Take my genealogy challenge and win a $25 Amazon gift card.
Contest ends January 31, 2017.
I work on sharpening my genealogy detective skills by taking on a research challenge that has nothing to do with my own family. This is one of those challenges. Read on for more about the contest then follow the directions at the end of the post to send your answer!
AncestorNews’ Genealogy Challenge #1
One of the most interesting places I’ve visited is Fort Bowie, located 23 miles from Willcox, Arizona. The Fort was the focal point for military actions by the US Army against the Chiricahua Apaches, finally closing in 1894.
The Fort can be accessed by either walking along a 1.5 mile trail from the trailhead or driving along a narrow gravel road to the Visitor’s Center. My sister, Vicki, and I walked the trail, which has several interesting historical sites including; the remains of the Butterfield Stage Station, the Post Cemetery, a replica of a Chiricahua Apache Camp, and Apache Spring, which still provides water to this area.
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If you remember a TV show called Broken Arrow, which focused on the friendship between Apache agent Tom Jeffords and Apache Cochise, you’ll definitely want to opt for the walk. That’s because the foundation of Tom Jeffords’ house is one of the sites you’ll pass on your walk to the Fort ruins. As those who watched Broken Arrow, I have to admit, we were shocked because this was so unexpected a find.
Another site you’ll pass in the Post Cemetery. According to the Fort’s website:
The Fort Bowie Cemetery was established before the fort and remained active after the fort was abandoned in October 1894. The first burials were three California Column privates killed by Apaches about one month before the fort’s establishment. The final burial was a murdered miner residing in one of the old officer’s quarters about two years after the fort’s closure. . . In March 1895, the army moved all the officers, enlisted men, military dependents and unknowns to the National Cemetery in San Francisco. Today, civilian graves are all that remain.
There’s an interesting page on the site about the civilians still buried in the Post Cemetery. Once you read it you’ll see the Fort was a fairly dangerous place to be during the Apache Wars.
One of the markers in the cemetery caught my interest (you know we genealogists can’t pass up a cemetery). You can see the marker at the top of this page. It was for RW Wells, who died May 23, 1863, age 28. Although the tombstone is difficult to read, I assumed based on the C cv that this person might have been in some kind of cavalry regiment. And, based on his age (if correct) he would have been born around 1835.
My first step was to do a quick Google search for: fort bowie cemetery rw wells. A page of information popped up from the USGenWeb Archives. It noted that R.W. Wells belonged to Co. E,1st Regiment, California Cavalry.
Next, I searched for information on the regiment and found lots on the National Park Service (NPS) Civil War website. A brief note in the regimental bio was: Skirmish near Fort Bowie, Arizona, April 25 . I was curious what had happened as Wells died almost a full month later, May 23. But, I’ve read enough history books to know that sometimes people lingered for a long time after a gunshot or arrow wound due to infection.
Then I remembered a book in my library titled Encyclopedia of Indian Wars, 1850-1890. I looked up the April 25 skirmish and sure enough, it gave the details including the fact that one soldier, Private M.B. Wilcox was wounded and three Apache killed. Wilcox, not Wells. No other Apache Pass (Fort Bowie) skirmishes were listed other than one in July of 1862.
Next, I found Wells’ grave on FindaGrave.com, although there he’s listed as a Sergeant.
Searching on Ancestry.com, I found:
R W Wells
Service Info.: PVT US ARMY
Death Date: 23 May 1863
Cemetery: San Francisco National Cemetery [Remember, the bodies were reinterred in San Francisco]
Cemetery Address: 1 Lincoln Blvd Presidio of San Francisco San Francisco, CA 94129
Buried At: Section Ws Site 902
I then went to the Card Catalog on Ancestry and filtered down for Military>USA>California>1860s. In searching the database U.S. Civil War Soldiers, 1861-1865, and found this:
Name: Richard W. Wells
Regiment State/Origin: California
Regiment: 1st Regiment, California Cavalry
Rank In: Sergeant
Rank Out: Private
Hmmm. I know it wasn’t uncommon for a soldier to have a higher rank during the Civil War than after the war, but Wells died in 1863, and the War continued to 1865.
Ancestry.com also has Wells listed on the Record Book of Interments in the Post Cemetery at Fort Bowie, died May 23, 1863, Company E, gravemarker #9.
The Wiki at FamilySearch.org noted that most of the men who joined Company E, 1st Regiment California Cavalry were mostly from San Francisco County.
Take the Genealogy Challenge – How to Enter
Using all of the information I’ve provided, can you
1. Discover more information about RW (Richard W.) Wells? OR
2. Suggest a plausible research plan
Send me an email with your answer using the contact form before January 31, 2017. Best answer gets a $25 Amazon.com gift card.