Recently, Ms. Karen and I ventured out for an overnight to Naco, Bisbee, and Douglas. Months ago we were scheduled to go to a commemoration event a Camp Naco. Due to illness, we missed it. The town of Bisbee was celebrating two substantial grants to renovate Camp Naco, having purchased it from Naco in 2018.
Camp Naco is located just south of Bisbee, actually in the town of Naco on the Mexican border. Today, it was enclosed with a chain-link and barbed wire fence. It had been the home of the Buffalo Soldiers, the 9th and 10th cavalry units and the 25th Infantry Division from Fort Huachuca. Composed of all-Black soldiers, these units had been formed following the Civil War.
Camp Naco was built in 1919 by the US War Department in response to unrest as a result of the Mexican Revolution. It was one of only two of 1200 miles of military camps along the border that were constructed out of adobe. The camps were decommissioned in 1923. Most of them were deconstructed so that materials could be used elsewhere, but Camp Naco, built of adobe remained.
The original tent camp was situated where the El Paso and SouthWestern railroad crossed the border, linking the American-owned mines in Sonora, Mexico to processing sites in Arizona. Its mission was to protect the railroad and keep smugglers and the like in Mexico. The replacement for the tent camp, the adobe camp, was constructed in 1919.
In 2008 that Rebecca Orozco and Deborah Jones started the nonprofit Naco Heritage Alliance (NHA), dedicated to preserving the story of Camp Naco. Four years later, the National Park Service listed the site on the National Register of Historic Places.
After purchasing Camp Naco in 2018, the City of Bisbee stabilized the 23 remaining adobe structures. That work, coupled with the enduring efforts of advocates at NHA, The Southwest Association of Buffalo Soldiers (SWABS), the Black Motorcycle Clubs (BMC), and others ensured that the camp did not disappear.
In 2022, Camp Naco received $4.6 million from the State of Arizona as part of the American Rescue Plan Act, and in 2023 they received an additional $3.5 million from the Mellon Foundation to preserve the old Camp. You can learn more from the City of Bisbee’s Website Page. or visit Camp Naco Friends on Facebook. It is currently closed to the public to prevent vandalism. It is still worth the trip. A lot of buildings remain, all in better shape than those at Ft. Bowie.