a vital contributor to the national defense. Fort Huachuca was annexed by the City of Sierra Vista in 1972, and these two entities currently enjoy one of the most cordial relationships in the United States
Benson Although founded in 1880 Benson civilization began long before even the Spanish missionary, Father Eusibio Kino, established Catholic missions in the late 1600′s. For thousands of years Native Americans made their home along the San Pedro River. Familiar names like Cochise, Chief of the Chiricahua Apaches and Geronimo, an Apache freedom fighter who with his band of warriors eluded the American army for many years, are very much a part of the history of the beautiful San Pedro Valley. The U.S. Army waged a difficult campaign against the Chiricahua to protect the homesteaders that began to make their way to the new territory. It was during this time the Mormons settled in St. David and the Butterfield Stage was founded. As the dust of the Butterfield Overland Stage Coach and Pony Express cleared, Benson matured into a bustling railroad town. In 1880 the Transcontinental Southern Pacific Railroad opened the way for two more major rail lines. Its lifeblood was the copper and silver flowing from the neighboring mining communities of Tombstone, Fairbanks, and Bisbee. Benson and the San Pedro River Valley are rich in natural wonders and provide a home for a myriad of wildlife, including more than 500 species of birds. In the surrounding mountains and San Pedro Riparian areas, are hiking trails, bird watching, and camping. The area boasts a beautiful temperate climate year-round.
Bisbee Bisbee was founded in 1880 and named after Judge DeWitt Bisbee, a financial backer of the Copper Queen Mine. One of the richest mineral sites in the world, Bisbee produced close to three million ounces of gold and more than eight billion pounds of copper in its prime. Amazingly, in the early 1900s, the Bisbee community was the largest city between St. Louis and San Francisco with a population of 20,000 people. Bisbee was rebuilt in 1908 after being destroyed by fire, but its homes and the downtown area still hold a Victorian charm.
As the mines were depleted, the population began to shrink. Mining operations on such a grand scale became unprofitable. The mine eventually closed when mining operations were discontinued in Bisbee in mid–1970. The Queen Mine opened once again as a tour for visitors in 1976. Bisbee today is rich in architecture and culture, with its numerous art galleries, antique stores, gourmet restaurants, craft shops, museums, and period Bed and Breakfast accommodations as well as hotels. Nestled in the mile-high Mule Mountains of southern Arizona, Bisbee resembles a European hamlet more than a dusty 1880′s Old West town.
Tombstone ”The Town too Tough to Die,” Tombstone is perhaps one of the most well-known towns in Arizona. When Ed Schieffelin came to Camp Huachuca with a group of soldiers and left the fort to prospect, his companions told him that he’d find his tombstone rather than silver because of the constant danger of hostile Apaches. So, when Schieffelin made his first strike in 1877, he named the claim Tombstone. News of his silver strike spread and quickly brought prospectors, miners, businessmen, fortune hunters, lawmen, and the lawless until the population of Tombstone reached 12,000 to 15,000 in 1881. Today, Tombstone’s population is 1,800. Surging waters in the mines ended the boom in the late 1890′s, but not before names like Virgil, Morgan, and Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, the OK Corral and the Clanton Gang were household words throughout the nation. During World War I, Tombstone was a major producer of manganese for the government. In World War II, Tombstone was extracting lead for the cause. After both conflicts, Tombstone faded into obscurity. The citizenry of Tombstone decided rather than depending on a vanishing mining industry, they would focus their time and energy on tourism and restoration. Truly a Historical American Landmark, Tombstone is America’s best example of our 1880 western heritage, which is well preserved with original 1880′s buildings and artifacts featured in numerous museums. The wild days of the 1880′s are recreated each year with the exciting three-day celebrations: Wyatt Earp Days, Memorial Day weekend; Rendezvous of Gunfighters, Labor Day weekend; and Heldorado Days, the third Friday weekend in October.