History Page 2

The Story

The first Episcopal church in Southeastern Arizona was St. Paul’s in Tombstone. It also has the  distinction of being the first Protestant church in Arizona. St. Paul’s, like the community it serves, was too tough to die and still has regular Sunday services. The second Episcopal Church was St. John’s Sweet Memorial church in Bisbee which was a copper mining camp. It was followed by St. Stephen’s in Douglas.  Given the distance of over 50 miles one way, St. Stephen’s, Douglas had little effect on the growth of the Episcopal Church in the greater Huachuca area.  The church that most influenced that growth was St. Paul’s. Entries in the first parish register of St. Paul’s show that Episcopal services, baptisms, etc. took place on Fort Huachuca before the turn of the century.

The Missionary Diocese of Arizona was also involved. Fifty years after Captain Whitside founded Camp Huachuca, the Arizona Church Record had the following to say in 1927: “Progress has been made in the past few months. Our indefatigable Archdeacon has been scouring part of the southeastern portion of the Diocese. Informal services have been held on Sunday evenings at Fort Huachuca for the officers and their families of the Tenth Cavalry. This is a Negro regiment and the troops have their own chaplain and services.  The services of the Archdeacon have had the cordial support of the commanding officer, Colonel Scherer, and have been well attended. An occasional communion service has been celebrated for the few Episcopalians. The ladies have organized an excellent Sunday School. The Archdeacon has visited nearly every ranch within ten or fifteen miles and given them an invitation to attend services and send their children to the school. This work will gradually form into something worthwhile.”

World War II brought an expansion of Fort Huachuca when it served as the training site for two African-American divisions, the 92nd and 93rd Infantry Divisions. The fort’s distance from population centers was one of the prime reasons it was selected for this training function plus the fact that two African-American regiments, the 10th Cavalry and the 25th Infantry, had been stationed there. It took the better part of a day to drive to Tucson by way of Sonoita. AZ90 wasn’t there and neither was 1-10. The wide place in the road outside the main gate was called “Fry,” and it was the successor to “Garden.” Sierra Vista is not on the mural map of Cochise County in the County Courthouse in Bisbee. The Courthouse was built in 1930 after the county seat was moved from Tombstone, and Sierra Vista wasn’t incorporated until 1956. When the war was over, Fort Huachuca was declared excess and closed in 1 947. It was reopened in 1 951 to support th e Korean Conflict and closed again in 1953. In 1954, it was opened once again to become the home of the U. S. Army’s Electronic Proving Ground.

Needless to say the local area roller-coastered with the closings and openings so area Episcopalians continued to be served by St. Paul’s and St. John’s. After the last reopening of the fort, a small group of Episcopalians banded together.  Following are notes made by the unknown recorder of that group. What follows includes many names from that group. To include so many names may not be good history writing, but they should not suffer the fate described in Ecclesiasticus 44:9-10.

But of others there is no memory; they have perished as though they never existed; they have become as though they had never been born, they and their children after them.  But these also were godly men, whose righteous deeds have not been forgotten;

Now the voice from the past

Since the latest reopening of Fort Huachuca, Arizona, activities of the Episcopal church assumed aspects of individual participation and active contribution each according to his initiatives. Lay Readers contributed greatly to church life of surrounding communities particularly St. Paul’s church, Tombstone, Arizona and St. John’s church, Bisbee, Arizona. These two churches were served by Lay Readers for over a year and the church interest and activity maintained until the Bishop of Arizona could furnish priests for these churches. In connection with these activities, prominent are:

  1. SFC David Meder
  2. Lt. Co/. Leslie L. Motz

Stirrings among personnel stationed or working at Fort Huachuca began to explore the idea and possibility of having regular services of the Episcopal church on Fort Huachuca. In connection herewith interested Episcopalians gathered in the Chaplain’s Center (Building #13097) at 1100 hours 3 November 1956 for a reception for the Rt. Rev. Arthur B. Kinsolving II, Bishop of the Missionary District of Arizona; the Rev. Arthur Lewis, Vicar of St. Paul’s church, Tombstone, Arizona; and the Rev. John Hughes, Rector, St. John’s Church, Bisbee, Arizona.

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