The old fort
Fort Lewis was named after Lt. Col. William H. Lewis. He was an Alabama born West Pointer who was cited twice for gallantry and meritorious service in the 1862 NM campaign. Unfortunately, he never got to see Fort Lewis because he was mortally wounded in a Sept 1878 engagement against the Cheyenne in KS.
Fort Lewis was initially established outside of Pagosa Springs, CO.
Meeker Massacre causes troops to quickly march to Animas City, CO to protect the settlers.
The Pagosa Springs site was deemed to be too far from the Utes. In July 1880 a site on the La Plata River 14 miles southwest of Animas City, CO was selected. The first companies arrived in August and the sawmill began operating in September.
The sawmills began operating September 18, 1880. This was also the day that Durango, CO was established.
Post office was established on October 5, 1880.
Wildcat Canyon Road (now Hwy 141) was used to transport all troops and materials to Fort Lewis. It sometimes took six-mule jerk trains two days to cover the 12 miles.
Telegraph communication was completed between Fort Lewis and Durango in September.
Buffalo soldiers (black troops from the 9th cavalry) were encamped in tents at Fort Lewis.
Pagosa Springs post is officially abandoned.
"Fort Lewis is a remote new post, deemed absolutely necessary for the protection of southern and western Colorado", General of the Army William Tecumseh Sherman, 1882. However, no major campaigns were waged nor battles fought by the troops at Fort Lewis
A 76,000 gallon reservoir was constructed by 1883. Ditches were used to irrigate vegetable gardens and the trees planted around the reservoir. Water from the reservoir also supplied water to the buildings and fire hydrants.
Fort Lewis became less involved in military maneuvers and more involved in the social aspects of a military fort. Activities included dances, shooting matches and dramatic productions. Soldiers also planted gardens on 12-14 acres and held contests for the best product.
A new guardhouse was constructed.
On May 28, 1891, the secretary of war approved the army’s recommendation to abandon Fort Lewis.
August 27, 1891, abandonment began. All serviceable property and stores were sent to Fort Logan, post records went to the War Dept, and the post library was transported to Omaha, NE.
Bodies of military personnel were exhumed and moved to Fort McPherson National Cemetery in Maxwell, NE.
Troops marched out in September and a custodian was hired to care for buildings.
Post office moved to Hesperus in October.
To learn more about the buildings that still remain from the military fort, take the "Old Fort" Walking Tour".