The number one tourist destination in this region of New Mexico is Ruidoso Downs. Racing occurs throughout the summer season. On Labor Day the winner of the All American Futurity receives the largest purse in quarter-horse racing, $3 million. In contrast, the Kentucky Derby winner gets a mere $2 million!
More than 25,000 folks descend on this unassuming racetrack in the town of Ruidoso Downs. All was quiet during our visit as racing was done for the season.
We traveled further afield and found Fort Stanton, established in 1855. Like many forts in the west, it began as an outpost to protect settlers from Indians, in this case, the Mescalero Apache.
In 1861, Union soldiers abandoned the fort setting fire to it as they left so advancing Confederate troops could not benefit. A rainstorm put out the fire and left the fort and supplies available for a brief Confederate occupation.Union Colonel Kit Carson and his troops reoccupied and refurbished Fort Stanton in 1862. The fort served to monitor the Apache until 1896.
General “Black Jack” Pershing, commander of the American Expeditionary Force on the Western Front in World War I, began his military career at Fort Stanton.
Once military usefulness passed, Fort Stanton’s purpose was varied – encompassing almost all things!
In 1899 Fort Stanton became a Marine Hospital for tuberculosis patients. A seaman was required to have served a minimum of three months aboard a United States flagged vessel to be treated in the first federal tuberculosis hospital in the country.
In keeping with medical treatment protocols at the time, patients lived in open air tents and had a strict protocol of nutrition and rest.
Although many patients recovered, a nearby cemetery holds those who didn’t. The hospital was the primary occupant of the Fort Stanton facility from 1896 to 1953.
The Civilian Conservation Corps had a camp nearby from 1933 to 1940 assisting at the hospital and with the forest service.
One of the most interesting chapters in Fort Stanton’s history was when the crew of the SS Columbus, a German Luxury Liner, were housed there from 1939-1945.
Britain was at war with Germany in 1939 and the SS Columbus was caught in the middle.
Under orders from Hitler to avoid captured by all means, Captain Dahne unloaded his passengers in Cuba and scuttled his ship off the east coast of the “neutral” United States. Over 500 survivors were rescued and taken aboard the USS Tuscaloosa. They spent time on Ellis Island in New York and Angel Island in San Francisco Bay before 410 of the crew eventually occupied the abandoned CCC camp. Captain Dahne continued to command the men and operations at Fort Stanton.
In 1941, when the US formally entered the war, the men were reclassified as alien enemies. Life went on much as before, except a fence was installed around the camp. The men were repatriated to Germany at the close of the war.
Yet, Fort Stanton’s story is not done!
After the tuberculosis hospital closed in 1953, the property was given to the state of New Mexico. Between 1963 and 2009, the state used the old fort for a series of purposes. It was a facility for the “mentally challenged,” a women’s low security correctional facility and a drug rehabilitation center.
The state eventually designated Fort Stanton a state monument and then a state historic site. Many of the old fort and hospital buildings are available for viewing.
And continuing in the spirit of all things – I often tell Handy Randy that he can fix all things! He always demurs but those of you who know him, or know of him through the blog, know that I am right. He even impressed himself this time!
For awhile I have grumbled about a shade spot on my photographs. I called about having the camera cleaned but the estimate was $175 just to get started. Usually the spot was buried in photographic content and was just a nuisance but at the balloon fiesta it was really a problem.
We discussed getting a new camera but I REALLY don’t like learning new technology. On a whim, Randy watched a video about cleaning the camera. He figured it was worth $10 to order a precision tool set.
When he got it, he set to work.
And to the surprise of no one, he took the camera apart, cleaned some dust off the CCD, (the electronics part that captures the light for the image) and no more shade spot!
Whoohoo! He saved us about $400 for a new camera and me from having to learn new technology! Like I said, Handy Randy can fix all things!!