History of St. Stephen’s Page 1

This is the story of a community of Episcopalians in the San Pedro Valley of Southeastern Arizona. It is a story that stretches back into the 19th Century when peace along the border was counted in days for the rancher, miner, townsman, Apache, Mexican revolutionary, and smuggler. In order to establish a modicum of peace, Camp (later Fort) Huachuca was founded on March 3, 1877 at the mouth of  Huachuca Canyon by Captain Samuel Marmaduke Whitside who commanded “B” Troop, Sixth United States Cavalry Regiment. He was ordered to put an end to the raids by Apaches and Mexican bandits. Mrs. Whitside’s Prayer Book can be seen today in the Fort Huachuca Post Museum.

Within a month of the founding of Camp Huachuca, a foot loose prospector born in Pennsylvania and named Ed Schieffelin arrived on the scene and stated that he intended to prospect the hills on the eastern side of the San Pedro River. The soldiers told him that the only thing he would find in those hills would be his own tombstone. The following year Ed and his backers “struck it rich” on a claim that assayed $15,000.00 a ton in silver and almost as much in gold. They named the claim the” Lucky Cuss” because that was what the assayer called them. They called the mining camp that grew up around the claim Tombstone in memory of the dire prediction Schieffelin received when he first arrived.

Because of the perceived need for religion in Tombstone which like many other mining camps had its generous share of bars and bordellos, a young Episcopal seminarian, Endicott Peabody, came from Massachusetts in 1881. He conducted services and collected money to build a church which was to be St. Paul’s. One story has it that Peabody was the only person in town whom all would trust to umpire a baseball game fairly. So, he would indeed umpire the Sunday afternoon baseball game, but only after both teams had been to services in the morning!  He returned to his studies in June 1882. After ordination, he founded the Groton School and was for years its headmaster. One of his more famous students was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Although Roosevelt was derided as a traitor to his class in later years, no one dared to defame him in Peabody’s presence. As long as Peabody lived, the “Rector”, as he was known to students and alumni, defended FDR.

The capture of Geronimo in 1888 and the ending of the Indian Wars did not bring peace to the border as the lone traveler and isolated ranch house sometimes learned to their sorrow. Anglo, Mexican, and Indian outlaws and rustlers made the border a dangerous place to live. Revolutions in Mexico added to the danger between 1910 and 1929. Douglas, Naco, and Nogales were scenes of Mexican revolutionary military action. Soldiers from Fort Huachuca were sent to all three to protect American lives, property, and territorial integrity. Concurrent with some of the revolutionary activity, smugglers from both sides of the border were trying to make a few dishonest dollars from running illegal liquor during Prohibition from 1918 to 1933. If you innocently happened on a mule train of contraband liquor headed north, you would, if caught, be just as dead as though you’d stopped a “stray” bullet from a German supplied revolutionary rifle.


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