Friday, November 2, 2012
Little Known Fort Churchill
By Paisley Kirkpatrick One of my friends recently visited Fort Churchill. I was intrigued by the buildings making up this fort and thought to share them with you and give you a little bit of history. I live over the mountain from Carson City, Nevada, and had never heard of this place before. It was small, but seems to have had an integral part in our history. Talk of Indian atrocities at Williams Station, a Carson River outpost located 30 miles east of Carson City, filtered back to settlers in the Carson Valley. Because of the fear of impending attacks, the settlers demanded immediate protection. The so-called Pyramid Lake War began on May 12, 1860, when three white men living at Williams Station kidnapped and held two Indian girls prisoner. Their action and refusal to release the girls led to reprisals. Indians killed the three men, released the girls and burned the station. Because rumors exaggerated the number of whites killed and the number of Paiutes thought ready to move against white settlements, hasty and ill-conceived plans resulted in the movement of 105 volunteers to Pyramid Lake to avenge the deaths of the white men. The out-numbered whites suffered a major defeat in the battle that followed. They lost two-thirds of their original force. The Indians' momentous victory led to immediate white retaliation. Urgent calls went out to California for regular armed troops. The troops, bolstered by additional volunteers, moved against the Indian forces in early June. In this second battle, the out-numbered Indians were forced to retreat. Casualty reports ranged from four to 160 Indians killed while only two whites died. Captain Joseph Stewart and His Carson River Expedition were then ordered to establish a post on the Carson River. Starting July 20, 1860, tens of thousands of dollars were spent to construct Fort Churchill, the desert outpost that guarded the Pony Express run and other mail routes. Between expeditions against the Indians, hundreds of soldiers were based there.